COVID‑19 Update: Marketing trends as brick and mortar businesses start to reopen

Industry insights and trends as small businesses pivot.

Our small business customers around the world have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re a brick and mortar store that had to move online quickly, a restaurant that had to pivot to takeout and delivery, or an e-commerce store that had to expand your reach, digital marketing has been critical for small businesses over the last few months. We’ve been supporting our customers through these transitions, and along the way, reviewing the data to see what we can learn. Small business marketing is changing fast, and some of the changes are here to stay. Here are some early insights:

Email marketing activity is up 15% since the beginning of the pandemic. The peak was 33% in the US the week of March 15.

Alt text: Chart of email marketing activity from January-June 2020, relative to pre-COVID-19 baseline

We’re not surprised to see an increase in email marketing activity. Many small businesses, especially brick and mortar, had to communicate quickly with their customers about closures and other important details. The interesting part is that marketing activity has remained elevated even as countries and states start to reopen. This shows that customers are continuing to see value from marketing efforts, and even if they’re able to go back to “business as usual,” digital marketing will be a bigger part of their mix moving forward.

Many industries are up more:

  • Health and fitness email marketing is up 42%
  • Restaurant and venue up 22%
  • Education and training up 20%
Alt text: Chart of email marketing activity by industry from January-June 2020, relative to pre-COVID-19 baseline

You’ll notice that these are all industries that have had to pivot quickly or change their business models. Many gyms and fitness studios are now offering online classes, and they’ve increased their marketing and communications to attract and retain clients. Restaurants have had to adapt in a different way—while some had to close and stop marketing during this time, others shifted to increased takeout and delivery, and ramped up their marketing to make sure customers could find them and order food. Online education and training organizations have more opportunities than ever to market their services and attract new audiences.

While many industries have increased their marketing, we’ve seen a significant decrease in marketing activity among travel and hospitality businesses. In fact, email activity is down 27% since the beginning of the pandemic with the lowest point being down 47% in April. Even as businesses start reopening, the industry still remains behind, and volume has only picked up 10% in the past month.

Customers who have e-commerce stores have seen a 35% increase in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic.

Alt text: Chart of revenue generated from e-commerce orders from January-June 2020, relative to pre-COVID-19 baseline

This is encouraging. Consumers moved to shopping online because they had to—what remains to be seen is how that will change over time as more brick and mortar businesses start to reopen. We expect a continued lift in e-commerce revenue because once people get past the barrier to entry, they’ll keep shopping online in addition to physical stores.

We've also seen a 15% increase in our customers with e-commerce stores.

Alt text: Chart of Mailchimp customers with an e-commerce connected store from January-June 2020, relative to pre-COVID-19 baseline

More and more businesses are starting to sell online—we expected that to happen, and we'll keep an eye on e-commerce activity as brick and mortar businesses start to reopen.

Multi-channel feature usage is up 13%, especially among new users.

  • Landing Pages are up 24%
  • Websites are up 22%
  • Automations are up 14%
  • Ads are up 17%
  • Surveys are up 13%
Alt text: Chart of marketing channels used by customers from January-June 2020, relative to pre-COVID-19 baseline

New users are more likely to use the full breadth of our all-in-one platform, especially Landing Pages and Websites. It’s clear that many businesses are seeing the benefits of establishing an online presence and marketing across multiple channels as they work to meet their customers where they are and sustain their business. It’s also clear that our customers are working to stay connected to their audience and their needs. If you’re considering sending a survey to learn how your audience’s needs have changed or what they want to see from you, now's a good time.

It’s an incredibly challenging time for small businesses. By focusing on multi-channel marketing and multi-channel commerce, these businesses can stay connected with their customers and make money now, while setting themselves up for success in the long run.

Looking for some real-world examples of how small businesses are adapting to these changes? Courier, a modern business magazine recently acquired by Mailchimp, is a great source of information for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Their weekly newsletter is full of stories about how businesses are weathering this storm, and they have a daily podcast on this topic, too.