Across the nation and around the world, people are beginning to cautiously venture out from quarantines and lockdowns, taking steps back to the places and people they used to see routinely just a few months ago. In the changed world, however, things are different than before. The phrase “new normal” – as overused as it might be – describes the increased spacing and social distancing that businesses and consumers alike now expect as part of in-store shopping and socializing with others in public spaces.
However much we may never want to hear that phrase or words like “quarantine” or “essential” again, we do have to get used to the ways that consumer attitudes and approaches have changed from coronavirus. Activities once done in a store are moving more and more to the web, accelerating a process that was already surging in recent years. With that in mind, what does your business need to do to adapt to be more accessible to customers?
Your Website Is Your Storefront
While websites have been touted for years as critical, the events of the past few months have made that more apparent than ever. We’ve long discussed the importance of having a strong, mobile friendly and secure presence online, but as consumers warily eye the public spaces, it’s especially important that you show off your brand on the web.
Using your website as the storefront window is a great approach, and can serve as a first point of contact for those who may be interested in learning more about what you offer. Your website doesn’t have to provide online purchasing, but it should give visitors a good idea about what you provide. This means having well-written copy about services, quality photos of your products to illustrate your value and showing off your physical storefront or pictures of inside your shop to let guests see what they can expect when they visit.
People have been cooped up for months, and are anxious to get out into the world – but are also anxious of what they’ll find. Use your website to show them not only why they should choose your business and the ways you’re working to not only provide the products or services they need, but also keeping them safe while doing so, minimizing health concerns with social distancing, curbside pickup options or other steps your business is taking.
Keeping Connected on Social Media
Another way that consumer engagement has changed more rapidly is the increased use of social media to reach out to businesses. Social media has always served this role well, allowing brands to post news, updates and provide more personality and real-time updates on events and occasions than websites, but it has expanded dramatically as of late.
As people spent much of the past few months at home and largely isolated, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provided an outlet and a way to continue feeling connected. It has also provided a way to reach out to businesses through tools like Facebook Messenger, which – alongside all Facebook messaging platforms – has seen a 50 percent increase in usage, according to reporting from The Verge.
Messaging utilities on social media give users another way to contact your business instead of calling or emailing. This can be to ask about available products or inventory, ask questions about a service, or start a conversation for support or other customer service issues. These messengers offer the benefit of real-time connectivity, and those businesses that are highly responsive – responding to 90 percent of messages in 15 minutes or less – will even have a badge displayed on their Facebook page to let users know that they are quick to reply, helping customers feel more confident in reaching out on social platforms.
In addition, you can integrate Facebook Messenger on your website, allowing visitors browsing your pages to start a conversation while still looking at your site. You can also employ an automated messenger bot system to handle requests, which can help keep your response time high, make sure that you’re able to respond even during off hours or peak busy periods, and even handle some requests entirely without human intervention. To sum up the message – social media messaging is a huge deal for businesses of all kinds.
Take Advantage of Media Availability
Many small- and mid-sized businesses have their roots in the local community, serving customers in the immediate area or the surrounding region. It also means that these organizations often turn to local media for advertising, placing ads in the paper or buying airtime on TV and radio. If this is true for your business – or if you’ve ever thought about investing in local media ads – now might be the best time to commit.
As the coronavirus pandemic surged and many people moved to work from home, TV ratings skyrocketed while many advertisers pulled their planned TV spots due to business closures and changes to operations. This led to a gap – lots of available airtime with increased audiences – providing an incredible opportunity for many smaller brands to get on air more affordably than in years. In fact, advertisers could find double-digit discounts on the cost of airtime in almost every market, reports The New York Times. Advertisers are also opting for simple ads – both out of necessity and additional cost – meaning that basic yet creative advertising can easily attract attention alongside some of the more high-budget, professionally produced ads that had become the norm from big brands.
The same is also often true for radio advertising, with the additional caveat of streaming networks. Terrestrial, satellite and streaming radio have all seen an uptick in listenership in recent weeks, as Radio World reports, providing a similarly great opportunity for advertisers to connect with audiences at home. With the latter platforms, as well, there are often additional opportunities for extra promotion through digital ads, helping to stretch advertising dollars further and increase brand visibility beyond airwaves and onto device screens.
Invest in Online Advertising & Visibility
This shift in how consumers are engaging also means there’s an increased value in online advertising. People are spending more time at home and online, using it as a primary way to read the news, research products and services and make purchases for home delivery or curbside pickup. That also means they’re searching the web first for the items and assistance they need, making digital marketing more valuable than ever.
Search engine marketing can help promote your brand in search engines for specific terms or phrases that would be relevant to what you offer. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) can help brands looking to get high exposure, as PPC campaigns are generally measured and billed by clicks and not impressions. This means a user needs to actually click on your link and visit your site for your budget to be charged, so every dollar spent equates to actual traffic to your site. These ads are also keyword targeted, helping to push your brand out to people looking for exactly what you provide.
Social media ads can similarly give you an increase in visibility, with targeting options allowing you control over some of the demographic and geographic range where your ads will be seen. Email marketing has also seen a big surge, with Campaign Monitor showing open rates on email campaigns up 23.3 percent in March and 20.5 percent in April, according to Marketing Charts’ reporting.
As we look ahead and at long-term strategizing, now is also the time to make sure that your website is being found organically – the wheelhouse of SEO. Search engine optimization works to help improve your site’s visibility in relevant search queries and local searches, helping your business rank higher than competitors and giving you a distinct advantage on results pages. Whether you’ve never done SEO, have done it in the past, or are currently engaged in SEO, now is the time to evaluate what is and isn’t working to make sure that as consumers begin to regain confidence and spend again, they are finding your brand – and to bring things full circle, a great website, as well.
Find a Partner to Help You Succeed
At JFG, we know the past few months haven’t been easy – for your business or yourself. We’ve all been through hectic times, but together we can all re-emerge from this crisis. Our team can help you evaluate opportunities, consider your budget and your goals, and help put together a plan that drives more traffic, more visibility and more sales. Learn how we can help – drop us a line today, and let’s have a conversation about what we can do to help.
Bringing with him more than a decade of experience in traditional and online news media, digital marketing and content production experience, Ryan Yaeger is the copywriter and digital content strategist at J. Fitzgerald Group. When not busy wordsmithing at his proverbial word anvil or working on client SEO, you can find him testing new board games or cheering for the Bills or Sabres.