Jameson General Store was a historical treasure in the small North Carolina community. Jim Jameson, the owner, had been a part of the family legacy for more than 100 years. The company had been through bad times, including the Great Depression. However, their hard work and customer loyalty had sustained the company’s success.
Even when a neighboring community got its Marketplace store from Walmart, its customers remained loyal. Jim did not believe in using online advertising or social media platforms. I thought these activities were just a fad. However, their customers gradually started shopping online because Jameson General Store had a limited supply of products.
In fact, most of the business Jameson Store lost was not with local competitors, but with online sellers. Jim was adamant about resisting the urge to shop online. However, when he saw his own 10-year-old grandson purchase a difficult-to-locate item in the online area at significant cost, Jim had to reflect on his current marketing strategy with the nation’s changing landscape.
Today’s customers can purchase a variety of items online with minimal effort. Faced with this scenario, physical companies are struggling to stay alive with fierce competition from the Internet. According to a 2017 survey by Square and Mercury Analytics that analyzed 1,164 US business owners, the following observations were made:
- 96% of Americans with Internet access have made an online purchase in their lifetime, 80% in the last month alone.
- 51% of Americans prefer to shop online.
- 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in store.
- Millennials and Gen Xers spend nearly 50% of the time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older counterparts (four hours).
- Fifty-one percent of seniors have shopped at markets, 66% from large retail sites, 30% from independent web stores or boutiques, and 44% from category-specific online stores.
Marketers understand the importance of the Internet and how to harness this power effectively. According to Socialmedia.com, 90% of marketers use social media for their business. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not recognize this fact. Many companies have chosen to bury their heads in the sand in the hope that this ‘internet thing’ will go away. I did not do it!
In fact, e-commerce is growing more than 23% annually; however, 46% of US small businesses do not have a website according to research from Square and Mercury Analytics. This article focuses on how small businesses can leverage digital marketing to achieve greater success and improve their market opportunities.
Digital marketing should be a tool that every serious small business should use. Digital marketing goes by many names, such as e-commerce marketing, online marketing, and internet marketing. Digital marketing can be defined as “the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers.” The key objective is to promote brands in the use of the Internet.
Digital marketing extends beyond Internet marketing to include channels that do not require the use of the Internet. Some digital marketing channels include websites, social media platforms, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), blogs, podcasts, and online advertising, to name a few. Beyond the technological tricks, companies must know their customers and their core competencies. Digital marketing is not a silver bullet. Digital marketing is a tool for the seasoned business professional.
Catherine Juan, Donnie Greiling and Catherine Buerkle, authors of Internet Marketing: From Start to Finish, suggest that effective digital marketing requires a lot of careful planning. They add: “The heart of getting real traction from your internet marketing program is linking sales and marketing data with metrics. Track what you’re doing, track impact, and track resulting sales.” . When looking at the Internet technology and innovation landscape, small businesses should think strategically about the following five digital marketing trends:
• Artificial intelligence – Some people develop elaborate machine scenarios to control the world. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a way of life in marketing. AI can be defined as “the theory and development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence.” Voice activation technology like Amazon’s Echo is drawing public attention to artificial intelligence. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchases without interacting with a person.
• Internet search – Shoppers are more informed than ever with Internet access. In fact, 81% of shoppers do research online before making large purchases. So exploring how to use search engine optimization and getting your business on top of searches is an invaluable step.
• Mobile communications – Most Americans have grown accustomed to instant gratification and easy access to technology. Mobile and tablet e-commerce will hit $ 293 billion in 2018. Smartphones and tablets are part of this wave of innovation. Mobile devices will account for 72% of US digital advertising spending by 2019. Marketers recognize that mobile marketing is an untapped business tool.
• Social Media – Social media platforms like Facebook allow shoppers to connect with each other virtually. 65% of business-to-business companies have acquired customers through LinkedIn ads. Marketers realize this value.
• Web content – Good content will attract customers. In fact, customers are more likely to buy from sellers with good and relevant videos / photos on their website. 52% of marketers globally name video as the content type with the best ROI.
Faced with competing tenants, small businesses must use digital marketing. Some small businesses may be hesitant to explore digital marketing due to their lack of trust and understanding of the internet. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing managementhe notes, “Major companies are comfortable using technology to improve the way they do business with their business-to-business customers.”
This article demonstrated that today’s small businesses can use digital marketing to improve their market opportunities. Hopefully, acquiring this knowledge will help business owners not keep their heads in the sand. The Internet is here to stay. Pray that you are hearing this message.
© 2017 by DD Green