It is no secret that 2020 has proven to be a challenging year for businesses thanks to the ongoing COVID crisis. While some organisations have inevitably been affected more than others, the fact of the matter is that nearly every firm has experienced a profound shift in how they do business. However, this is not necessarily bad news from a long-term perspective. Change is rife within the business community and those who are able to adapt quickly to new scenarios will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.

Anxiety and new opportunities

It can be argued that the most profound change over the past nine months involves the increasing importance of the digital community. To be clear, this is certainly nothing new. Firms have been slowly shifting online since the latter half of the 1990s. The only major difference is that the pace has dramatically increased. Thus, brick-and-mortar shops that may have been initially hesitant to take such steps now have very little choice. Although this has caused a certain amount of anxiety amongst business owners (particularly when referring to businesses with little prior digital experience and expertise), the learning curve is not as steep as it may initially appear. So, even many traditional “mom and pop” stores have found their voices on the web.

Customers want to support local

Just as businesses have struggled with the pandemic, consumers have also faced significant financial strain. They are now even more discriminating in terms of what products and services they choose to purchase, and the internet has levelled the playing field so that small niche brands with strong ethics and quality can shine in the marketplace and find new business.

For businesses to find success online in 2021, they need a renewed focus on their customers and offer them what they want both in terms of products but also the stories behind them. More than ever people want to support small local businesses and this presents a significant opportunity.

Local business legends have been working within their communities for decades, and have created a reputation for themselves with quality products and services. However, many people that want to support ‘local’ will not know about these businesses if they rely solely on word-of-mouth. It is critical that these businesses take this opportunity to reach beyond their traditional customer base with targeted deals aimed at the younger demographic that gets all its information online.

Embracing the Digital Age

Even the smallest ventures need a presence on the internet and social media. While tried-and-tested approaches such as reliable customer service and quality products remain critical to a successful business, companies that truly embrace digital are the businesses that will prosper. Detailed on-page and off-page search engine optimisations (SEO) and responsive web design that looks beautiful on mobile and desktop are musts, and sales integrations with platforms like Instagram can generate significant sales.

If the last year has taught us anything it is that change is the only constant, and for businesses this means adapt or disappear. Whilst we will see high streets reopen and people head back into their offices over the next few months as vaccines are made available, many of the changes thrust upon us during the pandemic will be permanent, and for businesses to succeed they need to act now. A strong online presence has long been beneficial to businesses, but in 2021 a company that is not online does not exist.

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