In the year 2018, an online presence can make a business.
And we say that literally. On the one hand, lots of businesses have started online in the last years, and it’s common these days to establish a small company without having a brick-and-mortar location open to customers. On the other hand, corporate giants which have been doing business successfully for decades, if not for the entire 20th century, have been affected by the drastic change in consumer behaviour and suffered a rapid decline since the advent of large-scale e-commerce.
Sears – a failure to adapt to the world of e-commerce
Let’s take the example of Sears Holdings Corp, the 125-year old retailer that became an icon for generations of American shoppers. On October 15, 2018, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the same day when a $134 million payment was due. A total of 142 stores belonging to Sears’s subsidiaries will be closed, while others will stay open to turn the company around.
This situation would have been unimaginable decades ago, or even in the 2000’s. Sears was famous for its massive catalogue and it boomed in the decades after World War II along with a growing middle class. However, it wasn’t able to keep up with shifting consumer habits as online rivals, including Amazon.com, siphoned off shoppers.
Why should this interest you as a small business owner? Our advice is to learn from other people’s mistakes and not end up like Sears. Make sure you adapt to consumer habits that have shifted to online and build a strong online presence. There are two main trends you need to align with if you want to thrive in today’s business environment:
Consumers research online before they buy. Instead of roaming shopping mall and streets for hours or asking other people about the products and services they use, your prospects use quick search features provided by smartphones and mobile apps to discover products and services across different retailers and firms. Data suggests that 89% of consumers conduct a research online before making a purchase either online or in-store.
This way, shopping becomes very easy for customers, but if you don’t promote your products online, you lose countless opportunities to sell and simply stop existing.
Customers use multiple devices on their path to purchase – starting their search on mobile phone, purchasing products using tablets or laptops, and interacting with friends via Social Media about their purchases using all these devices. In order to keep up with the consumer behaviour described above, you will need to make your promotional materials mobile-friendly, make sure your website is responsive and adapts to all devices and browsers, and have a prominent online presence on social networks, just to start with.
If you are still in doubt about the need to get online, here are 7 good reasons to start using digital marketing tools and invest time and effort into your online presence and e-commerce development:
Your market and competitors are already online
Australia has become one of the world’s biggest e-commerce players in the last few years. There are amazing opportunities for those who enter this market.
The population of Australia may be relatively small, but what fuels e-commerce here is a strong economy and infrastructure. It has been estimated that the Australian e-commerce market will reach almost AUD$16.6M by the end of 2018, with fashion being the top category due to a revenue growth expected to reach 13.36%.
Figures are in US$
These figures suggest that selling online in Australia these days is an excellent idea, and also that your competitors are already online. There is no doubt about it – if you want to be relevant in today’s marketplace and catch the tide, building an online presence is compulsory.
Did you know that lots of people buy online at the exact hour when physical stores are closed?
For instance, 9 -10 pm is the time when women buy both expensive and bargain fashion items, and Sunday is the busiest day for online shopping. 29% of Australians purchase between 7-10 pm and 18% purchase between 2-5 pm.
Staying traditional and not using Internet to promote your business means your sales will go to competitors. Getting online allows you to be visible and accessible 24/7. Customers are able to make purchases at any moment of the day and night and information about your business is visible all the time, without interruptions.
Easier for customers to find you
Given the fact that customers research products and services using mobile devices before making a purchase, you should be easily accessible to online searchers through multiple channels, including your own website, email, social media, and marketplaces. The scenario where prospects conduct research only by visiting your brick-and-mortar location is simply a thing of the past – online just makes things easier for anyone who is looking for a certain product or simply does shopping for pleasure.
Market and increase your brand awareness
Using the right channels to promote your business makes you more visible and increases your brand awareness. Moreover, building brand awareness online is less expensive and faster; businesses can achieve this in multiple ways, such as:
- Creating an Instagram account
- Gaining exposure on Facebook
- Starting a YouTube channel
- Running paid Facebook ads
- Partnering with other brands
- Attracting online referrals
- Offering exclusive access to product promotion events
- Joining important causes
- Using data to understand consumer behaviour
Australia is ahead of nearby Asian countries in terms of e-commerce, and maintaining a powerful online presence ensures access to a massive audience. 85% of people in Australia have Internet access and this percentage is increasing at a rate of 1.7%. Also, there are 19.4 million mobile users in Australia, and these people prefer shopping from their mobile phone instead of using a computer.
However, 33% of Australian e-shoppers buy abroad due to better availability of products, while 32% opt for international online shopping due to appealing offers – the take here is that Australian consumers are far from being saturated by local e-commerce, but at the same time they are smart and won’t switch unless you offer them what they’re looking for. It’s a large audience, but an educated and experienced one, and you will need to go online like a professional in order to attract these prospects.
Showcase your products or services
In the early days of e-commerce and websites, sceptics thought that consumers won’t like the idea of buying without actually seeing the product and testing its features. They proved to be wrong, and the huge development of online marketing has demonstrated that businesses can showcase products online in multiple ways, including:
- Using the right words to describe products, such as “custom-made” or “workmanship”
- Highlighting the use of the latest technologies and describing your products as being leading edge
- Giving a luxury appeal to your products
- Explaining products in videos
- Offering product information through downloadable product sheets
- Displaying tip sheets and FAQs on your website
- Crafting attractive product titles and product description
- Providing quality product images with the option to zoom in – the use of multiple images is strongly advised
Build relationships and trust with customers and potentials customers
Nowadays people complain that in a digitalised world they find it hard to make genuine connections with each other. However, in the world of business, online tools actually enable the creation of meaningful connections and building relationships online. The use of video call software like Skype as a resource for relationship building, joining LinkedIn groups with active communities, enabling blog comments, establishing connections with industry influencers, interacting with your audience on social networks – all these help you build trust with stakeholders and customers alike.
Are you already online for entertainment, socialisation, and researching products and services for your own use? Then not maintaining an online presence for your business is unthinkable. The conclusion is short and unforgiving: get online or perish!