The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the foundation of how we do business. Despite retail restrictions being eased in most areas, foot traffic remains lower than it was before the pandemic, and consumers are discovering and accessing products differently. Traditional marketing channels, like word-of-mouth recommendations and outdoor signs, have taken a backseat during the era of social distancing. Meanwhile, with internet usage up by 50-70% in most households, the relevance of digital marketing has increased significantly.
Though these changes have happened rapidly, most experts believe the recent increase in e-commerce is here to stay – even if public health measures curb the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic has forced older consumers (i.e., Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) to adopt digital purchasing habits similar to those of Millennials, effectively erasing the generational divide between online and in-person shoppers. It’s very likely that the convenience of online shopping will continue to appeal to older consumers after the pandemic is over, especially those who have health or mobility challenges.
Right now, no matter who your target demographic is, knowing how to take your business online is vital to long-term survival. In the guide below, we’ll outline the best ways to bring your marketing strategy up-to-date, so you can stay relevant during and beyond COVID-19:
1. Invest in an app for your business.
We recommended mobile applications for businesses long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but recent events have made apps absolutely essential. According to Social Media Today, app usage increased by 20% during the pandemic, and in-app spending increased by 15%. This trend is driven by consumers’ need for a fast, convenient way to connect with businesses, particularly while completing “buy online, pick up in person” orders.
In addition to making your services more accessible, apps offer several less-obvious advantages that will give you a competitive edge after COVID: They’ve been shown to build brand awareness and loyalty, which is particularly important at a time when businesses can’t rely on in-store experiences to make their brand memorable. They’re also one of the most efficient channels for providing customer service and promoting spe2.cial offers.
2. Optimize your website.
Most businesses have some form of online presence, whether that’s a website, Facebook page, or just a Google My Business listing. In 2020, however, simply being online isn’t enough: With websites increasingly expected to fill in for physical storefronts, you’ll need to make sure your site is fully optimized and up to the task of meeting customer demand. Some areas of improvement to focus on include:
- Making page load times as fast as possible.
- Assessing the structure and layout of your website: Is your site easily navigable? Is your online ordering system simple to use?
- Ensuring your website is fully responsive (that is, it can adapt to any screen size without losing readability or functionality).
- Performing a search engine optimization (SEO) audit to identify areas where your SEO strategy could be improved.
- Adding new content and updating old content, as needed. Create content that’s both engaging and actionable, with a call to action at the end of each page.
- Making your website as informative as possible. Include your contact information, an integrated map feature, links to your social media accounts, and an “About” page that introduces your team and describes how your business originated.
3. Build your online brand.
As we alluded to above, one of the greatest challenges of the COVID-19 marketplace is creating a memorable, influential brand without the aid of in-store experiences. Before you get started, it’s vital to understand that online branding hinges on your brand’s visual impact and the emotional resonance of its messaging.
The graphical elements associated with your brand (i.e., your logo, social media banners, website, and online ads) must be striking and unique; otherwise, your brand won’t stand out from the competition. Never use generic stock photography, bland graphical elements, or website templates when building your business’s online presence. Instead, work closely with a professional graphic design team who can create custom content to reflect your brand’s individual identity.
During the era of COVID-19, you’ll also need to pay very close attention to your brand’s messaging. Right now, brands need to strike a careful balance between optimism, compassion, and realism to inspire people without looking tone deaf. Focus on cultivating a socially responsible, empathetic brand voice that emphasizes the power we all have to make a difference in each other’s lives – even if we’re doing so from a distance. Look for opportunities to donate to charitable causes, make your business more environmentally sustainable, and help your customers manage the challenges of life during a pandemic. For instance, you might consider offering free shipping until the virus is fully under control, so people who have to order items online face less financial hardship. You should also invest in text and video content that provides useful, supportive information to your customers; e.g., if you sell children’s toys, why not write a blog with tips on how to keep kids entertained at home? Or try producing educational, child-friendly YouTube content?
4. Purchase paid ads.
SEO is the best way to increase your brand’s online reach, but it’s a gradual process. Even the most effective SEO strategy will take about 6 months, on average, to generate noticeable results. To get the word out about your business more quickly, we recommend purchasing “pay per click” (PPC) advertising. Though this form of advertising used to be restricted to established businesses with ample budgets, today, most small-to-medium sized businesses can afford to at least try PPC ads. In fact, the cost of PPC advertising has actually fallen during the pandemic because there’s less competition for ads and viewership has increased. This has increased the average return-on-investment of PPC ads by 71%.
If you’ve lagged behind the digital curve for years, adapting your business to the online marketplace probably feels like a Herculean task. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could optimize your website, get a mobile app, and generate creative content, all in one place? Good news: If you’re in Ontario, the team at AllinBrand can help you do exactly that. Our comprehensive branding agency in Toronto offers all of the services you need to take your business online, at affordable prices. Contact us today to find out how we can help you master digital marketing and e-commerce.