Benchmark Bytes: How Have SMBs Amped Up Their Websites?

After examining SMB website dynamics in our Website Windup series, and in roundtable discussions with thought-leading investors, we decided to go right to the source: SMBs themselves. How do they feel about websites? What features do they want? And do they upsell to adjacent services?

Localogy’s latest Small Business Trends report answers these and other questions across the SMB SaaS product set, which we examine one-by-one in this Benchmark Bytes series. After the last installment examined marketing bundles that SMBs get from website providers, we shift attention this week to Covid-era adoption.

In the past year, websites are indeed one of the “covid-advandaged” sectors that have seen adoption inflections. The same can be said for eCommerce. But sticking with websites for now, what was the degree of the SMB uptick in 2020, and what types of website functions index highest?

Starting at a high level, 70 percent of SMBs have made changes to their websites since the start of the pandemic. Social media leads with 32 percent, followed by layout & copy (30 percent), email marketing (21 percent), eCommerce (17 percent), CRM (14 percent), and reputation management (7 percent).

These figures reference the time period between March 2020 and when the survey was fielded in October 2020.

Covid-19 Uptick in SMB Websites (full date set reserved for Localogy members).
What Does it All Mean?

Going a bit deeper, a few things jump out at us:

— First, it’s notable that such a commanding majority of SMBs (70 percent), have changed their website in some way since the start of the pandemic.

— Some of these website changes represent upgrades or purchases for new functionality, while some include things like changing business info (think: hours of operation).

— Regarding the latter, it’s surprising that the figure for website updates isn’t greater than 70 percent of SMBs, given the transformative nature of the pandemic on business operations.

— Moving on to specific areas of improvement, social media’s lead is somewhat surprising, given that more “utility-driven” functions should presumably come first, such as business details.

— Then again, website layout and copy follow closely behind at 32 percent. Again, this includes things like hours of operation, mask policies, etc.

— Reputation management is related to updating business details but is lower down the list at 7 percent. This is surprising, given SMBs need to optimize their reputation when customers are on edge.

— eMail marketing’s prevalence (21 percent) makes sense because SMBs feel the need to inform their customers in proactive ways.

— eCommerce’s growth is surprising in that it seems lower than one would think at 17 percent.

— The lower than expected figure is likely due to service-based SMBs for which eCommerce doesn’t apply.

— CRM’s growth is logical, given that this is a time when SMBs need to optimize every customer relationship to mitigate losses.

— SMBs also may have more time to apply to longstanding admin projects and “cleaning house,” during lockdowns, where CRM projects make sense.

Online Onramp

As these data indicate, websites continue to be the tip of the spear, for SMB marketing. They’re often the first step into digital marketing, followed by other formats. This is generally due to the cost/benefit ratio, given the falling cost of web hosting and escalating standards of website builders.

Websites can also be the base ingredient to get in the game for SEO, social amplification, and other areas (not always the case). This is the reason many website providers are expanding their bundles to deepen SMB relationships with higher-margin products like those listed above.

This of course has gone into hyperdrive in the Covid era as SMBs have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation as a survival imperative. This often sends them into the arms of website builders as an onramp to the many other things they need to accomplish, the above functions included.

We’ll return in future installments to go deeper, including other factors like how SMBs have shifted spending in other areas beyond websites. Let us know what additional insights jump out at you from the above data, and stay tuned for more data breakdowns in our Benchmark Bytes series.

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