Online shopping is on the rise in the United States and globally. An estimated 1.92 billion people will purchase something online this year, and online shopping revenue will reach $4.8 billion by 2021. American consumers are particularly savvy, with 80% shopping online (meaning there are about 264 million digital shoppers in our country).
With more consumers moving to the digital side of things, it certainly makes sense for small businesses to do the same. A new study from The Manifest offers insights into this trend and what entrepreneurs are doing to stay relevant.
The most important takeaway? You should take the time to evaluate which digital marketing channels are providing the highest return on investment. Then focus your efforts on those channels to boost your profits.
Emphasizing digital marketing
The researchers found that 89% of all small businesses are investing in marketing efforts. Of that number, the majority prefer digital marketing to more traditional marketing options like print, outdoor, and radio.
“Traditional marketing has become less mainstream due to cost and delay,” say the authors of the study. “While digital marketing has the advantage of sending at the click of a button, traditional marketing takes time to create and distribute. […] Digital marketing allows more direct interaction with consumers, as customers click advertisements and emails when they want to. Customers voluntarily engage with an ad, which demonstrates an initial level of interest.”
Additionally, digital marketing doesn’t require long-term contracts. It’s agile and adaptive. You can target specific groups of people in a personalized way, appealing to their needs and wants. The trackability of digital marketing lets you know in a hurry if your message is connecting, as you can see who is clicking and acting on your ads in real-time.
Imagine a billboard company trying to match that kind of tracking. They’d have to assign a spotter to wait on the freeway, checking to see if people looked at your billboard. Then they’d have to follow each person for the next few days, watching their every move, to see if they took action on the ad.
Not only would this scenario be impossible, but it would also be illegal.
Social media and websites
This small business preference for digital is underscored by the fact that nearly all small businesses (95%) plan to increase their digital marketing spend this year. That money will primarily go to two areas: social media and websites.
The research revealed that most small businesses find these channels to be the most effective and worthwhile. Other channels, such as search engine optimization (SEO) and video, get less attention. And content marketing also gets ignored, even though 78% of consumers say they’d rather learn about a company through articles than advertisements.
While social media and websites are critical to the success of most modern businesses, other things also need attention. And the beauty of digital marketing is its versatility. You can experiment on a budget, promptly finding the most effective strategies.
“Digital marketing offers versatility and the freedom to experiment,” digital marketer Dipti Parmar told The Manifest. “There are tons of different channels like search [and] social media. Small businesses can spend a bit of money on each and quickly figure out which one works best for them.”
The case for SEO
According to the study, most small businesses are neglecting SEO. Less than half are investing in it, even though it can be “extremely valuable to businesses that want to rank high in search results.”
The case for SEO is simple. Modern consumers want to shop online, but 75% of them don’t scroll past the first page of search results. So if your business isn’t listed in among the top search results in Google, it’s barely listed at all.
“SEO has proven to be fruitful because it isn’t a one-off investment,” entrepreneur Bob Ellis told The Manifest. “The results are cumulative, so we are still getting an ROI from work that was done years ago. The main KPIs we track are traffic to the site each month and our keyword rankings in search engines such as Google and Bing.”
Don’t sleep on video and content marketing
Videos are also an incredible way to engage customers and tell your story. After all, 85% of Americans watch online videos every day. You can reach many of these people by creating videos that introduce products or services, showcase your competitive advantages, highlight your customers, and whatever else you want to say.
If you don’t have big video plans, at least add a relevant video to your website’s landing page. Research shows this can increase conversions by 80%.
Likewise, content marketing is an excellent way to reach current and future customers in a less-intense fashion than typical advertising. You can provide resources, rather than just calls to action. This value-added approach appeals to the modern consumer and lets them learn about you in their preferred way so they can confidently make a purchase.
By diversifying your offerings, you can reach your people using the most effective method. Experiment often and don’t assume something won’t work. As it’s often said, “If you rely only on best practices, you’re just chasing your competitors’ tail lights.”