How Local Businesses Can Go Digital During the COVID-19 Quarantine

Businesses of all shapes and sizes have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19. Small, local companies are really feeling the burn from this global pandemic. Many have been forced to shut their doors to customers, and therefore, dramatically reduce their revenue streams.

Up to 38 percent of small businesses are already saying they lack confidence in the financial future of their businesses, and roughly 96 percent of small business owners are feeling at least some impact from the coronavirus.

We’re living in an unprecedented time. Although we can’t predict what the future holds for every kind of local business, we can tell you this: those that will survive will need to lean on digital crutches.

In a world where in-person shopping and communication is practically illegal, small companies absolutely need to adopt digital strategies for sales, COVID-19 marketing, finance, and more. Let’s talk about some of the key steps your small to mid-sized business can take.

1. Turn to Cost-Effective Online Marketing Channels

The first digital to-do concerns small business marketing. Although many have transitioned to online ads, email campaigns, and other similar strategies, there are still mom-and-pop places out there that rely on old-fashioned methods of advertising.

Although a sign outside your restaurant or a flyer in the local town square might have worked for you in the past, things are changing. During COVID-19, the only real way to get an ad in front of potential customers is to do so online.

So, let’s talk about the best marketing techniques for local businesses to employ during this time – and beyond.

Image Source: Medium

As Medium points out in the graphic above, there are a handful of ways you can boost your digital marketing, even if you previously don’t have much experience doing so. From blogging to creating an online social presence, your company can work toward joining a more modern advertising society.

If you don’t know where to start, we highly recommend beginning with strong social media accounts. It’s estimated that people are spending up to 20 percent more time on their apps during the lockdowns – so if you want to get in front of bored customers, social media is the place to be.

Ask yourself who are you more likely to buy from: a small business that has a very neat website/mobile app or one that hasn’t updated its online presence in 10 years?

We both know the answer, and if you fall into the latter category, you’ve got some digital upgrades to make.

The second best place to take action is on your website. Do you have a blog and updates section to keep people informed? If not, add one. Is your website confusing and difficult to use? Beef it up during this time of heavy technology use.

Image Source: MarketingProfs

Overall, social media seems to be the marketing weapon of choice for most small businesses – and for good reason considering its powerful results, as represented in the graph above.

At a minimum, update followers about your curbside pickup options and new COVID-19 hours via social media. Many people want to support their local businesses during this challenging time, but most don’t know if their favorite restaurants and stores are even open due to pandemic restrictions.

Continuously use social media to advertise your offerings, let people know how you’re handling the virus, and stay in connection with your most loyal customers. Not only will this remind people to consider spending money, but it will also spur them to take action and support their favorite companies during this strange quarantine period.

2. Learn to Effectively Target the Right Audience Online 

Now that we’ve talked about some of the methods you can use to digitally reach your customers, let’s talk about targeting the right audience. There are millions of people online, but as a local business, you need to target a select group in order to be successful right now.

Image Source: SpotX

There are multiple types of targeting that you can use – and the strategy you employ depends a great deal on the type of business you run.

For instance, a restaurant likely wants to target a certain demographic within a geographic region. A clothing retail store, on the other hand, might want to target behaviorally based on customers who have shopped their items before and show interest in their products.

In today’s competitive (and unusual) market, it’s not enough to have a vague idea of what kind of customer you’re targeting. Now’s the time to take a good, hard look at your ideal customer and how you can reach them online.

There are times when casting a broad net is a smart advertising strategy – but this isn’t one of them. Pour your marketing efforts into customers who have a strong likelihood of supporting your small business, either because they’re previously purchased from you or because they have the qualities you’re looking for.

One great way to do that is through targeted marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other social platforms. You can also use these sites to learn more about what kind of customer already follows your brand and interacts with your account.

Image Source: Mustapha Ajermou

Above is an example of Google’s demographic breakdown for a business’s online presence. As you can see, it highlights gender, age groups, parental status, and impressions. Examining data like this can give you a much better idea of your average (or most common) customer.

We won’t sugarcoat it: the coronavirus and its social and economic repercussions are going to make marketing a heck of a lot more challenging in the coming weeks. Shopping habits are changing, people are clinging a bit tighter to their dollars, and everyone feels relatively uncertain.

However, knowing exactly who you’re trying to reach (and how best to reach them) will make things infinitely easier for small businesses. Don’t just toss bait into the pond and hope to catch something – buy the right kind of bait for the fish you’re hoping to lure.

3. Optimize Websites and Ads for Mobile

One of the best ways to go digital these days is to go mobile. Although most small businesses are mobile-friendly, there are still hundreds that lack a proper website layout and marketing strategy for smartphones.

Image Source: Atomic 74

It doesn’t matter how beautiful and sleek your desktop website might be if your mobile site is slow to load, difficult to read, and unprofessional in appearance. Now, more than ever, small businesses must ensure that their mobile platforms are up to snuff.

Up to 46 percent of people say they would not purchase from a brand again if they had an interruptive mobile experience. Most small businesses are already worried about earning more customers and keeping the ones they have during quarantine – the last thing you want to do is chase off potential buyers with a poor mobile website.

Additionally, local businesses need to step up their mobile advertising. Whether you’re sending a graphic out in an email or posting something on social media, ensure that the images will render well.

Image Source: Jeff Lenney

Do your email marketing campaigns still look similar to the one above? If so, we can assure you that you’re losing a big opportunity to snag customers.

How you communicate via graphics is more important than ever, especially when people are clicking on these emails on small devices like phones and tablets. Add a bit of professionalism to the message that appears in your target customer’s mobile inbox or social media feed.

4. Adopt Online Invoice and Financial Services

Okay, bear with us while we switch gears. Let’s talk about something other than marketing: digitizing your invoice and accounting services.

Millions of people around the globe are now working remotely in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, more and more elements of business are going online – and that includes financial transactions.

Image Source: Finances Online

Fortunately, many small businesses have already begun to transition to online finances simply to make things more effective and lower their costs. This isn’t a new transition, but it’s certainly a welcome one. During quarantine, online financial services will also make it easier to conduct transactions from anywhere and appeal to people staying at home.

Struggling to stay on the same page with employees in your business? It’s most likely time to switch from classic methods of bookkeeping to online accounting services with cloud storage and access capabilities.

Image Source: Kashoo

If this quarantine has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t always have guaranteed access to the files and accounts we need. Digitizing your financial documents and protocols will ensure that you can always run business as usual – regardless of where you’re working and what illnesses may strike.

Ever heard of “cloud accounting”? There are easy solutions out there, such as Kashoo shown above and the ever-popular Quickbooks, that make online file storage simple. Securely handle payroll, financial documentation, sales, and more – all from the comfort of home or wherever you may be.

We understand that some little businesses are still holding on to traditional methods of accounting, and although that might have been fine up until now, COVID-19 is making huge waves in how we do business. Jump on the digitized finance bandwagon now to avoid problems in the future.

5. Migrate to the Cloud Where Possible

Speaking of the cloud, our last tip for going digital as a local business is to start storing as much as possible in the invisible space.

So many of us are realizing that accessing files from quarantine is difficult if we don’t have everything stored in our workplace. Stop taking chances by storing important files and information in one place. Instead, learn how to digitize everything and keep it in the cloud. It goes where you go!

Image Source: BizTech Magazine

Not convinced that such a big migration is necessary? Consider the above statistics from an Intuit study. More and more businesses of all sizes are making the transition – coronavirus is simply showcasing how important it is to have constant access to all of your files.

However, cloud migration is understandably intimidating, especially for businesses that have limited experience with online storage. Take a look at what the process could look like for you – having a clear picture can make everything less stressful.

Image Source: Atlassian Documentation

Small businesses will need to assess their needs from the cloud, strategize, prep, test, and eventually complete the migration. Sound like a lot? It can be, but fortunately, there are services out there that make the process simple and take on the bulk of the work.

Talk to some IT support companies, local or national, to get a pricing estimate for your cloud migration needs. The sooner you can get the ball rolling, the more prepared your business will be for the rest of this quarantine and any changes that might follow it.

Image Source: 360 Visibility

Still not convinced?

Take note of the fact that up to three-quarters of cloud migration services come from small businesses, like yours, that are taking this much-needed step toward a digital future. This isn’t just some hot trend during the weirdness of social distancing – the cloud is here to stay, and the success of businesses lies in the ability to digitize.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, these five tips help to arm local businesses with some important steps to digitize during these strange coronavirus times. If you’re not used to relying on digital methods to turn a profit and stay afloat, many of these might seem intimidating – but we can confidently say that they’re essential.

Don’t wait until COVID-19 has ignited even more changes to make steps toward a more productive future. Use this transitional period as an opportunity to go digital and take your small business to the next level.

About Riley

Riley Heruska is a full-time writer at a E2M Solutions specializing in producing content in the realm of SEO, marketing, and features. Her passion lies in helping others through the use of written word, and she can often be found sharing her travels from around the world.