Two dominant small business trends for 2020 that Mailchimp sees, according to John Foreman.
Mailchimp’s chief product officer tells Ramon Ray that COVID-19 has transformed the business landscape this year. More importantly, that fact means the trends show how small business leaders are finding success amid the pandemic.
John has been at Mailchimp for a while. In the last five years, he’s been one of the architects of the transformation of the company to be a comprehensive small business marketing platform. That means more than just email, although the company found its success through that. Now, it has social media, customer relationship management, automated marketing, websites, advertising, and more.
A former consultant who has embraced technology product development, John has spent a lot of time in that period talking to small businesses. He’s asking about their needs from a front office perspective. He’s also looking at how Mailchimp can help launch businesses. His goal is to make sure Mailchimp can deliver products for all these needs, all in a seamless package.
This work also means that John has his ear to the ground. He is usually one of the first to see what the company’s clients are doing. That makes him well-placed to notice small business trends for 2020 right as they begin to take shape.
Small Business Trends for 2020
The pandemic has deeply impacted the small business trends for 2020 that are leading entrepreneurs to success this year, John says. The Mailchimp team is seeing two overarching small business trends this year that entrepreneurs should be closely following. John shares that there’s a rush to go online as well as to communicate.
Small businesses, regardless of what they do, have increasingly had to figure out how to do that business online, says John.
Since the start of the pandemic, Mailchimp has seen a 35% increase in revenue for existing e-commerce businesses. More importantly, it has observed that 15% more of its customers have launched e-commerce stores. John adds that there has been essentially a doubling of e-commerce transactions.
“A big part of this year has been figuring out for businesses, ‘How do I sell online?’” John says.
For example, traditional brick-and-mortar stores can just add an online version of their shop. On the other hand, services businesses have to figure out what it even means to be online. This is evident in Mailchimp’s data around the surge of domain acquisitions and website launches, John says.
“We had something like 90,000 websites published in April,” John says. “We had the time to publish a website be cut in half.”
It used to be that the small businesses took their time. Now, they want their websites up and running yesterday. A big part of the trend is just folks realizing whatever it means for them, their business, their service, their product, they need to have a website, John says.
Among the small business trends for 2020 that Mailchimp is learning is the explosion in communication, John shares. Outbound, there’s a massive spike in email send outs and social media posting.
According to John, the spike could be observed from March and April. When people were all staying at home because of COVID, email volumes were at Black Friday levels every day.
More importantly, people were engaged.
“We didn’t see what we usually see with Black Friday, which is people send a bunch of email and then no one really opens or clicks because they’re all burnt out. No, this year, consumers are hungry to interact with that communication, because they need to understand what is going on.”
People want to know what’s happening at their favorite restaurant. What can they buy? Where can they go? What services and products are available to them?
“They need to understand how small businesses are pivoting right now, so consumers are engaging heavily,” John explains.
The explosion in communication can also be seen through surveys. Mailchimp’s survey service is also experiencing a spike in traffic. This is because small business trends for 2020 have shifted. Entrepreneurs want to know how to position their businesses in this new landscape. What’s their new product market fit.
“That’s a lot of the trends we’re seeing. On one hand, it’s getting online as fast as possible. And on the other hand, it’s about communication, finding a product market fit, talking to customers really rapidly,” says John.
What Makes a Successful Small Business?
In addition to discussing small business trends for 2020, John and Ramon also talked about timeless qualities of successful businesses.
“We’ve seen that small businesses have to differentiate. That they have to create a brand that conveys something very different from like the behemoth that might be Amazon,” John says.
They have to establish what’s special with their brand and product. What is the unique thing that they offer? Afterward, they have to make sure that their brand stands out. That’s done by talking to early customers and finding the right product market fit.
“Gather all that information about who’s interacting with you, and make sure you talk to people in different ways. Personalize that,” John says.
There should be different messaging for people who haven’t bought, for people who have abandoned carts, and for VIPs. There also has to be follow through and making sure you’re serving the customer right, John says.
He predicts that the future holds more of that, as businesses seek to differentiate, personalize their communication and give a custom touch that’s not offered by the massive companies.
How Mailchimp is Meeting the Raised Bar
All of us are very familiar with marketing, says John. That’ true even in our personal lives. For example, when we post on social media, we think about how the picture looks. For John, that shows that people suddenly know product photography.
“What we’ve seen with small business owners and entrepreneurs is the bar has just gotten higher and higher and higher for what it means to present your brand to the world,” John explains.
“I may be a small business owner that runs a boutique cosmetics company,” he adds. “But that doesn’t mean I want to come off any less than Sephora.”
Over the past few years, that continues to manifest in two areas. The bar is being raised in how brands are represented across channels. The bar is also higher in how brands are personalizing messages to consumers across channels.
“I want to look my best and want to speak to a consumer right about what they need at that time,” John says. “That bar has been set by the enterprise, but small businesses want to meet it.”
That’s why Mailchimp has evolved into an all-in-one platform, John says.
“If you want your brand to look consistent across your channels, wouldn’t it be nice if your content and your brand was stored in one place so you could ensure brand consistency?” he explains. “Furthermore, if I want to speak to someone appropriately across channels, the way they interact with my website and the way they interact with my email, wouldn’t it be nice if that was all contained in one place as well?”
Success Through Mailchimp’s Customized Messaging
Customers have moved from just bulk messaging to customized messaging and automated marketing.
John says it’s pretty successful. The numbers speak for the effectiveness. According to John, when small businesses use their customer journey builder, Mailchimp generally sees a doubling in open rate and a tripling in click rate.
Certain types of automated messaging, including for abandoned carts, achieve up to six times more sales than standard newsletters, he adds. Personalized product recommendations that can be done by Mailchimp result in up to 25% more sales.
By leveraging an all-in-one platform that includes things like website data and CRM, small business trends for 2020 are easier to see. That means small businesses can more easily customize their messaging.
It’s Easier Than You May Think
More importantly, it’s typically not as complex as some may initially think. John says that for small businesses that haven’t touched customized messaging thinking it is too complicated, lean on a good partner.
“There are companies – MailChimp being the leader – that have spent years thinking about this and designing these products to be able to be engaged by small businesses,” he says.
For example, Mailchimp has spent a lot of time and resources to make marketing automation, which seems hard, to actually be easy, approachable, and affordable.
Mailchimp has also thought about content and design, two things small businesses find to be major time sinks. They’ve released a creative assistant that uses artificial intelligence to know your brand and make imagery that is beautiful and fits your image. That includes knowing a brand’s colors, fonts, and the like.
Mailchimp has also created partner communities of freelancers and agencies that can help small businesses do the work.
“We want to provide multiple options for small business owners,” John says. “And there’s so many people out there doing these sorts of things that if people feel alone or feel like they can’t attack it, I guarantee them, they’re not alone.”
Lean On The Business Community
To that point, John also talks about later in the conversation about how small businesses should lean on larger companies like Mailchimp. That’s because these companies can dedicate resources that are not available to small businesses to needs that need solutions.
Small businesses should lean on larger companies that can dedicate resources to finding solutions.
“We’ve begun to think through where are those places where the entrepreneur needs folks to come alongside them,” he says.
For example, if you can’t hire data scientists, let Mailchimp be your data scientist. You want to know the small business trends for 2020 that you should look into? Mailchimp probably has some insight.
“What does that mean? It means we’ll do your product recommendations for you,” he says. “You want to know what the best time to send is? We’ll do send time optimization for you. You want to do predicted demographic segmentation? All right, we can do that for you.”
John says that they’ve tried to structure the whole company around helping the small business. Entrepreneurs should see how they can benefit from that.
Get the latest small business news, upcoming events, and more every week on Smart Hustle.