4 in 10 Main Street SMBs Find Marketing Costs Challenging When Selling Online

small business owner

For small businesses with limited geographic presence, the online channel constitutes an opportunity to expand their customer base and drive sales growth.

At the same time, however, there are challenges.

Beyond the necessary resources and capabilities to operate an online business, security and marketing are the biggest challenges Main Street small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face when selling products online. To be more specific, 21% of these firms cited security-related issues as the main obstacles they face when selling their products and services online, while 16% cited marketing costs as the most important challenge.

By the Numbers

These are some of the key findings from the PYMNTS Intelligence study “Main Street Health Q4 2023: eCommerce Protects Main Street SMBs’ Bottom Line in a Cooling Market.” The report drew from a survey of 540 SMBs with brick-and-mortar shops in commercial districts across the United States. It examined how these business owners are approaching the challenges and opportunities associated with increasing digital transformation. Industries analyzed in the study included construction and utilities, retail trade, professional services, consumer services and hospitality.

eCommerce challenges that Main Street SMBs face

Marketing Costs

Nearly 4 in 10 SMBs said marketing costs are a key challenge when selling their products and services online. This factor is more challenging than others, such as shipping and delivery or providing effective customer support.

The study also found that 55% of SMBs think digital marketing guidance is crucial to drive their business.

Some of the digital giants are allocating specific efforts and programs adapted to SMBs’ needs to fill this gap. In 2023, Google expanded its digital coaches program, which provides online marketing advice and assistance for free to small businesses across the United States. The program aims to connect firms with approved digital coaches from their area to help them navigate the multiple aspects of their online operations and maximize brand awareness.

Meanwhile, Mastercard launched a marketing hub last year to help entrepreneurs grow digitally. Through a structured combination of educational content, the platform offers SMBs tools to create marketing assets, including a free online graphic design tool, as well as discounted memberships for Hootsuite, which lets businesses reach customers across multiple social media channels.

These tailored offerings are two examples of the solutions that Main Street SMBs can use to access affordable marketing and better manage their online operations.