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How Small Businesses Plan to Grow (+54 Stats on the State of SMB)

90% of online small businesses expect to grow their revenue in 2017. 45% expect to grow more than 25% year over year.

This data, collected from a survey of 596 BigCommerce customers, mirrors that of the National Federation of Independent Businesses’ report, which found small business optimism and confidence in the economy is at a 12-year high.

While the NFIB’s data pointed to a political climate that may be more sympathetic to SMBs as the cause of a rise in confidence, BigCommerce’s survey found that small business owners are taking matters into their own hands to accelerate revenue. And they are doing so using tried-and-true ecommerce marketing tactics to drive traffic, win sales and increase customer lifetime value.

45% of SMBs expect to grow more than 25% in 2017.

Return on investment and low cost of customer acquisition from advertising channels are the two metrics that stick out the most to SMB owners when deciding how to spend marketing dollars and allocate marketing personnel resources.

The below data points, trends and following infographic walk you through exactly how SMBs report they will grow their businesses in 2017 –– and exactly how they won’t.

For example, nascent technologies like VR and ecommerce chat bots fall out of favor with small businesses due to a lack of proven ROI. In their place, SMB owners plan to use channels and tactics like social advertising (51%), SEO improvements (46.28%) and email marketing (40.27%) to drive top-line growth.

Most Important Online Channels and Tactics

The below figures highlight the percentage of SMBs surveyed that believe each online channel or tactic will be a primary driver of revenue growth in 2017.

  • Social advertising: 51%

  • SEO improvement: 46.28%

  • Email marketing: 40.27%

  • Site re-design: 31.98%

  • Google Shopping: 24.86%

  • Selling on Amazon: 19.46%

  • Influencer marketing: 16.57%

  • Selling on eBay: 15.22%

In addition, 73.23% of SMBs are considering expanding to sell on Amazon or Ebay in 2017.

Social Selling Focus

When it comes to social commerce and advertising, 51% of SMBs expect these channels will play a major role in accelerating revenue in 2017. And, this isn’t a passing interest. More than 50% of SMBs reported that they are more interested in selling on social channels than they were in 2016.

This points to SMBs preference for tactics with proven ROI. In fact, survey data showed that nearly 80% of SMBs consider selling on social as a proven strategy for driving top-line revenue.

Specifically, here is how sentiment breaks down by social channel.

  • 75.62% feel Facebook and Instagram have the highest potential for driving growth

  • 49.11% feel Instagram alone has the highest potential for driving growth

  • 14.41% feel Pinterest has the highest potential for driving growth

  • 9.43% feel other channels (like YouTube) has the highest potential for driving growth

  • 0.53% feel Snapchat has the highest potential for driving growth

Mobile Growth Optimization

SMBs are seeing exponential growth in mobile traffic and sales, and as a result many are putting a heavy focus on optimizing for mobile shoppers.

Many BigCommerce customers have already reported they are asking site designers to design mobile-first sites, and then back into desktop versions. This mobile-first strategy is a total reversal of the way sites have been designed for the past decade.

In addition, many online merchants report immediate success from digital wallets like PayPal One Touch, Amazon Pay and Apple Pay, showing as much as 80% of online transactions using one of the above processors.

SMBs surveyed also reported they expect to increase their use of mobile wallets, mobile-friendly site design and mobile-SEO tactics as means to drive top-line growth..

  • 77.84% expect mobile wallets to positively impact business revenue

  • 88.18% expect mobile-responsive design to positively impact business revenue

SMBs are “Wait and See” on New Technologies

When it comes to new technologies like VR or chatbots, the majority of SMBs are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach before adopting.

For instance, when asked about VR for ecommerce, 47.36% of SMBs reported they are not at all interested, 23.59% are somewhat interested and 12.15% are very interested.

Sentiment was similar with chat bots, or bot-based commerce, where 33.27% of SMBs reported that they are not at all interested, 31.51% said they are somewhat interested and 18.84% are very interested.

As for voice-command store management and shopping technology through Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, 51.01% of SMBs said they are not all interested, 25.22% said they are somewhat interested and 9.63% said they are very interested.

The Roadmap to Growth

See the full infographic below for exactly how SMBs are thinking through their 2017 roadmap to growth.

It’s a fascinating time in ecommerce. Virtual reality may eventually lead to the comeback of malls –– digitally reimagined, of course. Ecommerce bots may soon be trained by consumers (and likely their online shopping data) to provide targeted product recommendations that are tuned to our preferences. Google’s Alexa is already allowing customers to buy online using voice-commands to search for and buy products without the need to ever access a computer or mobile browser .

The future of ecommerce will be fundamentally different than what we know as online shopping today. But those nascent technologies have yet to prove effective for SMBs, and very few of those business owners expect to adopt the technology within the next two years.

For now, at least according to a survey of more than 500 BigCommerce merchants, SMB owners report a high degree of optimism for growth in 2017 –– however, almost all of it will be driven by tried and tested tactics proven to increase revenue.

Tracey Wallace avatar

Tracey is the Director of Marketing at MarketerHire, the marketplace for fast-growth B2B and DTC brands looking for high-quality, pre-vetted freelance marketing talent. She is also the founder of Doris Sleep and was previously the Head of Marketing at Eterneva, both fast-growth DTC brands marketplaces like MarketerHire aim to help. Before that, she was the Global Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, where she launched the company’s first online conference (pre-pandemic, nonetheless!), wrote books on How to Sell on Amazon, and worked closely with both ecommerce entrepreneurs and executives at Fortune 1,000 companies to help them scale strategically and profitably. She is a fifth generation Texan, the granddaughter of a depression-era baby turned WWII fighter jet pilot turned self-made millionaire, and wifed up to the truest of heroes, a pediatric trauma nurse, who keeps any of Tracey’s own complaints about business, marketing, or just a seemingly lousy day in perspective.