Its Never Too Late To Take Your Business Online Especially During A Global Crisis
Posted: (Wednesday 9 September 2020)
The Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly expedited digital transformation across all industries. With stay-at-home orders still in effect throughout much of the world and activities like sporting events and indoor dining most likely on hold, until there’s an effective vaccine, businesses that were on the fence about e-commerce are now turning to e-commerce for survival. Covid-19 has been such a powerful force that it’s accelerated e-commerce growth by an estimated four to six years. According to Adobe’s May Digital Economy Index, e-commerce sales during the spring of 2020 exceed even last year’s holiday season – by a substantial 7%.
It’s no longer a perk or a luxury for businesses to have an online presence; now, it’s a necessity. And while many small businesses and entrepreneurs may feel overwhelmed and even prematurely defeated by the idea of taking their business online, my experience running a successful digital advertising agency over the past 15 years has taught me that it’s never too late – even in the middle of a global crisis – to get out there in the digital space.
Here are a few key steps for taking your business online today.
Carve out a niche.
It’s true that many of today’s big box brands benefitted from the first-mover advantage.
Usually, when you’re the first business in any segment, it’s easier to gain and maintain a lot of pull. We’ve seen this with the success of behemoths like Amazon, which carries an unbelievable catalogue of over 12 million products and has earned a reputation for selling everything under the sun and shipping it to the consumer’s front door in a matter of days.
How do small retailers compete against that?
While big movers have thousands and even millions of product SKUs, community stores and mom and pop shops will, by their very nature, never be able to carry that many products. But if smaller entities home in on 10, 20 or 30 verticals, services or products, they can excel at that which big chains, by their very nature, will never be able to maximize – exceptional, expert customer service.
Small businesses that take a “sniper” approach to a select few products and services can carve out a strong web presence for themselves by publishing content and data that exemplifies their niche expertise.
Content is king.
Contextual data and text-driven sites are the kings of driving digital traffic towards your business. If small mom and pops can really fine-tune their product offering to the point where they can consistently talk about the unique benefits of their products or services – especially during a crisis – then they’re able to position themselves as experts and ultimately authorities in their field.
Niche expertise is a huge opportunity for smaller entities to outperform big box stores that are the Jack of all trades, master of none. Within my own client base, I've personally seen small businesses position themselves as the master of a particular vertical; done effectively, no matter who you’re competing against in a space, you’ll tend to win over a lot of customers with your ability to service the customer after the sale, which is sometimes even more important than the sale itself.
The more unique and eye-catching content you can include on your website, the better. But it’s not enough just to talk about how great your product or service is; you also have to answer a question people already have on their minds. To maximize SEO results, ask that question in the headline of your blog post or article. For example, if you’re a video game company, a great headline could be “How many gamers are there in the world?”
Showcase exceptional customer service.
Small businesses have always tended to build success on their reputation for customer service, but their ability to capitalize on this reputation is limited to the radius of their local customers’ word of mouth – unless and until they take their business online. No matter how great your product or service is, in the digital world, if no one can find you, it’s almost worthless.
Think of your business as a newspaper. If you’re delivering print issues door-to-door, your scope is limited to foot traffic in ordinary times and will swiftly diminish during a global catastrophe that keeps people at home. In the digital realm, you can significantly amplify your subscriber base with minimal resources, and digital referrals are gold.
If you’re a small business that sells gym equipment, for example, you might think it’s impossible to compete with online giants selling treadmills like candy to people under lockdown. At the same time, you’re essentially pushed online, because people physically can’t visit your store anymore. Your opportunity to distinguish yourself from the big retailers may not be the price point, but dependable, attentive customer service, which people are willing to pay a premium for during a time when it’s difficult even to buy toilet paper.
There is enough space in the consumer market that if a small business can deliver on time and continue to service the customer after the point of sale, they can cut a big enough slice of the pie to sustain themselves and their customers through this pandemic. And if you’re a small business that’s able to survive Covid-19, then you will have broken through by proving you’re a dependable resource even during the worst of times – and you’ll be able to survive anything.
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