While Covid-19 has taught us a lot of frightening lessons about human behavior in relation to disease control, it has also taught businesses some valuable lessons about ecommerce and the necessity of a digital presence. Even before the pandemic, ecommerce sales represented a substantial portion of the market. Forbes reports that just prior to 2019, $600 billion dollars in online sales represented 56% of the previous year’s retail growth.
Covid has, of course, driven those numbers even higher. Today’s consumer buys from home, seeks entertainment from home, conducts business from home, and, from the looks of things, many will continue to do so. CNBC reports, “employers expect nearly 2 in 5 employees will still be working remotely at the end of 2021, compared with 57% who work remotely now, although that varies by industry”–that’s a drop of only 17% in the at-home workforce.
Even those who go-back to face-to-face are likely to continue their online habits. Business Insider noted a doubling of “mcommerce’s” (that is the use of mobile devices for online business) share of the ecommerce market between 2015 and 2019. That means no matter where we go, we’ll likely be conducting business on the devices we carry with us. In fact, Marketing Hub found that “62% of U.S. consumers said they shop online now more than they did before the pandemic.”
What that means for the small business is that if you don’t have at least a website, you’re way behind the trend. To be competitive in the Covid market and beyond, small businesses need to create online presences across multiple social platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and Twitter. As David Caffey, Digital Marketing Manager and Senior SEO Specialist, puts it “COVID-19 has shown how important your online presence can be in times like this, and by that, I mean making sure you have coverage for everywhere (Google My Business, etc.), not just your website.”
Small Business Marketing in a Digital Age
But this is good news for the small business. More than ever, small companies have the ability to compete using the same tools as huge conglomerates. And recent research shows that buyers are turning toward smaller local sourcing in their online activities. If you are a small business looking to build market awareness, here are a few things to consider:
- Keep it clear and short: today’s elevator pitch is conducted online and is often confined to a limited number of characters. In a digital environment, where attention spans are ever decreasing, you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention.
- Collaborate: working within your community is not only a great way to call attention to your business, but also useful for making connections with other businesses that complement yours. Working together with other companies to create coupons, promotions, and events can benefit all involved and generate a much larger audience. In the online environment this translates to backlinks and “shares/likes” that build website traffic.
- Be a storyteller: you will need to create buzz for your business, and the online environment allows you to offer customer testimonials, build a company identity, and much more.
- Build relationships: it is more cost-effective to keep customers than it is to find new ones, so much of today’s digital marketing is geared toward building trust and offering fast, efficient service with reliable means for providing feedback and for receiving assistance.
- Create a social media presence: Today’s world largely exists in the social media realm. Use this to your advantage.
The Importance of a Social Media Presence
Let’s keep this short and sweet–today’s small business must have a presence in the social media environment in order to remain competitive. Not convinced? Then consider this:
- Social media allows you to uncover business trends in real time.
- Social media marketing analysis allows you to keep an eye on competitors. You are able to monitor the types of ads they create, what strategies they’re using, what markets they’re targeting, and what they’re promoting.
- Social media creates greater opportunities for backlinking and other SEO strategies that improve search engine performance.
- You are able to offer better and more immediate customer care and service by monitoring social media.
- You can create rich content such as video that has proven to generate higher engagement.
Take Advantage of Video
One of the biggest advantages of creating an online presence is the access your business has to video content possibilities. Visual content has been proven to be far more effective than written content when it comes to consumers retaining information. And unlike traditional video production for TV ads, online video content can be produced inexpensively.
You can use video production to create the story of your company through interviews, through virtual facility tours, through background exploration of products. You can also create powerful buzz by posting customer testimonials or chats with workers. In fact, today’s digital environment allows customers to see your company and your product in ways it never could before in traditional marketing forms.
Ivan Young is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with AdvanceOnline, an OSHA training provider.