COVID. It is the IT word of 2020. None of us could have imagined how and to what extent the world would change as February 2020 dawned upon us. And for businesses, who hoped to turn over a new leaf or multiply their growth, the global pandemic has been a rude awakening. As staying indoors and minimizing outdoor activities become the key to survival, it is the brick & mortar shops, who rely heavily on walk-in customers, that are dying a slow death. With a dearth of walk-ins and an economic crisis plaguing the world, going digital and utilizing digital marketing tools looks like the only way to go for such businesses. Moreover, while several businesses have had a digital presence even before the pandemic, now is the time to optimize their use, branch out, and explore the various mediums and tools that are available at their disposal. Here are 6 platforms and tools that we think can be of significant use to them.
It is safe to say that the presence of social media has almost become a staple for a brand in today’s day and age. With the perpetually booming users/consumers, more so during the COVID pandemic, it is imperative for a brand to have a strong social media presence. A brick and mortar store can extend its services through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It can not only sell its product or service/s but also generate social engagement with its buyers, have buyers post reviews, create consumer interaction groups, consumer support groups and add a personalized experience for the buyers via multimedia content. As is very wisely and rightly said, a consumer does not buy a product or service, but rather, the experience or emotional and physical needs that it gratifies. A strong presence on social media can help brick & mortar brands to create & give that experience to its buyers. Additionally, the shopping/instant buying options that are available on Facebook & Instagram help promote easy and convenient commerce. This in turn generates a positive consumer sentiment, which can translate into better sales figures.
While some brick & mortar shops might have had a website even before the pandemic, it is essential to realize the magnified importance of one in the current situation. A survey by Engine found that people are spending on average 10-30% more online. A website is one of the most natural digital extensions of a brand that consumers search for online. Besides being a medium of information and brand awareness, a website is also an important e-commerce platform. Brands need to ensure that they provide a smooth and hassle-free visiting experience for consumers on their websites. With quick and efficient payment gateway options, compatibility with both PC/laptop and mobile phone devices, and options such as “buy online pick up in-store” (BOPIS), they can provide a comprehensive, consistent, and a reliable experience to their buyers, which can encourage sales & word of mouth. If a brand already has a website, it is important to review and revise the content of your website to reflect the current times. A satisfying website shopping experience can generate widespread positive word of mouth publicity and garner more traffic.
Mobile applications are a handier and more convenient shopping platform for buyers. According to a survey by Eyesafe.com, there has been a 60% increase in online media consumption, with screen time spiking up to 13 hours per day. Thus, the visibility and use of mobile applications have increased a lot during the pandemic. Brick & mortar brands can tap into this trend by making easy-to-use and functional apps that can advertise and sell their products/services. Apps allow the norms of social distancing to be followed. Brands can push notifications on the app to alert buyers about new products and/or offers on existing products. Also, consumers are more likely to use mobile devices to find deals and discounts as well as compare prices while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores with a 53.7% increase compared to last year. Hence, brands can use these as effective marketing & commerce tools.
USE OF AR & VR TECHNOLOGY
While they are still relatively fresh technologies for brick & mortar stores, particularly small businesses, the use of AR (Augmented Reality) & VR (Virtual Reality) can prove to be an attractive proposition. These technologies offer the closest experience to in-store shopping during this COVID-19 pandemic. Buyers can stay at home and still examine the various aspects of a product on their mobile screen and see if it fits their needs. For example, IKEA’s Place app allows customers to move around furniture and see whether that item fits their own houses before deciding to buy it. Also, mobile wallets allow easy payments for both online & in-store purchases. The use of QR codes can facilitate safe & contact-less payment. Having an AR/VR feature within your app will enhance your buyer’s shopping experience and create more brand loyalty and drive more traffic towards the app.
USING FREE GOOGLE TOOLS
When it comes to searching for any product, service, or brick & mortar store, the first resort of almost every buyer is Google. Hence, having a strong search rating and presence on Google is vital for brands, especially during this pandemic. Brands can create and keep their Google My Business page updated with details such as functional hours, brand logo, photos of the store, contact details, and directions. They can use the Google Local Inventory Ads to go to hyper-local and target buyers near them. They can also use the Google Shopping Actions program. This program displays the brand’s products across multiple Google surfaces (e.g., Assistant, Express, Google.com) and has a universal shopping cart and a Google-hosted checkout process. Shopping Actions make it easier for customers to complete purchases, which ultimately increases the amount of revenue generated from both online and in-store shoppers.
E-MAIL & WHATSAPP MARKETING
Brick & mortar brands can reach out to high intent customers, who have regularly purchased from their brand or from other brick & mortar locations, via targeted e-mail marketing. This is an easy and efficient way to boost sales and increase brand loyalty in the COVID pandemic. If that is not an option, brands can also try mediums like WhatsApp to promote their products/services and reach out to their buyers. Brands can generate multimedia content (photos, videos, graphic designs) to make buyers aware of the details of their product/service.
So, while the scenario may appear bleak currently, all hope is certainly not lost for the brick & mortar stores. Also, eventually, the pandemic will subside, and people will frequent the stores. Hence, in the post-pandemic world, these tools can add tremendous value for a brand and will still remain valid. So, let’s hang on tight, follow the necessary protocols, and play our part in healing humanity.
If you are the owner or know someone who owns a brick & mortar store and found these points helpful, we can help you with the execution and application of these tools for your brand as well. Feel free to message us on firstname.lastname@example.org to address any of your queries and get a proposal/quote for the service/s you desire. Stay safe!