2020 was a terrible year for small businesses. Small businesses are notorious for depending on foot traffic to drive sales. So, many entrepreneurs were put in the financial position where they felt they had to close their doors for good. Even the businesses that have made it to this point are starting to feel the strain of this prolonged pandemic. After all, the support of existing customers can go a long way, but still not be enough. Greg Sterling, writing for Search Engine Land, says that there is still hope for these businesses. They just need to focus on their online efforts.
Small Businesses Don’t Have to Rely on eCommerce
Online efforts don’t mean that small businesses have to switch to a primarily e‑commerce or e‑commerce only shopping platform. They just need to focus on being found. It’s true that having an e‑commerce platform is important since it expands a business’ customer base beyond the local population. However, there are new customers to be found locally who are showing a previously nonexistent interest in supporting local businesses.
As stated in a previous SalesFuel blog post, “53% of Americans said that during the shelter in place orders, they were more likely to make purchases from local small businesses. Of the 53% of respondents who said that they are more likely to make purchases from local small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- 68% said they will continue their increased purchases from local small businesses even after the pandemic has come to an end
- 30% will shop at local and national businesses equally once the pandemic is behind us”
However, these consumers’ business still has to be earned using a few in-demand website features.
In-Demand Website Features
According to Sterling, “Searches for ‘available near me’ have grown globally by more than 100% since last year.” Your small business client’s location and products/services need to be optimized to appear in a search for local businesses. If they aren't, they’ll be passed over by shoppers who aren’t walking or driving around to browse in different shops. Reena Nadkarni, Head of Product Management, Local Ads at Google says, “Most shoppers now plan ahead about when and where to shop. They want to feel safe; they’re trying to avoid crowds.” If consumers can’t find small businesses in their online searches, those businesses won’t be on their shopping trip list.
Additionally, “67% of shoppers plan to confirm online that a desired item is in stock before going to buy it,” says Sterling. 80% of consumers want to take fewer shopping trips, according to Search Engine Land. They don’t want to potentially expose themselves to illness for no reason. So, small businesses’ ability to display real-time product inventory on their websites is crucial to driving sales. Customers can be persuaded to come back another day if the item the consumer is looking for isn’t in stock. If businesses include a “pick up later” option, customers will know when to come looking again.
Safety and Contactless Services
Consumers want to be safe while they’re shopping. If small businesses promote the safety measures they’re taking, they’ll be able to increase both foot traffic and online orders. Posting their COVID safety guidelines and practices, as well as offering curbside pickup and contactless payments can sway new customers to make purchases.
According to AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel, Local First Shoppers are heavily swayed to take action by digital ads such as social media, email and mobile ads. To find out how your small business clients should be promoting their products and services, check out their target audience’s profile.