It’s not surprising that the pandemic has caused e-commerce purchases to skyrocket in the past six months. According to an Adobe report, the rapid migration by consumers to online shopping has accelerated the growth in e-commerce by four to six years. In May, sales hit $82.5 billion, a 77 percent increase from the prior year. This growth rate can be unsettling news for retailers whose primary source of sales happens in physical stores. However, those retailers who also have a robust online presence are in a better position to survive the economic downturn. Having a brick and mortar store, as well as being online, multiplies the opportunities to attract new customers and generate more sales.
Many retailers believe that after COVID-19, they will get back to business as usual. By all indications, that’s not going to happen. Although consumers initially changed their buying habits due to being quarantined, they now prefer some new online experiences.
Offering Solutions to Common Transactions
Operating in the digital space has made managing bank transactions, purchasing groceries, taking classes, and telemedicine relatively simple. These types of transactions limit the number of interactions that people tend to consider stressful or time-consuming. Survey results indicate Seventy-five percent of people who used digital channels for the first time will continue to use them after the pandemic.
Although most small businesses devote a segment of their operations to e-commerce, some have not fully committed the time and effort required to make it a successful sales tool. However, e-commerce has to become a priority if businesses want to engage consumers and remain competitive.
- 29 percent of small businesses plan to use a website for the first time in 2020
- 22 percent of companies plan to use an app to better connect with customers
- Almost 70 percent of businesses plan to increase their presence on social media
- More than 58 percent of people who shop online do so because they can shop 24/7
Technology is changing the digital space at a historic pace to accommodate how consumers now purchase products and process information. Businesses unable to flex and adjust their strategic plan are in jeopardy of falling behind competitors and will be unable to get back on track later.
Marketing on a Budget
Merely having a website is not enough. You have to take action to make it visible to your current customers and online shoppers. These days, businesses are trying to conserve money, rather than spend it on marketing. Some may believe marketing is an unnecessary expenditure that may not yield a return on their investment in this uncertainty. However, there are affordable options that have proven to be effective without spending much on technology.
Practically everyone receives emails daily that promote products or services. Emails may be considered an “old school” communications channel compared with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but emails continue to be effective and affordable.
- There are 3.9 billion email users. By 2023, this will increase to 4.3 billion users (Statista, 2020)
- Email generates $38 for every $1 spent, a 3.800 percent ROI
- 81 percent of B2B marketers use email newsletters to deliver content
- 87 percent of B2B marketers say email is one of their top free organic distribution channels (Content Marketing Institute, 2020)
Be aware that the typical person receives 80 emails daily. So, your email must draw the reader in with an engaging subject line. If not, the email may be deleted without being read. Tell the person what’s in it for them to read the email. Will they save money? Get a free item? Or benefit from a new product? Emails are one-on-one conversations with the reader, so your message should be conversational and make a connection. To save time and create targeted campaigns, invest in email software that can track results, and manage it.
- Grab attention with the headline
- Make it enjoyable by telling a story—avoid using a hard sales pitch
- Make it personal and build an online relationship
- Ask the reader to take action—What do you want them to do?
Use Local SEO to Increase Web Traffic and Sales
Less than 25 percent of small businesses utilize SEO as a marketing resource. Partially, because they do not understand how SEO works and because they feel it makes more sense to focus on having a more robust social media presence. Indeed, the odds that a small business will rank high in search engine results that appear to most users are low. For example, Google’s first five search results account for 70 percent of people clicks. Although it is suggested that using high-value keywords is one way to get a higher rank, this is a common practice and will achieve minimum results.
However, using local SEO is the best option since you are not competing with the entire “universe” to achieve a higher ranking. Focus on getting localized results by mentioning your city, town, or neighborhood organically throughout your website. Search engines often ask the person for their location to provide the closest options. Based on the person’s requirements, search engines will give high rank to businesses located closest to the person.
Social Media Builds Relationships with Customers
Although the conversion rate is low, 37 percent of small business owners consider social media to be their most successful marketing channel. Social media is used primarily to grow brand awareness and build relationships with customers. Running a complete campaign can be challenging to execute without a dedicated marketing team. However, maintaining a Facebook page for your business is affordable and easy to accomplish. Focus on telling your story and building a relationship with your customers. Discuss the things that interest them the most—special events, unique products, and helpful services.
Focus on Marketing Channels that Offer Value
If you feel your website needs work, do what is required to improve it. Online shoppers judge the professionalism of any business by the appearance of their website. This channel is the starting point of the buying journey. Your website should be informative and evolve as an extension of the brick-and-mortar business. Most people (86 percent) depend on the Internet to get information about local businesses. “Your website should be your number one salesperson, 365 days a year, 24/7,” said Lauren Williams, founder of Harmony HR Experts, an organizational development company. “Everyone buys things on the Internet all the time. Even if your business is providing a service, you must have a way to sell it on the Internet.”