Small businesses in Canada may have figured out that online commerce is important to them – but when it comes to online communications, they’re still at a loss, according to a new survey.

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In August, shipping giant UPS Canada Ltd. and Leger, a Canadian market research firm, polled about 300 small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in Canada that spend at least $5,000 on shipping every year. Researchers found 62 per cent of respondents feel e-commerce is important to their business, with 64 per cent citing their website as their most important e-commerce channel and 40 per cent saying the same about Facebook.

So while SMBs are working on making their online shopping experiences as seamless as possible, across more than one channel, what they’re struggling with is Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), UPS researchers found.

CASL, which came into force in July, sets regulations around how businesses reach their customers and potential clients through electronic messages. That means businesses need to follow the rules whenever they use email, text messages, voice messages, and social media to promote themselves, with the rules centred around getting consent from the recipients first.

That’s been a challenge for a lot of SMBs, UPS’ survey found. Just 48 per cent of SMBs polled said they had a plan in place to tackle CASL – a problem for a lot of businesses, considering 23 per cent said email is the third-most important way of interacting with customers, after their websites and Facebook.

Another 35 per cent of SMBs said with the emergence of CASL, they’ve had to find new ways to market their products. Still, they recognize it’s important to figure it out. Three-quarters of SMBs said they felt digital communications, including ones that fall under mobile and e-commerce, are key to their businesses if they want to be competitive in the future.

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