Main Street SMBs Tap Online Channels to Drive Business Growth

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to an eCommerce economy, with historically high sales in 2020 and 2021. As a result, most Main Street small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the United States now recognize the importance of eCommerce for their business growth and sustainability.  

In fact, nearly eight in 10 Main Street SMBs are currently leveraging online channels such as websites, social media, mobile apps and third-party marketplaces, while 16% are interested in implementing these channels in the future. 

These are some of the key data points found in “Main Street Health Q4 2023: eCommerce Protects Main Street SMBs’ Bottom Line in a Cooling Market,” a PYMNTS Intelligence and Enigma collaboration. 

The study leverages insights from a survey of over 500 small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across the United States to assess how business owners are tackling challenges and opportunities associated with increasing digital transformation. Industries analyzed in the research include construction and utilities, consumer services and hospitality, retail trade and professional services. 

According to the study, Main Street SMBs primarily use websites and social media to support their eCommerce operations, with retail businesses relying on these online channels most heavily. Retail-focused Main Street SMBs also utilize social media to support online sales more than the other industries surveyed.

SMB, small businesses, eCommerce

On the other hand, industries such as construction and professional services use online channels to support their marketing efforts and reach a broader customer base. 

The study also found that high-revenue Main Street SMBs leverage more than one eCommerce platform to strengthen their online presence and expand their market reach. 

On average, Main Street SMBs use 1.6 eCommerce platforms, while high-revenue Main Street SMBs use 2.2. Shopify and Squarespace stand out as the most popular options, with nearly seven in 10 Main Street SMBs using one of these two as their primary platform. 

Furthermore, different industries have varying demands from eCommerce platforms. Average Main Street SMBs seek ease of use and low costs, while high-revenue SMBs demand more features. 

Against this backdrop, payment providers have an opportunity to win over Main Street SMBs by offering integrations with popular eCommerce platforms, developing diverse feature sets and providing sector-specific solutions.

The survey also revealed that Main Street SMBs face various challenges when selling online, and identified security issues, website development and maintenance, marketing costs, shipping and delivery, and providing effective customer support as some of the challenges that SMBs believe similar firms face when using online sales channels. 

Here too, payment providers and businesses that serve Main Street SMBs can address these challenges by offering flexible pricing models, enhanced digital payment capabilities and user-friendly online payment solutions. 

Looking ahead, Main Street SMBs that make most of their sales through eCommerce are more optimistic about their revenue expectations compared to those that rely on in-store purchases, with 57% of these businesses that make most of their sales through eCommerce expecting revenue to grow this year.

This optimism is particularly evident among Main Street SMBs with similar sales across in-person and eCommerce channels, with 61% of these companies anticipating revenue growth.