The coronavirus pandemic is forcing brick and mortar businesses to shift marketing tactics and retail operations to digital platforms. The good news is that your customers are still ready and willing to buy. So, how can your brick and mortar business connect with its customers during the COVID-19 crisis?
If your business has been slow to establish a digital presence and infrastructure, 2020 is your year. In fact, there’s no better time to join the online shopping trend. Since 2001, the average rate of online purchases has increased by over 300%.
And, be honest with yourself – if your business doesn’t have an online presence, at this point, it’s high time for the digital upgrade you deserve. Learn what marketing tactics are essential for your business, in this COVID-19 survival guide for brick and mortar businesses.
Websites, Social Media, and Digital Marketing Tactics During COVID-19
From souvenir shops and art galleries to auction houses and accounting firms – if you want to “keep the doors open,” you need to employ a new set of marketing tactics. In this strange-new-world, the biggest issue for brick and mortar businesses is their dependence on a physical storefront to conduct business.
Walk the streets of any major city in the United States, today, and store after store is, either, closed until further notice, or sporting a “for lease” sign in the window. The same holds true for small cities and towns across the country. If you are used to doing business in-person, the current landscape is foreboding.
The solution is to adapt, move, or expand your business to digital infrastructure. Lucky for you, the path has been well-trod for businesses undergoing a digital transformation. Though it might require a change in processes, marketing tactics, and day-to-day operations, your business can survive through COVID-19.
Go Digital with a Custom Website
Your business digital storefront is a custom website. Your websites digital infrastructure serves as the home-base of your businesses digital presence. It is, both, the business-side and the customer-facing side of your business.
Your website is more than a marketing engine, or means of displaying contact information. It is the control hub, workshop, and capital city. It is the place from which all value flows, and the place to which your audience flocks.
Custom websites incorporate the specific needs of the business into every element of its design and functionality. Your website is where you showcase and sell products, book appointments, keep records, foster a customer-base, and grow your audience.
There are many types of websites, because there are many types of businesses. The functionality of a website depends on the needs of a business. A restaurant has different needs than a law firm; a university; or a digital store.
For example – a restaurant website needs the tools to manage reservations and delivery orders. Universities and other online educational institutions require tools to manage scheduling, student records, and facilitate meetings. And, retailers need an online store that is – not only inviting and unique – but serves to handle transactions, track inventory, and facilitate the order fulfillment process.
Utilize Social Media to Connect with Your Audience
Brick and mortar store owners know that the way to retain customers is to connect with them. Shoppers can buy the same thing at a dozen different stores, so why come to yours? Price has something to do with it – as does the quality of product or service in question. But, the biggest factor in a customer’s decision is the connection they feel to one business over another.
Before COVID-19, you connected with customers in your store or conference room. Now, you turn to social media because it is where your audience is looking for connection. Social media is what separates the value of your e-commerce website from that of a vending machine.
Social media is not an ad-platform – it is a connection platform. It is where you foster human interaction between your business and your customers or audience. And – more importantly – it is where you foster conversations and connections, about your business, between customers.
Why Does Social Media Make a Difference?
Social media matters, for a couple of reasons. Complaints, returns, and refunds: when a customer has a complaint, returns, or needs a refund they come directly to your store – until recently. The direct contact between your business and customers lets issues be handled on-site.
But, now there is no “on-site” in the physical store, so where do customers go for their complaint, return, or refund? Left with the option to fill out a contact form, or leave a nasty review, they will go with the latter. And, this is where the direct communication, that social media enables, is crucial.
The contact information on your website is not sufficient to handle the communication with customers. For the same reason that live chat is so effective – customers want to feel that their problem is being solved in real-time. The alternative is that the customer will probably skip the email or contact form on your website and, instead, gratify their frustration with a negative review on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website or Google.
Every business has customers that need support.
When a business makes itself available in the common forum to its customers – i.e. social media – support issues overwhelmingly translate into positive feedback and reviews. Connecting with your audience, through social media, increases your businesses transparency and trustworthiness. Neglecting the common forum comes across as non-transparent, inaccessible, and unresponsive.
Marketing Tactics for Digital Success
A digital storefront is, in principle, the same as a physical storefront. The difference, however, is in practice. Successfully building your digital audience means building your digital presence.
Your audience is whoever your business targets, such as clients, customers, users, readers, viewers – etc. And, the most successful websites target more than one audience, through offering value in several places. Digital value comes in many forms that differ from that of traditional storefronts.
Like a storefront, the primary value your online presence offers comes in the form of goods and services. Another value comes in the form of customer service quality – which, for an online business, revolves around social media engagement. Apart from goods, services, and customer service, your website functions to offer value in many other forms, as well.
Value Comes From Content – of Many Forms
The saying goes “Content is King.” Content includes photos, text, video, audio, and more. Content is so important, because it represents end-point value to your customers.
The more content you promote, the more value you provide. Your website is the perfect platform on which to feature, promote, and aggregate content that offers value to your audience.
“Why Bother? The Pandemic Will End – Eventually”
It is true – the current dependency on digital platforms that businesses feel is due to a temporary crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic will recede, so why is it important to make a switch to digital as opposed to simply waiting it out until things go back to normal?
When the world finally returns to a semblance of normalcy, businesses will see something: In general, it is more profitable to conduct business digitally, as much as possible. If you wait it out, you find yourself behind the curve.
There is too much financial incentive, in online business, for cost savings. Many businesses are being forced to find digital solutions, which bridges the void between yesterday’s business, and a long-term, sustainable business platform. The pandemic will end, but only the businesses that evolve will survive.
Now is the Time to Evolve Your Business
Custom business and e-commerce websites have every capability of a physical store – combined with tools for business management and marketing tactics. The website for your business is your digital headquarters. Now is the time to make the change, expand, or upgrade your digital presence.
If you want to learn more about a custom website, digital marketing tactics, and serving the needs of your business get a free 40-minute website consultation, today. And, help other small businesses navigate through the current tide, by sharing this article with your social media community.