Why digitalization is so important for local businesses

Digitalization has had a profound effect on the commercial landscape of the USA. While online retailers were initially dismissed as a niche option for computer nerds, e-commerce sales continue to rise dramatically. In the fashion (clothing and shoes), electronics and telecommunications industries, this growth is even higher.

As a local retailer, however, you should not bury your head in the sand and worry that you can’t keep up. Instead, you should see digital change as an opportunity to grow your own business. Below are the five biggest benefits your local business will gain from a solid web presence, and how you can best put this strength to use.

Having an online presence: now more important than ever before

The coronavirus pandemic has made shopping local even more complicated. In principle, day-to-day shopping is allowed in many sectors even when virus cases are surging – but the regulations ensure that the traffic is kept to a minimum. Furthermore, individual sectors such as the restaurant industry are particularly affected by having to close completely. Other than the restrictions, people are less willing to go to crowded areas and therefore more likely to shop online.

A digital presence in the form of online advertising or social media activities or your own website is therefore more important than ever before. So that you don’t lose your customer base during these challenging times, being digital is essential. It is not a matter of replacing your physical business with an online store or to go from being a restaurant to a delivery service – it’s about making use of various marketing channels to inform your customers about the current business situation and to pass on the following information, for example:

  • Current situation in terms of on-site visiting
  • Changing opening hours
  • Services in times of corona (e.g. a delivery service or click-and-collect, which is becoming ever more popular)
  • Other ways to support your local business, i.e. through vouchers

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What are the advantages of digitalization for local businesses?

To kickstart the digitalization of your local business, you can start with the full range of social media channels, search engine advertising, and your own website or online store. Alternatively, you can focus on one or more specific marketing options. In either case, entering the digital world will help you to direct more attention towards your business. Below, we’ve have summarized five advantages of active marketing on the web for you.

Tip

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Advantage #1: Simple communication of news and special offers

One of the most important goals of digitalization is to create convenient structures to collect and share data and information. This is not only about electronically storing customer data and handling communication with customers as efficiently as possible, but also about optimizing internal communication processes. How can a local company digitalize effectively?

Customer data acquisition and customer management

When it comes to gaining and storing customer data, as well as managing customer relations, there is probably a consensus among entrepreneurs that digital is the way to go. CRM Tools have established themselves as suitable software in large corporations, but also for SMEs. Whether support for newsletters, social media, or websites, these tools provide the perfect basis for collecting customer data securely and digitally. At the same time, CRM systems provide the right platform for developing cross-company strategies for communicating with customers.

Own website and social media channels

When it comes to digitalization, local companies automatically come up against the question of whether it makes sense and is necessary to have their own website. The simple answer is: absolutely! In modern business life, there is hardly a more practical solution for presenting your products or services, getting in touch with customers, and sharing news. Your website does not necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg, as our article on how much does a website cost? will show you. Even cheaper, but just as promising, are customer contact opportunities and company marketing on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Tip

Having your own website doesn’t mean you have to be a tech wizard. Simply make use of the IONOS’ website builder to start your own digital success story!

Project management and communication tools

Whiteboards and flipcharts may still be useful in modern business – but they are not the only ones that can help. Tools for managing projects, tasks, and appointments simplify the organization and communication within your business considerably. Other programs that help in a similar way are tools for managing your digital communication via email (especially with customers), as well as communication tools like Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business (internal exchange), and finally cloud storage like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive.

Conclusion

Tools for internal and external communication are easily integrated into your daily business routine and are an important step on the road to digital business success. A business website, in combination with your own social media presence, provides the perfect basis for presenting your company and your products or services and for getting in touch with customers.

Advantage #2: The Internet as the perfect spot for special offers

Special offers and promotions have always been among the most important marketing tools. The past few years have shown that they can be seamlessly integrated into everyday digital business life. To get started, ask yourself two questions: Which promotions or special offers suit your company? And to what extent should these promotional activities be integrated into your business’ activities?

However, it’s not possible to give a one-size-fits-all answer to either question, as it is necessary to find a company-specific approach. For example, if you run your own online store and sell your products online, you have to approach special offers in a completely different way to a local store, as you can make price adjustments online at any time of day.

Note

Online specials also offer you the possibility to gain potential customers at your local store, too! For example, you can distribute vouchers via social media or your website, which can be redeemed in store.

When it comes to promo campaigns, creativity is in vogue. Informative content such as tutorials, blogs, etc. as well as “join-in” campaigns in social networks (e.g. sharing a success story or a personal picture with the product) show that a lot is possible here.

Conclusion

The Internet, with its various marketing channels, is great to show your current offers and to start join-in actions. In the best case, you can bring the users you reach directly into your local business – in any case, you strengthen the image of your company. This is one of the best-known examples of a successful web promotion that has achieved both: McDonald’s “My Burger” campaign, where users were asked to put together their own burger. When the campaign ran for the first time in 2011, there were over 115,000 burger suggestions and around 1.5 million votes. In the end, the burgers of the five finalists even went straight to the branches of the fast-food chain, so that users could test their own favorites right there and then!

Advantage #3: A digital catalog of your services

Anyone offering a large number of products or services should offer a product catalog that summarizes the goods on offer. However, print editions are very costly and difficult to bring to customers. A digital catalog – as a PDF, on your website, or as an online store – is proving to be a promising alternative with a much higher reach. What’s important when putting together and publishing this kind of digital solution?

Simple PDF catalog

If you opt for a simple PDF catalog that you want to send by email or as a download, for example, the same approach applies as for a print catalog. Make sure that the catalog is optimally tailored to your target group(s) and that all products or services (including costs) are presented in a visually appealing way. There are a number of tools such as Pagination that make it much easier for you to create your own brochure.

The digital catalog in your own website or online store

It is much more complex, but also more flexible, if you present your product range in a specially prepared area directly on your website. You have to enter the individual products or services individually into a database, but you can also revise or delete the entries at any time if changes have occurred. New products can also be easily added to the catalog – a flexibility that you don’t have with a PDF document.

This type of product listing becomes essential if you run an online store parallel to your local business: In this case, the catalog is also your showcase or local business. With the right store system neither the maintenance nor the presentation of your products or services will be a problem.

Advantage #4: Localizing your physical store

The digitalization of your local business and especially the step into the world wide web presents an additional opportunity to get publicity for your local physical store. Advertising your location(s) via social media, as a Google company profile (our article on local SEO tips goes into more detail here), or on your own homepage will all help you get attention in your community. By using a mix of platforms, you’ll have the best chances of success. It is important that you answer all important questions of your potential customers:

  • What are the different local locations?
  • What is the address?
  • What are the opening hours?
  • At which locations can click-and-collect orders be picked up?
Tip

One of the most popular options for localizing your business on the web is the possibility to integrate it into Google Maps.

Advantage #5: Boost sales with digital tools

Achieving greater reach and boosting business – these are the ultimate goals that summarize the tips mentioned above. On the web in particular, you can also use tools that specifically motivate interested users to buy.

  • Chatbots: Chatbots are already used in a lot of sales contexts. As the first point of contact for customers, the practical bots answer many important questions to help reassure customers before they commit to buy.
  • VR planner: Virtual tours, fitting rooms, or interior design planners can also – at least for the time being – replace on-site visits and encourage people to engage with your services.
  • Social media: Social networks have an enormous appeal. By engaging well-known influencers as advertising partners you can present your products or services in an extraordinary way and expand your customer base.
Tip

Link up your website or social media channels directly to your online store by using the Social Buy Button from IONOS.

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