Why SMBs Should Embrace Digital in 2021

And how they can kick-start their e-commerce plans to chase new business

February 25, 2021

The shift from a brick-and-mortar marketplace to an e-commerce ecosystem has been a long time coming.

While traditional consumers held a “there are some services you will never be able to deliver online” view, many tech companies didn’t just flip this script – they reinvented industries from top to bottom.    

These changes impacted everybody including SMBs – many of whom – adopted a slowly, slowly approach towards new technologies and content marketing best practices.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Covid wake-up call

COVID-19 fast-tracked the inevitable, and while some people hold a “world will go back to normal” outlook, evidence suggests otherwise. Even as vaccine roll-outs bring us out of lockdown, e-commerce is expected to grow from strength-to-strength. Consumers who switched to buying things online during lockdown are anticipated to remain e-commerce fans.

Embracing digital marketing and solutions is no longer a nicety now – it’s a necessity for all businesses including SMBs. And speed is of the essence for SMBs – a recent Digital Tools in Crisis and Recovery US Report by Deloitte revealed how quickly consumers are pivoting to online shopping and communication. Key findings included:

  • 48% of consumers surveyed reported an increase in online spending since the outbreak of COVID-19, and 40% of respondents said they increased their use of social media and online messaging for product and business recommendations 
  • Nearly two-thirds of shoppers surveyed who substituted one of their frequented businesses for a new one reported using digital tools to discover these new businesses. 

Positive outlook for SMBs

  • Of those who started shopping at new businesses since COVID-19, 73% said that at least one of those new businesses was a small business
  • 31% of respondents said they plan to increase their spending with small, local businesses when the COVID-19 pandemic is over
  • SMBs that increased their usage of digital tools were nearly 4 times more likely than other SMBs to target new customers with their marketing efforts and were 3.5 times more likely to launch new products
  • And 78% of SMBs that started using digital tools during this time expected usage to further increase after the pandemic

No going back

These COVID-19 driven shopping preference changes are also expected to be permanent according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Per one survey, of 3,700 consumers in nine countries, more than half of consumers now rely on the internet more than ever before. Those individuals said they make, on average, two online purchases per month, though that number is far greater in the U.S.

UNCTAD anticipates that these changes are permanent and that they will only become more pronounced as the global economy begins its recovery and businesses should seize the opportunity. The survey noted that while online consumer spending has dropped in the past year, the number of online purchases actually increased. Sectors such as electronics, education, DIY/gardening, household goods and furniture, personal care and pharmaceuticals experienced significant upward shifts.

Make digital marketing work for you

It’s clear the world has changed and your business needs to adapt and remain nimble and relevant with a robust digital marketing strategy. Where to start? It’s tough given the many platforms and technologies available today – but here’s a checklist to build your plan around.

Streamline digital communications

In a socially distanced new world, digital communication is essential. This ease, convenience, and accessibility strengthens relationships with customers making them feel more valued and cared for. To optimize e-commerce benefits, SMBs  should consider adopting a tool that streamlines customer engagement by doing the following:

  • Allows users to opt-in to notifications – consumers are more likely to open branded communications if they have control over the content they receive and the frequency with which they receive it.
  • Send proximity-based notifications – consumers are more likely to act on an offer or ad if they receive it at the exact moment they’re ready to spend. Proximity-based notifications allow you to send updates or promotions based on subscribers’ locations, such as when they are in your store or near your place of business.
  • Filter spam – the problem with social media and email is that they are riddled with spam. Users get in a habit of deleting or ignoring every notification that isn’t from a friend, colleague or family member, making it difficult for earnest marketers to get through to their target audiences. A platform that utilizes spamless technology gives users peace of mind that everything they receive is relevant to them, which ultimately helps marketers boost their open rates.
  • Share rich attachments – consumers love social media because it allows them to access rich content from various platforms all from a single place. Advanced communication tools should also boast this capability.
  • Automatically translate text – with the world going digital, businesses are catering to larger and more diverse crowds. While the expanded reach is a great opportunity for SMEs, it also comes with a few challenges, such as the language barrier. A tool that features auto-translate capabilities levels the playing field these businesses, as content creators can continue to send out messages in their own language but have peace of mind that the recipients will receive them in theirs.

Finally, SMEs should look for communication tools that have built-in metrics. Insight on everything from who is receiving notifications to how often they open them can guide communications strategies and tweak them for maximum effectiveness.

Don’t afraid of text promotions

You, like so many other business owners, may use email as your go-to mode of communication with customers. Not only that, but you may see nothing wrong with sending several blasts a day.

However, when it comes to employing this same tactic with text messaging, you hesitate. Wouldn’t bombarding your customers with text promotions and updates annoy them?

While text has long been regarded as a personal mode of communication, the fact is that consumers appreciate text promotions and research backs this up.

According to one survey, more than half of respondents (54%) said they enjoy business-related texts from brands they frequently shop with. However, only 11% of businesses actually use this tactic. Set yourself apart from the competition in 2021 by getting over your fear of text. Your customers, and your bottom line, will thank you for it.

Get personal

Not enough can be said about the value of personalization in digital marketing.

According to the findings from one study, as many as 64% of email recipients said they would unsubscribe from a brand if they routinely received emails that failed to target their relevant interests. While the study focused on email, it’s safe to assume that the same attitude applies across all forms of digital communication.

That said, it’s not enough to add “Dear [Name]” at the top of your notifications. Personalize everything from the content to the context, accounting for differences in tastes, preferences, needs, price points and interests.

While it’s impractical to try to personalize every individual email, you can create subgroups for customers with similar interests, which is the next best thing.

With 2021 already three months in, you might be starting to feel anxious or stressed about how and when to implement (or upgrade) your digital marketing strategy (or bolster it).

There is a silver lining – you can make the highlighted tips a reality with a single tool – NotifyMe – learn more about how it can fast track your digital plans and goals in 2021.

Get NotifyMe Working for You

Unlock new business with personalized notifications and content (in any language) and digital marketing tools

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