SMB Youth Quake: Gen Zers And Millennials Are Taking Over

One thing is clear as Small Business Week gets underway on Sunday: Running an SMB has become a young person’s game. And those youthful folks are not as fond of email as their elders were. 

Of the SMBs polled in a new study by ActiveCampaign, 63% use email marketing or social media. But the difference is in favor of social: 39% versus 24% for email. 

What’s more, social is the channel that will be most used by 38% of SMBs over the next 12 months. Only 18% say that about email, down from 24%. 

And only 6% of GenZ-ers plan to use email more frequently this year: They prefer social and paid search/SEO. 

Facebook is favored by 51% of those ages 45+ and by 54% of rural businesses. But Gen Z prefers TikTok, and millennial and Black owners favor Instagram. 

Only 3% overall plan to use Clubhouse much more frequently in the next 12 months. 

Meanwhile, SMBs are feeling bullish: Asked to select any words that apply describe their feelings, 56% of chose hopeful, while 39% went for optimistic, 35% positive and 29% excited.



That may be because 58% of all owners saw positive growth over the last 12 months. And 58% of those were under the age of 44. 

In general growth was seen by:

  • 74% of black-owned businesses 
  • 73% of Gen-Z businesses
  • 71% of millennial businesses
  • 60% of women-owned businesses
  • 58% of veteran-owned businesses 
  • 57% of rural-owned businesses
  • 53% of parents who own businesses
  • 52% of Native American-owned businesses
  • 48% of LGBTQ

Of course, not everyone did well: Out of 500 owners surveyed, 133 saw negative growth rates over the past 12 months. And 69% of those were run by owners aged 45 and older.

Their problem? That 25% did not change their business model during the pandemic. They failed to do any of the following:

  • Close their brick and mortar permanently or temporarily
  • Run or host online events
  • Offer a subscription service
  • Target a different audience, 
  • Creating or sell goods pandemic-related goods  
  • Sell in an online marketplac 
  • update their website.  

No wonder, they were the most frustrated group during the pandemic — 39% felt that way, although 57% are hopeful for the next 12 months. 

In contrast, 70% of B2C companies and 67% of B2B companies changed their business model — and they saw growth. 


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