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. Here are some early insights:

Our US customers’ email marketing activity is up 15% since the beginning of the pandemic compared to the same time last year. The peak was 33% higher the week of March 15 compared to that week in 2019.

Chart of email marketing activity among US customers from January-June 2020, compared to that same period last year.

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 email marketing activity has remained elevated since the pandemic began even as countries and states start to reopen. This suggests 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.

Among Mailchimp customers, many industries have increased their email marketing activity since the pandemic began compared to the same time last year:

  • Health and fitness email marketing is up 42%
  • Restaurant and venue up 22%
  • Education and training up 20%
Chart of email marketing activity by industry among all Mailchimp customers from January-June 2020, compared to that same period last year.

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. As many schools around the world are not resuming full-time, in-person learning this Fall, there could be increased opportunity for online education and training organizations to attract new audiences through marketing.

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

Mailchimp customers who have e-commerce stores connected to their accounts have seen an average 35% increase in revenue from March to June compared to the same time last year.

Chart of total revenue generated from e-commerce orders through the Mailchimp application from January-June 2020, compared to that same period last year.

This is encouraging. Consumers have increased their online shopping, but what remains to be seen is how that will change over time as more brick and mortar businesses continue 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 going to physical stores.

We've also seen a 15% increase in the number of customers with an e-commerce store connected to their Mailchimp account from March to June of this year compared to last year.

Chart of Mailchimp customers with an e-commerce connected store from January-June 2020, compared to that same period last year.

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 among Mailchimp customers is up 13% in June from April 2020, and is even higher among new users.

In fact, when comparing our US customer data from this March through June with the same time last year:

  • The number of published landing pages are up 24%
  • The total number of published websites are up 22%
  • Automation usage has increased 14%
  • The total number of digital ads are up 17%
  • The number of surveys created are up 13%
Chart of the marketing channels used by Mailchimp customers from January-June 2020, compared to that same period last year.

New users are more likely to use the full breadth of our all-in-one platform, especially Landing Pages and Websites. 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 many small businesses. By focusing on multi-channel marketing and multi-channel commerce, these businesses can stay better connected with their customers and focus on making 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.

Published on July 29, 2020. Last updated on September 8, 2020.