The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business model. Many businesses have moved online, and more products and services have ended up online this year. It is expected for many employees to continue to work remotely or in a hybrid setting. Varied customer responses to COVID-19 on digital platforms have now (kind of) stabilized, and it is time to gain some insight into online business trends and gain knowledge on what to expect in 2021.
The key factors for running a stable business are closely connected with answering questions like how to engage and retain current customers and generate more traffic, leads, and revenue. Eight areas have proved business managers should invest their time and resources into. These eight industry trends might prove the best bang for every business’s marketing buck.
Marketing through social media has proved to be one of the most effective customer engagement ways, even before the pandemic. Social media budgets accounted for 24% of total US marketing budgets during Q2 of 2020, growing 13% with respect to last winter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, customer retention has become a priority for most marketers. This trend is expected to continue well into 2021. The pandemic has incredibly increased the amount of time people spend online searching for products, brands, and organizations. This is a unique opportunity for marketers to increase their reach with new audiences and re-engage with long-time customers. A good social media marketer can develop a proper content plan, make regular posts, monitor and drive customer responses, and attract new business. This can specifically be beneficial and a reliable marketing strategy for small businesses.
One of the most important factors for small businesses to ensure their local listings are verified and kept current on various search platforms. This is mainly because B2C companies draw customers primarily on a local level (such as dentist offices or car dealerships). Google My Business listing provides valuable information about business hours (which can vary all the time due to COVID-19), services, and geographical location.
Ensure you have a geographically defined service area within your local listings, as this will help your business show up in “near me” searches. That’s because many search engines (especially Google) prioritize relevance in their search algorithms. It may seem counter-intuitive to limit your business service radius, but by doing so, you’ll more deeply penetrate that market in search results. Keeping your listings updated also allows your customers to know any changes in your hours, promotions, blogs, or other information you would like to convey quickly.
One of the essential tips for small businesses to follow in this category is activating a geographically defined service area within their local listings. This will ensure the business shows up in “near me” searches. This is especially important as many search engines (especially Google) prioritize relevance in their search algorithms. It may seem counter-intuitive to limit a business service radius at first. Still, it makes sense that a business will more deeply penetrate the relevant market in search results. Keeping business listings updated allows customers to become aware of any changes in business hours, promotions, blogs, or any other information business owners would like to convey quickly.
According to McKinsey, the availability of products and services is the most crucial factor in changing their brand allegiance. Conveying availability in creative ways can be difficult from many aspects and can also prove very rewarding. One solution, for example, can be increasing the days of inventory on-hand of products or the availability of time-slots for services. Creating a subscriber list and being proactive with notifying customers of availability changes with an automated text or email can help keep a business running to its full potential.
Many marketers think adjusting campaigns, keywords, and bids to get the most of their advertising dollars is a better strategy. In contrast, this strategy actually costs more hours and higher management fees. Automated Google bidding, which allows Google to automate prior moves to adjust bids in real-time, is a better advertising strategy from this aspect. Focusing on other practical sides of the business ensures delivering a better outcome at a lower cost to clients.
Although voice search is not a part of the Google algorithm yet, it is still dictating current search results. Voice search queries result in different search results from text-based search. It is essential for SEO to keep this in mind and consider their customers who may use voice search rather than text-based methods. To this aim, the contents need to be more voice-oriented, meaning they require to be more direct and conversational so that they will accurately sync with search queries. This method will pay off by boosting traffic by staying relevant and more visible to consumers.
It is more economical to invest in old customers rather than finding new ones. This is the reason why exerting more effort into the later stages of the buyer’s journey is incredibly valuable. Satisfied customers will work as referrals to new customers and roots for the growth of a business. Keeping customers informed on organizational changes or processes through email marketing or keeping them engaged on social media is essential for customer retention, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collecting data and segmenting customers allow businesses to save costs while delivering their products and services, even in a more cost-effective fashion with proper strategies.
Adding interactive elements to websites or social media accounts has proved to be very rewarding. It adds value for visitors and indirectly inquires information and input from them in an engaging way. One of the best examples of this can be adding a cost calculator or keyword search bar to the website. Other examples can be assessments, quizzes, games, polls, interactive videos, surveys, and contests. Contests are a great way to increase a business’s reach and visibility quickly exponentially. The fastest way to showcase a brand in front of lots of new prospects cheaply is having the current customers share a Facebook post of a contest, even if through cheap prizes for these customers.
Surrounded by a world full of uncertainty and anxiety every day, it is essential to keep employees connected. Motivated employees will communicate better and ensure better client outcomes. It is very important to make customer-facing teams (service, marketing, and sales) understand that even though their managers may not be in the office, they are still part of the same business, working together toward the same common goal. Breaking down projects into sizable chunks and setting clear milestones can realize this aim. Setting up multiple communication channels and being prepared to share successes with the entire team on each channel is extremely valuable in this regard.
In conclusion, especially for small businesses, marketing managers could improve their chances just by shifting more resources to social media and local search, adding more personalized and interactive content, and improving the engagement within their customer-facing teams. These factors will result in site traffic growth, generating more leads, and growing sales, all while retaining the business’s hard-earned customer base. They are also critical for understanding digital marketing trends and how they will impact the larger competitive landscape.