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Digital Advertising Offers Small Businesses a Competitive Edge

Digital advertising helps countless entrepreneurs stay ahead of the curve when competing in retail. According to the Connected Commerce Council, owners of small- to medium-sized businesses report that their companies have grown around 39% over the last two years thanks to online, paid ads. Instead of pushing for antitrust legislation that would result in overbearing restrictions on data practices that enable targeted marketing, lawmakers should support tools that help small businesses and our economy.  

Digital advertising helps small businesses reach and satisfy consumers.

Digital advertising is a useful, affordable tool for small business owners, allowing them to grow their businesses by reaching audiences that will be most interested in their services. For example, a company selling retro-themed goods can efficiently target specific demographics and fans of throwback items with online ads, which often offer more economical rates than radio or television ads. It also ignites competition in the market, as 80% of small to medium-sized advertisers say digital ads help their company “compete with much larger competitors.” 

Emerging brands can now tap into the same audiences as the retailers with much larger marketing budgets. Paid ads offer a cost effective way to target specific audiences and drive sales, and digital ad platforms often offer free analytics of consumer behavior as well. 

And the idea of using consumer insights to better reach and serve an audience is nothing new. Throughout history, entrepreneurs have used basic consumer data to understand and advertise to people who would likely be interested in their products or services. 

NetChoice’s recent report shows retailers have used consumer data to meet the needs of shoppers for at least the past century. For instance, going back to the early 1900s, retailers used more intrusive methods like surveys and in-store monitoring of shopping habits. In the 1980s to early 2000s, big-box stores like Walmart and Kmart leveraged scanner data to predict demand. Today, digital advertising and other technological advancements have taken off, giving retailers more opportunities to be innovative, personalize recommendations and improve customer experiences.

Though the techniques for using consumer data for marketing have changed over time, the goal has always been to understand what shoppers like and want, so as to offer them the best experience, products and services. As comfort with digital advertising has grown, the majority of U.S. adults now say they will click on an online ad that’s relevant to their interests, opening the door for retailers to further leverage digital advertising capabilities. 

Small businesses can compete smarter with affordable, effective digital ad tools.

Digital advertising has proven to be an effective, affordable pathway to reach more customers and increase revenue. The return on investment is clear: 78% of small- to medium-sized businesses say digital ads contribute more revenue to their business than traditional advertising, and 82% say digital ads allow them to “more efficiently reach their target customers.”

These tools and platforms have helped empower diverse, small business owners in particular, who often lack access to capital. Notably,  72% of Black and 65% of Hispanic-led small businesses say they would not have been able to “launch and sustain their business without revenue from digital advertising.”

Overall small- to medium-sized retailers are spending around 67% of their advertising budget on various digital formats, including “social media, search, display, video, and mobile-only formats.” As such, there is no monopoly on digital advertising: These advertisers use an average of four digital advertising platforms and 64% use more than two digital ad platforms — generating greater competition for customer attention and among digital advertising services.

With ongoing innovations in digital advertising and a healthy market of platforms and tools to choose from, retailers of all sizes can access these capabilities at relatively low prices. Moreover, it grants them the opportunity to reach and satisfy more of their target audiences. 

Placing antitrust measures on digital advertising will stifle small businesses.

Antitrust measures designed to limit access to basic consumer data that is useful to digital advertisers would only undermine entrepreneurship in our nation. Specifically, bills targeting data for digital ads would drive up costs and “decrease the quality of advertising” for small and mid-sized businesses, according to NetChoice Vice President & General Counsel Carl Szabo.

Instead of kneecapping business owners with stifling restrictions, lawmakers should take a balanced approach to data privacy: protecting consumers’ sensitive information while recognizing the value of basic customer insights for small business advertisers, the health of the retail market and the growth of our economy at large. Congress must also do the hard work of passing a federal data privacy standard that preempts state laws and respects the beneficial uses of consumer data, like digital advertising.

Consumers expect companies to meet their needs by providing quality products, services and an overall pleasant shopping experience. Digital advertising platforms assist American businesses in meeting these expectations by learning more about their target audience and the goods and services they are seeking. Hence, reasonable access to and analysis of basic consumer data is necessary.


Offering inexpensive and innovative options to emerging entrepreneurs, digital ads are effective resources to reach more customers online. As lawmakers consider restricting the affordability and effectiveness of digital ad platforms, they should be aware of how the market empowers America’s businesses, especially small, growing ones. 

Not only does digital advertising allow entrepreneurs to expand, but in doing so, this valuable ecosystem supports the health of our economy. Small and mid-sized retailers have a greater opportunity to flourish through the use of relevant consumer data and affordable, paid ads — something our nation’s leaders should encourage, not stifle.