SMEs’ trust in digital advertising increases by almost 50% vs 2020

Posted on Wednesday 06 December 2023 | IAB UK

New research shows SMEs trust in digital advertising has grown significantly since 2020

In the UK, small & medium sized businesses’ (SMEs’)  trust in digital advertising has risen by 24 percentage points in the past three years with 74% in total now saying they trust it - an almost 50% increase on 2020’s trust levels according to a new study.

The research from IAB UK and research agency MTM also shows that more small businesses state that digital advertising is important to the success of their business (81% vs 63% in 2020) and delivers a good return on investment (74% vs 63% in 2020).

The amount of SMEs investing in paid-for digital marketing has grown by 4 percentage points to 64% of SMEs. Paid search and online display formats are particularly popular, with 32% and 25% investing in them respectively.

However, cost continues to be the main barrier to SMEs investing more in digital advertising, with small businesses still rallying from the impact of the pandemic and now weathering the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s therefore unsurprising that SMEs are also increasingly turning to digital channels for free forms of digital marketing - such as organic social posts - with 93% using this sort of promotion, a 26 percentage point increase across the past three years.

The research released today is an update to ‘Powering Up’ - a wide ranging study IAB UK first released in 2020 to explore how small businesses were using digital channels and identify what more support they needed. Findings from the initial research informed the creation of a free-to-use interactive online tool to help SMEs select the right digital marketing strategy for their objectives.

The latest wave of the study saw MTM conduct a quantitative survey of over 800 UK-based SMEs in August 2023. 

Commenting on the results, Elizabeth Lane, Head of Research & Measurement at IAB UK, said: “Digital advertising is integral to small businesses and vice versa - these are two sectors that are very closely intertwined and it’s clear that relationship has continued to deepen post-pandemic. That’s good news for our local communities but also for the economic health of the nation. With 99% of the private sector made up of SMEs, it’s integral that small business owners not only know how to use digital channels, but can use them confidently and effectively.”


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