It has been alarming how the global COVID-19 pandemic has had this vast impact on business operations and eventually consumer habits.
Businesses across various industries have been forced to close the doors to their workplaces and even shops, and are forced to choose a remote working environment for the safety of their employees and own well being. This is where the digital technology has come in hand, and even the lay man has learnt how to advertise his business online in this testing time.
To play the role of a responsible citizen during the pandemic, employees have been instructed to work from home till the conditions get better. In fact, even the consumers are strictly advised to avoid unnecessary visits to stores as much as possible, and turn to online shopping. For many businesses without an online presence working from home, has prompted a total halt in sales. Meanwhile, the businesses that were actively utilising the online space for coverage, marketing, sales and customer relations have realized the importance of optimizing their online presence and also sustained it.
The arrival of COVID-19 has caused a widespread turmoil for businesses that were slow to adapt to digital sales and marketing. Now, every entrepreneur and CEO, who were in favour of more traditional operations are largel caught on their heels. But how has the virus forced businesses to display their online adaptability? And is it too late for a company to be competitive by transitioning its presence online?
How have consumer habits changed, and why should businesses rethink their online presence? So these are some really valid points to ponder on.
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic has offered the western societies the chance to unite in social solidarity. The power of collective action changes the way individuals relate to each other and nurtures a sense of community. The cultural shift from “I” to “we” is likely to carry a long-term effect on consumer behavior, as we now have more reasons than ever to engage in conscious consumerism.
As the motivation behind purchasing becomes more about the products, services, and brands that share a sense of collective betterment and social responsibility, companies have starteding strengthen their online presence and engagement. To maintain it they are using various digital channels – like websites, blogs, social and digital media – sharing their social messages with the new wave of post-pandemic consumers.
Global lockdowns and the widespread shutdown of physical stores has left many shopping centers and main streets desolate in the short term, but they have also driven consumers to rethink the way they should be spending their money. Shoppers who were once reluctant to shop online, have now created online accounts and are experiencing highly personalized, convenient, and competitive shopping experiences.
For a long time, e-commerce has been nipping away at the growth potential of offline retail, and this global lockdown has accelerated this movement and played a vital role in it. Traditional retail has been in decline with downsizing if jobs and single-digit annual growth – a trend that was taking shape even before the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. So can we say that it could be a time to shut down the brick-and-mortar store? Probably not, but it’s certainly an ideal time to open up an online business and focus on optimizing your online store, website, blog and media coverage.
Furthermore, is it time to cut out the middleman, as the physical stores are forced to shut down, and every other brand is implementing a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model. By cutting out retailers and selling directly to consumers through digital channels, many businesses have optimized online presence. This has proved to be more lucrative than ever for businesses that may otherwise have found themselves swept up in the mounting economic hardships.
In the past, brands relied on the physical availability of retailers and mass distribution but today, brands build more direct digital relations with their customers. This transition may leave challenges for brands and startups at a slight advantage, as their knowledge and understanding of their target audience is likely to be more comprehensive and fresh. But everyone knows that websites, blogs, guest posts and social media are the best places to secure strong relationships with consumers.
So, the optimization of businesses’ online presence is not to gainsay the prominence of physical stores, and it’s highly unlikely that the Main Street will soon disappear forever. In many ways, physical shops are likely to emerge stronger, as consumers will relish the chance to finally touch and feel actual products again. Still some consumers have been found to be somewhat reluctant to spend excessively on large purchases. In a GlobalWebIndex survey, only 40% of consumers indicated that they’ll make major purchases when the outbreak decreases or ends. This is obviously bad news for businesses – especially prestigious and technologically advanced brands whose products are considered major purchases among the consumer base.
However, it also shows an impressive opportunity for such businesses to release information on their post-pandemic initiatives and why it’s a good time to buy. In fact, 56% of consumers are interested in brands’ COVID-19 initiatives, meaning it’s imperative to present and share yours online for prospective customers.
Now how can businesses respond to new social interactions?
Having so many various social distancing measures in place, it’s unlikely that everyone will feel safe and confident enough to return to the normal levels of social interaction like before. This means that the increased amount of time people are spending online is likely to continue long into the future, even after lockdown and even after distancing measures ease up.
It is so amazing to see how people are increasingly turning online not only for their shopping needs, but also for entertainment, fresh content and a way to pass time without leaving the house. More than ever, consumers are searching online and consuming media at home for new information, entertainment and ways to fill their time. It’s a prime time for businesses to meet their consumers online and provide them with useful and entertaining content.
Content creation can be done from blog posts to virtual quizzes, there are numerous ways for every company across all industries to generate it enough for their consumers. Deep, meaningful and interesting information surrounding your markets, which your customers will likely be interested to read, should be kept fresh and frequent. One should think that time for engagement is already upon us. As social gatherings and outdoor events remain inaccessible for so many citizens worldwide, more prospective consumers are online and receptive to marketing campaigns launched by adaptive businesses.
Meanwhile, startups may find success in the creation of engaging and SEO-focused content, established companies that have been lacking an online presence could invest in influencer outreach campaigns, where established online figures introduce products and promote them to their massive audiences on a business’s behalf. So, one of the most effective ways to establish your business online and become a recognizable brand is through social giveaways. By offering products to names drawn at random from audiences who meet certain criteria (such as those who share your post or tag a friend to boost your exposure), you can accelerate your company’s reputation and appeal to consumers who are motivated by free items. If the prize is available on your online store, it will likely result in a boost in sales.
To make sure that these methods turn out to be effective, you should begin by perfecting your online presence – from optimizing your website and updating your own blog to writing guest posts for other authoritative publications. Your business’s online presence is key to getting through the pandemic now and remaining profitable in the long term.