UK e-commerce SMEs plan to boost marketing spend

Two thirds (67 per cent) of UK small businesses in e-commerce plan to increase marketing spend in the next financial year, and most plan to increase the proportion spent on digital channels.


However, the majority do not seek professional advice on how to manage marketing spend most effectively, with 59 per cent making decisions without the advice of a media agency.

Almost a quarter (22 per cent) admit to having no idea how effective their marketing spend is, or any means of measuring it. This may be contributing to the UK’s failure to produce enough ‘scale-ups’, with Barclays reporting that less than 1 per cent of UK businesses registered since 2012 have scaled up.

Mark Jackson, managing director of MC&C says, ‘Marketing used to be seen as a bit fluffy in business. Digital technology, modelling and big data have changed all that. The cliché that half of all advertising is waste and no one knows which half should be confined to the dustbin of history. Marketing is an essential engine of growth, not a cost of business.

‘But, as this study shows, the pendulum has swung too far. Start-up marketers have become overly focussed on what they can measure in-house – a DIY approach to media buying that has led to a relative overspend on digital channels, putting the brakes on growth.’

Some e-commerce business, however, are using media, and offline media in particular, to great effect to power growth, such as Tepilo, Transferwise, Deliveroo and Treatwell – all of whom engage professional media agencies, adds Jackson.

‘Without guidance start-up marketers are prone to digital tunnel vision,’ he says. ‘Digital marketing is measurable and effective without doubt. But after a point it’s a case of diminishing returns, and the perception is that everything else is either unmeasurable or very expensive. Not so. There’s lots of value in integrating traditional and digital channels, and UK businesses are often leaving it too late to get professional advice.’

Further reading on marketing spend

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

Related Topics