The unpredictability of 2020 came with a number of issues for small businesses regardless of the industry they operate in. Retail had to implement more streamlined ecommerce as shops were forced to close, hospitality had to improve delivery and take away services and other businesses that couldn’t operate online had to continue to engage with customers regardless, ensuring there would be anticipation upon their re-opening. At the heart of all of this was digital marketing as reaching customers online became of paramount importance.
Now, as the UK slowly comes out of lockdown, so do key marketing trends that are going to have a continuous effect on the way small businesses operate in the coming year. Below is a breakdown of how these new trends are likely to play out.
Small Business Will Continue to Work Online
The Small and Medium Business Trend Report published by Salesforce Research has confirmed that one in three small business owners have admitted to accelerating digital initiatives since the pandemic hit. Covid-19 was a catalyst for small businesses move online and in a recent survey carried out by the United Nations, it was found that out of 3700 people interviewed, more than half had confessed to internet shopping more frequently in 2020, with online purchases increasing by 6 – 10%.
As a result, in 2021 we are likely to see small businesses continue their move online. It is important to invest in creating and maintaining a bigger online presence, especially as research carried out by Econsultancy suggests that many people who didn’t shop online before the pandemic intend to continue doing so. Small businesses will be able to use their online presence to inform decision making and track the entire customer lifecycle, which will open up more opportunities for them to compete with larger businesses.
Because of businesses increased use of online platforms, it has made it incredibly easy for them to communicate with consumers as well as obtain and store feedback. As a result, digital marketers are currently experimenting with conversational marketing, which will allow them to deliver a much more personalised experience to future customers. Thanks to Facebook’s cross-app communication features which were released towards the end of 2020, it is becoming increasingly easy for brands to reach out to customers on whichever social media platform they spend most of their time on.
Small businesses looking to continue to grow in 2021 should invest in conversational marketing as this will help boost sales and build brand loyalty. It is important for brands to begin offering more personalised options for customers and continue to build on instant chat and messenger services that clients can use.
AI and Machine Learning
Due to the increased adaptation of AI by IT companies, marketing automation can now adjust its messaging to customers depending on intent signals. As such, AI will soon become a more prominent feature used by small businesses, which will allow them to not just frequently communicate with clients but communicate in a way which caters to their needs specifically.
This can be an advantage in terms of client care and the data obtained by AI will be useful for businesses as their previous client’s information can be stored and essentially used as a universal focus group when developing future products and services.
Preparing for Data Privacy Pressures
Whilst using a customer’s data to develop future products and improve online services is a positive thing, it also has to be done with absolute transparency. Big tech companies continue to draw scrutiny around the world as people have their personal information compromised by data breaches. Recent studies have shown that the majority of consumers want to have more control over the way that their personal information is used.
Small businesses are not exempt from this scrutiny and as more customers are likely to use their online services, they will need to ensure peoples data is stored with genuine consent and safety. To do this, businesses will need to implement data privacy complaint processes and ensure customers are aware of these procedures.
It’s no secret that our mobile phones track our preferences and deliver personalised content based on the data they’ve collected, who we follow on social media, what products we’re interested in, where we live etc.
Whether we like it or not, cookies are here to stay. As a small business owner, your business could see real value in utilising personalised marketing strategies.
Use analytics tools to see how a customer found you initially, what channel they came from, what pages/products were they most interested in. This data will allow you to tailor your strategy and create higher conversion rates.
Smarter Social Media Marketing
Although it probably cannot simply be considered a trend, a successful social media marketing strategy should always be a primary focus for a small business. Social media marketing can be one of the most effective digital marketing methods of reaching your customers, if done correctly. The problem is that there are so many channels, and it can be unclear which you should focus your time and attention to and which will yield the highest conversation rate.
Spend time understanding the demographic of your business. The platforms you should be focusing on will typically depend on the age range of your customers. It can be said that Facebook leans towards an older audience, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok tend to be younger, with twitter some where in between.
Whatever platform you settle on, one trend that is available across all platforms and proving successful are stories. Stories are a great way to offer behind the scenes insight into the inner workings of a business. Smart business owners understand that although stories are not permanent, like posts, they help create closer relationships with your customers, as stories offer a more intimate look at the business, which customers can bond with.