How brick and mortar businesses can survive and flourish within a 2021 economy

by | Jan 27, 2021

Plant business illustration.
Image Credit: Rosie - Anna Mischke @peachbaby
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Over the past year, entrepreneurs worldwide have been forced to reexamine how they traditionally conduct business. While many business owners were already slowly transitioning into the online space, 2020 propelled those resistant to make the change into the inevitable digital age.

It may seem that digitizing every aspect of our lives would be incredibly beneficial to our society, not every business owner is as willing to adapt these profound changes. Business owners are unique and of various generations, backgrounds and upbringings — each requiring a tailored business and marketing strategy.

Prior to the pandemic, many business owners have been content with how they have operated their businesses, and were set in their ways. Some saw no need for shaking things up when they were operating successfully, while some were just getting by without adopting the complex ways of the Internet. Now, most storefront business owners have no choice but to move forward if they want to have a shop or restaurant at all to operate.

As marketing professionals, we work with clients every day who are seeking advice and guidance on how to gain more customers, build a community and generate sales. Now more than ever, our expertise and knowledge are needed to help struggling business owners in the traditional brick and mortar space understand how they can transition their business into the digital space, and build a business equipped to survive in 2021 and years to come.

Marketers should not only value their client’s opinions and insight about their own business, but should approach and lead with empathy and understanding in all communications. During these sensitive times, make your client’s concerns a priority and show that you acknowledge any questions or confusion they may have about these new changes, platforms or systems you put into place. Not everyone is savvy with the Internet or even wants to be.

To help you navigate these projects, here are five tips that will help you transition your client’s traditional business into a modern enterprise.


1. Build a website with integrated purchasing options

The first step to taking your brick and mortar client online is to ensure that they have a website that contains integrated shopping cart functionality.

If they already have a website, you’ll need to assess their business needs and their shopper’s needs audit to identify what needs to be updated to enhance the user experience, design and accessibility.

To ensure the website is effective in generating sales:

  • Restaurants and cafes should showcase their entire menu for customers to view. Bonus points if they can order ahead through the website to pick up their meal or drink.
  • And, for stores that offer services such as dry cleaning, laundry or tailoring – their website should clearly indicate their services, prices and ways for the customer to place their orders ahead of time to limit contact during drop off.
  • Double check that the business’ contact information, location and store hours are updated and easily accessible.

If you’re a smaller marketing freelancer or agency with a client who doesn’t have a budget for a full-time web developer, you can set up their website using Shopify or an e-commerce plan through Squarespace.


2. Start with a solid social media presence

Once you have a website built, your next step is to create social media profiles on the four most relevant platforms used today: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn. There are key reasons why your clients should be using these four platforms for growing their business in the digital space.

  • Facebook: Great for running highly targeted campaigns, Facebook’s demographic has shifted, making it easier to reach the 40+ demographic in local areas. 
  • Instagram: Here, you’ll find a younger crowd that uses social media exclusively to find brands and businesses to buy from, eat from and shop at. You can also run paid advertising campaigns here, but the biggest advantage for retailers is the ability to add a shop to your profile. This way customers can directly purchase from your brand without having to leave the app. 
  • Tik Tok: With tons of organic reach, this demographic is vast, so you’ll be able to reach customers of all ages. And thanks to their algorithm, the “For You” page is highly curated, which means that your location specific business will be able to reach customers in your area.
  • LinkedIn: Join groups, connect with other business owners in your area and write longer form content that relates to your business to gain the attention of potential investors, and partners.

Social media is one of the most important pillars of effective digital marketing for any business. Post quality content across these channels several times a day and your accounts will grow. When considering a social media strategy, both paid and organic social advertising, continues to be one of the greatest tools that any business can and should use to generate new leads and sales.

3. Develop SEO and paid advertising to target local customers

Now that your client has a website and social media platforms for their business, you’ll want to undergo SEO (search engine optimization) and paid advertising channels.

SEO should start with optimizing their website to include location specific details. For example, if your client is a NYC based restaurant, in New York City, they should appear in search results when a potential customer searches, “food near me.”

To do this, you’ll need to:

  • Add the location across various parts of their website
  • Include a page that is all about the business’ history of operating in New York City
  • Integrate a location tag on the website, so customers can see exactly where they’re located
  • Create a Google Business page with their location, so they show up on Google Maps and at the top of search results

Once their website is optimized for search engines, you’ll want to set up an account for paid Google search. Again, it’s important to be location specific with your paid keywords. Local businesses need local customers. Use specific ad terms, like “New York City restaurant,” versus broad terms, such as “Italian food”

Search and paid advertising are going to be huge drivers of potential business to your client, so make sure that you focus on their location and specific benefits that appeal to the community.

4. Focus on quality content

Quality content will be a driving force in ensuring your client’s website and social media profiles stand out from online competition. While many debate the concept of quality versus quantity content, in this case, your audience needs to be met with consistent content to have your brand stay at the top of their mind.

Business owners must go beyond relying on walk-in customers, and leverage technology to draw intentional clientele through their door. Creating content isn’t always simple. Use a combination of your team’s abilities and outsource to content creators within your client’s niche. For example, if a food store or restaurant is expanding its ecommerce or delivery/catering options, they will need various forms of enticing content, such as photos and videos of: the food, beverages, menu, “behind-the-scenes” content of the kitchen, a clear brand story and message, promotions and reviews/testimonials.

5. Connect your client with a delivery service and e-commerce infrastructure

There are countless delivery service options for food businesses to move into the digital space. For food businesses, they could hire their own drivers or use Uber Eats, Seamless and Doordash to reach a wider net of  customers that can order food across apps.

It’s worth mentioning to businesses that they can sell through Amazon in addition to their own website, which would give them a better chance of being seen by more consumers and take away some of the burden that comes with shipping out orders. If your client prefers to keep everything in house – make sure their website accounts for shipping, and that they have a local pick up option for customers in the area. 

Despite the perceived hassle for business owners, shopping online and ordering food for delivery is — and will continue to be — the future for many businesses. The sooner they adapt and adjust, the more sales they will be able to generate for years to come. 

While none of us anticipated such a drastic change to our world, business owners can effectively transition their businesses into the new age world of modern media. 

These are just a few priorities that marketers should focus on when helping brick and mortar clients make the switch to digital selling, or support newly launched businesses and entrepreneurs, and they certainly will not be the last.

Shannon’s Socials: LinkedIn, Website

Editor’s Socials – Dominque Dajer: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram

Topic: Innovation
Head of Content at The H Hub

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