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How Small Businesses Gained a Competitive Edge This Holiday Season Through Digital Marketing

author image Written by: Nicole McCormick           Categories - Uncategorized

Digital Sales and Marketing Techniques Saved The Holidays For Small Businesses

For small retailers, the holiday season is the most critical time of year. Most retailers see a massive boost in sales during the year’s final months. And if they’ve had a tough year, retailers look to the holidays to cover the ground they’ve lost.

Of course, this year, more small businesses than ever before could fall under the “struggling” category. Seemingly overnight, the coronavirus pandemic put a halt on non-essential shopping trips. The economy was crushed, and small businesses were hit the hardest.

In August, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) estimated that 1 in 7 Canadian businesses would close due to the pandemic’s impact – that adds up to nearly 160,000 businesses. Yelp also reported in September that 163,000 businesses that used its service had shut down in the six months following the initial spread of COVID-19 in March.

Retailers that managed to hang on until the holidays realized that a successful winter shopping season would be crucial for survival. A major boost in sales could supply a much-needed push towards recovery. But disappointing holiday sales could be the final nail in the coffin.

When Customers Went Online, Savvy Retailers Followed

Small business owners realized they’d need to be clever and creative to win over holiday shoppers. Among the ones that thrived during the holidays, there’s a common denominator: they embraced the digital marketplace.

Before the pandemic, Revival in Iowa City was a hot spot for back-to-school clothing hauls among its college town residents. The pandemic hit the store with a one-two punch: restrictions on indoor shopping ruined sales, and the University of Iowa went exclusively online, meaning Revival would lose one of its peak sales periods.

Manager Maggy Moran and Owner Sheila Davisson knew they could not just simply “go digital” – they would have to embrace it.

Their student-heavy customer base moved online, and Revival followed. In the spirit of the store’s name, Revival moved their entire business online, and saw a massive increase in sales. They also recognized the importance of a personalized e-commerce experience. As the holidays drew closer, they launched a promotion in which customers could customize a holiday gift box, which they could assemble over email, phone, or even on a video call.

Giving consumers multiple ways to shop online has proven to be a worthwhile sales technique for retailers. In fact, Adobe Analytics reported that 40 percent of online shopping transactions during the holidays took place on smartphones, with the other 60 percent on laptops or other devices.

The Future Is Now

According to CFIB, more than 150,000 Canadian businesses have incorporated e-commerce aspects since March, and a third have begun to sell goods online.

Many of these retailers have entirely transitioned from physical to digital, which raises a question about the physical storefronts once filled with customers and goods: is physical space relevant to the digital market?

Retailers like Two Hands Paperie in Boulder, CO, used physical space to their advantage. They used their existing store as a curbside pickup location and purchased a new warehouse exclusively for online sales. The risky investment paid off. Over Black Friday weekend, the company saw an increase in online sales by 700 percent compared to the prior year’s weekend. The company’s total sales – digital and physical transactions combined – were higher than last year’s.

The transition to e-commerce isn’t just helpful for the holiday shopping season, or even the pandemic. It’s likely that the shift towards digital shopping reflects what will continue in the future.

Gepetto’s, a toy store in San Diego, went digital in August. Their website had previously existed as a marketing tool, but they enhanced it and added online shopping features. Since then, they’ve seen digital sales double each month.

If that trajectory continues in 2021, the importance of incorporating digital sales techniques will be clear. According to CFIB, it will take an average of one year and five months for Canadian small businesses to recover from the pandemic’s effects, but some have it worse: the hospitality sector will need eight years to recover. For small businesses that have scraped by, working towards strong digital sales might be the clearest pathway towards recovery.

Shopify and Etsy – Two of the Most Prominent Companies on the Digital Market – Offer Glimmers of Hope

Shopify, which has been pivotal to many businesses’ ventures towards e-commerce integration, reported a huge uptick in sales over Black Friday: a record $2.4 billion in sales, which is a 75% increase from last year. Meanwhile, Etsy’s November sales increased by 108% from 2019 to 2020. Interestingly, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman told CNBC that the top search on its web platform was “personalized gifts,” a category more often sold by small businesses than big-box retailers. Perhaps this is a sign that shoppers still value the heart and intimacy that small retailers provide.

Nicole McCormick

Nicole is a wordsmith wizard, passionate about the written word and an avid storyteller who uses creatively crafted prose to help bring your brand’s story to the next level. A former journalist with writing credits in both local and national news publications and a few newspaper awards under her belt, Nicole now enjoys telling your stories and finding new and creative ways to create valuable content that resonates with audiences in the digital landscape.

Google Announces Partnership With GoDaddy

07/15/2021

Google announced on its blog this week that it was teaming up with GoDaddy in an effort to help e-commerce website owners integrate their product inventory across Google more easily.

So, what exactly does this partnership mean for GoDaddy merchants? According to Google, Merchants can now get discovered across Search, Shopping, Image Search, and YouTube with just a few clicks. GoDaddy merchants can also upload their products to Google, take advantage of free listings and ad campaigns, and even review performance metrics without leaving their online store.

GoDaddy also revealed in its own press release that GoDaddy merchants who create their first Smart Shopping campaign may be eligible for $150 worth of Google ad credits.

The ultimate goal is for GoDaddy merchants to be discovered by new customers through Google Shopping, Search, and YouTube.

“By teaming up with platforms like GoDaddy, we are able to help even more businesses make more connections with shoppers who are eager to discover new brands,” said Matt Madrigal, Google’s VP/GM of Merchant Shopping in a blog post.

Merchants aren’t the only ones Google is hoping will benefit from the partnership, though. The search engine indicated that they want searchers to have more choice when it comes to finding new, unique products from small online businesses.

“Shoppers get the most choice when they can easily discover businesses and their unique products,” said Madrigal. “And when those products get discovered, businesses can connect with more customers. We see it as a win-win, which is why we’re working hard to make commerce more open online.”

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Shopify Unite Previews Features For Developers, Merchants

06/30/2021

Shopify announced plenty of exciting news and features at its Shopify Unite event in Toronto, ON, on June 29.

Shopify Unite is an annual summertime conference held to show what the future holds for the ecommerce platform and the developers and merchants who use it.

According to Shopify, this year’s conference was about “the infrastructure, tooling, and technologies that make the future of commerce possible.”

“The internet is the world’s largest city, and Shopify is building its commerce infrastructure,” said Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify. “Especially over the past year, we saw independent businesses succeed by showing up creatively and uniquely in this city. The future of commerce on the internet relies on creative expression at every touchpoint.”

Read below to learn about some of the announcements that may interest digital merchants and web developers.

Zero Revenue Share For Shopify Apps

The Shopify App Store contains plenty of free and paid plugins that Shopify users can install to transform their website.

Previously, those who published apps to the online store would have to agree to a 20 percent revenue share with the company, meaning they would forfeit 20 percent of their earnings.

Now, Shopify has announced that publishers or developers whose apps make less than one million dollars will not have to share any of their revenue – and those who make more than one million dollars will only have to start sharing 15 percent.

New Online Store

Shopify is relaunching its online store, aptly calling it ‘Online Store 2.0.’

“In the past year, we’ve seen traffic double across online stores, as shoppers turned more and more to online shopping during the pandemic,” the company explained in a blog post. “In today’s world, how a merchant’s store shows up online has never been more important.”

The new launch will include an “updated theme architecture” to ensure that merchants and developers have an improved experience, including more customization.

The ‘sections’ feature will be made available to more pages on users’ sites – previously, it was only for use on home pages.

Shopify says it will be easier for merchants to be integrated into apps without having to use any code. Additionally, users will be able to add apps’ supporting assets to their theme app extensions for fasting hosting using Shopify’s CDN.

Theme Store Relaunch

Shopify’s dedicated theme store has not accepted submissions since 2018 – but the company announced that it will soon relaunch the platform for theme creators.

Shopify says creators will not have to share their revenue, similarly to how the company is structuring its app store. Instead, creators will have to a pay a one-time fee of $99 USD in order to have the ability to submit themes.

Shopify Checkout Made Easier With Apps

Shopify Checkout is an important feature for Shopify stores – it allows shoppers and merchants to have successful transactions.

Previously, Shopify Checkout only allows users to make small changes through the ‘editor’ portal – and more prominent changes can be made if users have a Shopify Plus account.

Soon, Shopify says all users will be able to make significant changes to their Checkout service.

“These new capabilities will let you build whatever it is merchants need, from simple customizations, all the way to complex user interfaces (UI) and business logic,” the company said. “This update includes checkout extensions, changes to Shopify Scripts, and a new payments platform.”

Shopify plans to elaborate on all of these announcements and more during a ‘town hall’ event on July 15.

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