There's no doubt that it's a tough time to be a small business: U.S. Census Bureau survey data from mid-October indicates that 75% of SMBs have seen a significant or moderate negative impact from COVID — casting doubt over what will happen during this holiday season, which is often a lifeblood for small businesses.
But there is hope: Despite decreased foot-traffic and business closures, Deloitte predicts holiday retail sales to rise between 1 and 1.5% this year, driven largely by businesses that move to digital-first — and SMBs have an opportunity to take advantage.
If there's one thing this challenging year has taught us, it's that digital is your only pandemic-proof asset. So here's how you can make the most of the lead-up to the holidays in order to drive discovery, customer engagement, and more sales.
How to pandemic-proof your digital presence
While COVID has made digital even more important, one thing remains true no matter what is going on in the world: The customer journey starts with search. In fact, 80% of people say they prefer to use a search engine to find local products. That trend is more pronounced today, with customers less likely to take actions like browse in malls due to safety concerns — meaning that they are going to find and/or purchase from your business online.
The first step to maximizing discoverability in search? Claiming your business listings on key sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and more — and making sure your essential business information (name, address, hours) is correct across all of these platforms and on your website. It sounds simple, but consistency everywhere consumers search both eliminates confusion and helps improve your search ranking.
Second, you need to make sure that you can easily update your information everywhere your business appears — especially when it comes to COVID-related policies and changes. For instance, have you shortened your hours? Implemented new cleaning processes? Launched buy-online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) programs? Being transparent about your COVID protocols can help increase customer confidence — but you need a concrete strategy in place to make sure your customers can find this information online. Otherwise, you risk losing their business to a competitor they may feel is doing more to protect them.
And remember: Increased online spending is an important revenue factor, even if you still fulfill your orders in person. BOPIS spending grew more than 500% during the first phase of the pandemic, and that trend is set to continue over the holidays. If you're planning on such programs or increasing contactless options, you need a seamless way to let your customers know what you're offering — and help them act on it — on both your website and every single place a listing for your business appears. This leads to a better customer experience for them, and more sales for you.
From the Holidays to All the Days
Unfortunately the holidays are going to be constrained given the state of the pandemic, but people will still want to shop for the people they love. Investing in digital will not only help your customers this holiday season, but will enable you to build a strong, more lasting relationship over the long term. Per Salesforce, 58% of consumers said they expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than they did before it. So there's no better time to make sure your customers have all the information they need everywhere they might search for your business online — this holiday season, and beyond.
Interested in learning more? Learn how Hunkemöller took a digital-first approach to improving the customer journey with Yext.