The global Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on us all. It has been especially challenging and unsettling for small businesses. They are more vulnerable due to their size, lack of diversified activities, lower revenue streams and margins. Small business owners need to adapt to the ways Covid-19 is changing commerce and to the increasing importance of an online presence.
Consumers expect their favourite businesses to be online, with 87% of customers beginning their product search on digital channels. Just over 60% of millennial and Gen Z consumers say they are more likely to support small businesses with a digital presence.
Covid-19 has accelerated digital strategies
Before the pandemic hit, we were seeing a shift towards digital, albeit at a slower pace. The emergence of Covid-19 has resulted in an unparalleled adoption of digital technology across all business sectors.
Businesses are being forced to embrace technology and change how they communicate and operate practically overnight. Companies’ year-long digital strategies are being compressed into weeks and even days. A study by Twilio found that on average, Covid-19 accelerated companies’ digital strategy by 6 years.
Large businesses are accelerating their digital strategies to gain competitive advantage during Covid-19. Small businesses also have to jump on this digital bandwagon as fast as possible. Otherwise, they risk being replaced, disrupted or having to close for good.
Changes in consumer habits
Prior to the pandemic, society was already starting to see a sharp decline in traditional shopping habits with more and more people looking online for products and services. With the emergence of Covid-19 Government restrictions, social distancing and the temporary closure of high-street stores, the move to online channels has accelerated.
Small businesses need to create a strong online presence and rethink their selling strategy. For example, online delivery options have been a lifeline for many restaurants, with 75% reporting that otherwise they would have had to close their business.
All age groups going online
Younger consumers have become increasingly demanding in terms of their expectations due to the emergence of the digital age. They are avid online users and expect to be able to buy anything with the touch of a button.
However, with the arrival of Covid-19, this does not only apply to just the younger generation anymore. Older age groups are now going online to ease lockdown boredom and obtain necessities. This is evidenced by the huge increase in online grocery deliveries.
The pandemic means that all age groups are active and comfortable using online channels. Small businesses need to use technology to reach new customers and maintain customer relationships.
Steps to improve digital online presence
Small businesses have many ways they can increase their online digital presence during Covid-19, including:
- Update an already existing website with fresh and modern content
- Start a business social media page such as Instagram
- Gather online reviews to gain consumer trust
- Develop a blog for your website and use guest publications
- Master SEO techniques or employ experts to help
- Use Influencer marketing to maximise customer reach
- Use email marketing to keep customers engaged and informed
- Invest in analytics tools
- Create a user-friendly App
- Start a podcast
Small businesses are facing unparalleled hardships during this global pandemic. The changes in consumer behaviour and the unprecedented shift to digital have made it a necessity for small businesses to create an engaging online presence.
Going digital has been a critical lifeline for operating successfully through this pandemic for many small businesses. Technology has often been the difference between closure and survival. Online tools allow small businesses to utilise their adaptability and innovation to come up with new, exciting ways to meet customers’ needs.
We have not seen the end of this global crisis, nor do we know how long the recovery will take. If small companies invest in tech and their online presence now, they will be in a much stronger position when they come out the other side of this pandemic and in the years ahead. Whilst working at domestic cleaning services platform, TidyChoice, we have used the downturn in business activity to strengthen our online presence.
Sophie Campbell is a University of Glasgow business graduate currently working as a digital marketing intern at TidyChoice. She has published several articles on marketing, business and lifestyle topics.