When it comes to shopping, people today tend to follow one important principle: before you shop in person, search online. What does that mean for your small-business marketing plan? Well, if your plan includes building an engaging, well-organized, up-to-date website with loads of relevant content, it means you’re on track for helping your brick-and-mortar business thrive.
There’s plenty of proof that a website is a valuable small-business marketing tool, even when your business is offline. Econocom reports a whopping 90 percent of shoppers use the web to gather information like location, hours, and whether or not something’s available before heading to a nearby store. Think with Google found that half of all shoppers who first do a mobile search end up visiting the brick-and-mortar business they found online within 24 hours.
Making it work
Here, we’ve outlined five tips for embracing a digital small-business marketing strategy that truly supports your physical store.
1. Cover your basics.
Whether you own a pizzeria or a nail parlor, you’ll want important information — like a physical address (with directions), hours, and contact information — to be readily available for Google and other search engines to find. Keep in mind that while one-click commerce may be convenient, many people still value shopping locally and in person. Increasingly, people will enter words like “near me” and “nearby” when they search online, so it’s more important than ever to let folks know your small business is actually in the neighborhood.
2. Keep it in real time.
Millennials will spend more than $200 billion annually starting in 2017, according to Advertising Age. These 17-to-34-year-old digital natives (not to mention other shoppers) streamline their spending by using mobile or digital devices to compare prices, check product availability, and find out about in-store return policies and delivery options. If your website accurately reflects your real-time inventory and offerings, you won’t disappoint shoppers who do their due diligence online and then swing by in person to make a purchase that’s … not available (whoops).
3. Inspire in-store visits with online specials.
Here’s a great way to turn online browsers into in-person visitors: use your website to promote “screen-to-store” specials. For example, you might offer a discount coupon for an in-store-only product. Or you might invite supporters to an on-site product or service launch. You can also invest in social ads and promotions, which appear on social media platforms and other “sharing” sites and are targeted to a specific audience. Using your digital presence to incentivize in-store shopping is a tried-and-true strategy for boosting sales, customer loyalty, and brand awareness.
4. Let your supporters spread the word.
Positive online reviews help any small business stand out. Shoppers today turn to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp for honest feedback about merchandise and services — even for offline businesses. If your site is built on a web-publishing platform like WordPress.com, you can easily integrate content and reviews from social media platforms or let customers comment directly on your site about your great customer service and hassle-free return policy. WordPress.com even offers a Testimonials feature to help accomplish this.
5. Consider your content.
You can help customers find your website — and then, say, call you up for a quote — with regularly refreshed content written by people, not bots. Search engines rank findings based on keywords and tags, so it really pays to be thoughtful (and strategic) when writing blog posts and other content. Another reason to carefully consider your content? According to a study by Cohn & Wolfe, people value communications from companies that are authentic, honest, and helpful.
Maybe it’s best to think of your website as the online spokesperson for your brick-and-mortar business. In an increasingly digital world, it’s more important than ever that your small-business marketing strategy includes building a site that’s engaging, helpful, up-to-date, and easy to understand. When that happens, customers will be more than happy to pay you a visit — again and again.