One only needs to look at the use of desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones to realize consumers have embraced technology as a tool to drive their shopping behavior. A study from Blue Nile Research shows that between 79 percent and 82 percent of consumers use search, brand websites and customer reviews for research. And according to a 2016 study by Deloitte, digital device influenced retail sales grew from .3 trillion dollars in 2013 to 2.1 trillion dollars by 2016….a seven-fold increase in just 3 years.
While the Deloitte figures reflect sales for both large and small businesses, and don’t include data for non-retail and/or service businesses, they nevertheless perfectly describe consumer behavior. People are using the internet to learn about your business and what makes it better/different from competitors; to learn about the products & services you offer; who has the best prices; what other shoppers like or dislike about your company; where you’re located; and more. In short, consumers have easy access to more and more data that allows them to make smarter buying decisions.
Accordingly, with the shopping journey now redefined…small business owners can no longer rely on drive-by traffic, referrals, and traditional marketing alone to survive, let alone prosper. Failure to engage consumers online means competitors who do will eventually steal even your most loyal patrons.
The challenge for small business owners though is how to embrace digital marketing with limited marketing dollars. Fortunately, initiating an effective online marketing strategy doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s why. Marketing dollars can be limited to two primary digital media options: Google Adwords & Facebook. According to Pivital Research, in 2016 65% of all digital advertising revenue went to these two providers, largely because they control the largest audience share. (Facebook alone has over 2 billion users!) And in a recent update by the Internet Advertising Bureau, that figure has grown to an astounding 99%!
Additionally, small businesses can keep budgets down by reducing the marketing geography to reach consumers in the immediate trading area they service…no more, no less. And also, companies can and should narrow their target audience to reach only the best prospects that are most interested in your products and services. This will not only preserve marketing dollars, it will help generate a higher return-on-investment.
Of course, implementing a successful digital marketing strategy must also take into consideration “content”. What are you communicating to your sales prospects? Should the ads be static or include video? Should they be more brand oriented, offer driven, promotionally focused, or some combination of these and other content options? This is a topic in and of itself and will be the subject of our next blog article. So be sure to check back on our website for more guidance concerning digital marketing best practices. But for now, consider that now is the time to get in the game, if you haven’t done so already.