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Business Owners Share Advice On How to Give Your Brick-and-Mortar Business an Online Presence

Brick and mortar businesses have been around for centuries, but with the steady growth of online sales, more and more companies are making the transition to selling their products and services online. If you’re a brick and mortar business looking to make the jump to ecommerce, what are some things you should be looking at?

We asked this specific question in our most recent FoundersMag interview series.

You can read their answer below:

Pat Lum

Title: Co-Founder & President

Company: AsteroidX

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-lum/

For brick and mortar brands looking to start selling online, look for platforms that have built-in traffic. Going to where shoppers already are is like opening up a retail space at Times Square versus choosing to set up shop on a quiet suburban street. Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, and Faire all have ecommerce platforms where third party sellers can sign up and reach millions of shoppers. Here’s the playbook for starting your online transition:

(1) Pick a platform. This depends on your product. Etsy, for example, specializes in handmade goods. Whereas platforms like Amazon specialize in direct-to-consumer and CPG

(2) Look at your 10 best-selling retail SKUs. You already know which ones do well! Unlike new brands, you already have sales data

(3) In the case of Amazon, you’ll make an Amazon Seller Central account (Professional)

(4) List your top 10 SKUs on using 7 product photos and Amazon optimized text. Google “Amazon Listing Optimization” for more details

(5) Run simple, Amazon “Auto” campaigns to the products to get initial sales

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Zachary Colman

Title: CEO

Company: Creatitive

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/creatitive/

The pandemic has changed the face of shopping, increasing the demand for eCommerce experiences. Businesses are quickly moving to online channels. However, moving a brick-and-mortar business online is not simple. It requires strategic planning, analysis of your customers’ needs, and a long-term vision for your brand. Among the list, the most important is assessing your customer’s needs. Consumers nowadays are prioritizing health and convenience. The smartest move a business can make is to repurpose part of its premises to make it easier to facilitate its new services.

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Michael Newman

Title: Plastic Surgeon

Company: Michael K. Newman Breast and Body Plastic Surgery

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-michael-newman-132a755

One of the mistakes that businesses make when transitioning online is being more concerned about what their product or service is rather than what it can do for their customers. The days of product-centric sales are long gone. Now, the buzzword is “customer-centricity.” However, for many brick-and-mortar businesses, it remains just that — a buzzword. Customers are more discerning nowadays. To drive sales in your business, you have to be more than just someone who is pushing a product or service to people. You have to present yourself as a solution to a problem that the customer is experiencing. For this to happen, you will have to listen more than you speak so you can find the customer’s pain points and find a way to be of service to them.

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eyal.p@libertyhbg.com Eyal

Title: Owner, Real Estate Agent & Realtor

Company: Liberty House Buying Group

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pasternak-eyal/

The in-store experience is quite unique. It is filled with branding as everything, from display and signage to interaction with your employees, leads to fostering brand image and personality. It’s the main reason why people prefer to shop in-store.

While transitioning to a digital store might not give away the same in-person feel, you can still add elements to help your brand succeed.

Applying the correct color scheme to your logo is a must, whereas the image selection for your website will also help stimulate the right feelings for your brand. Content should be created that is true to your in-store experience. This way, your customers will not feel out of place. It will make their encounter with the website as authentic as an in-store interaction, making them visit your site again.

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Dan

Title: HR Director

Company: VEI Communications

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vei-communications/

Stepping into the digital realm might feel strange for a brick-and-mortar business. But it’s all about accepting change to transition and succeed online. In the process, you may have to learn, unlearn, and relearn old methods. That’s because not everything works well in an online setting.

You must carve out a new strategy to sell products and services online. This may require some out-of-the-box thinking. You may also need to hire staff members with more experience building an online brand presence. All these steps are pivotal for a successful online business.

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Susan Gagnon

Title: Editor in chief

Company: Costumes Heaven

Linkedin: /

Transitioning from a brick and mortar business to an online work model can be a tough task. But the key is to be positive and hopeful. Customers will be relying on you for guidance and knowledge. Try to share some success stories from other businesses you have worked on.

Also, keep in mind that setting healthy communication boundaries from the beginning allows for open communication with the client. Know when and how to respond. We always recommend that they group their questions by compiling them into a list and then sharing them all in one email or on the next scheduled call.

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Rodney Warner

Title: CEO

Company: Connective Web Design

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rodneywarner/

Going from a physical to an online store is quite a complex and costly process. This is why I recommend businesses opt for NCDPs. No-Code Development Platforms are a great help for SMBs looking to transition to ecommerce. When building an online store from scratch, you need professional developers or an agency to do it for you. These professionals will take up a significant amount of your capital. But with NCDPs, you can do all this yourself. These are easy-to-use tools that help build your store without taking too much time or money.

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Tim Schroeder

Title: Founder

Company: Starting a Blog

Linkedin: /

The advice I would like to give brick-and-mortar businesses is to be transparent and communicate with their audience before making a move toward the online world. Customers are the only thing that keeps a business running, whether it’s a physical or an online store. You should inform your customers that you plan on shifting your operations online.

This would allow consumers to be updated on the latest news about the company. They’ll feel like a major part of the transition process. Create a newsletter and include information about the transition. In your newsletter, you should include information such as the discounts being offered on the website.

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Iam Akshay

Title: Founder

Company: OnlineCourseing

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/

1. Develop a comprehensive online marketing strategy. This should include everything from search engine optimization (SEO) to email marketing and social media outreach.
2. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Over 60% of online traffic now comes from mobile devices, so it’s critical that your website looks good and functions well on smartphones and tablets.
3. Use targeted paid advertising to reach new customers online. Paid ads can be extremely effective in reaching potential customers who are already interested in what you have to offer.
4. Keep your website content fresh and engaging. stale websites will quickly drive visitors away — so regularly update your content with fresh, original blog posts, articles, product info and more.
5. Encourage customer reviews and testimonials. Positive customer reviews are one of the best ways to build trust and credibility with potential online customers.

Following these tips can give your brick-and-mortar business the best chance for success as you transition to selling online.

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Natalia Morozova

Title: Managing Partner

Company: Cohen, Tucker & Ades P.C.

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/natalia-morozova-39061332

It is crucial to establish a mobile presence for your business because more and more decision-makers and buyers prefer digital or remote interactions with suppliers. Customers respond to mobile-first digital marketing tactics more enthusiastically. Furthermore, a rise of millennials in buying and decision-making roles has increased the number of customers who want a vendor-free experience. Integrating a positive mobile experience for consumers is a vital aspect of a businesses’ growth nowadays, and an essential part of a successful transition online.

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Andrew Chen

Title: Chief Product Officer

Company: Videeo

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewfchen/

Use Live Video Commerce to Enhance Your Transition Online

Consider rebranding your business and shift your focus to live video commerce. Live video commerce, also known as live shopping, or live selling, or live commerce, is an online marketing strategy in which a live stream of products is displayed on a website. It usually involves the use of video streaming and bidding in real-time.

This strategy offers a flexible platform for shoppers to engage with brands, and another way for brands to provide value to their audience through all of their channels. Live video commerce is excellent for branding, and can provide a significant boost to conversions and sales as your brick and mortar business transitions online.

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Max Whiteside

Title: SEO & Content Lead

Company: Breaking Muscle

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxwhiteside/

Online Translation of Your In-Store Experience:

Think about how you can use your offline experience online. Do you have sales representatives on hand to respond to inquiries at any time? Think about including an instructional video for your product or a live chat messenger window. Do you have a layout that deliberately directs customers through the store? Consider how your site map might be organized to achieve the same results. Going digital doesn’t need inventing the wheel from scratch!

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Roger Broussard

Title: Founder and CEO

Company: Pilot School Hero

Linkedin: N/A

In two words, Digital Marketing. Thanks to 21st-century technology, it has never been easier to reach your target audience, and the best thing about it? It’s super cost-effective. Digital Marketing campaigns are thought to be, as a general rule, at least 50% cheaper to run than traditional marketing campaigns, and can introduce your brand to a global audience of millions if not billions.

Think about social media marketing, for example. Something like two-thirds of US adults have a Facebook account, which alone is a pool of hundreds of millions of potential customers. Through social media you can increase your brand interaction by being able to interact with your customers, and you can track engagement with your marketing by tracking the number of likes, comments, and shares. Over time, effective brand interaction will lead to an enhanced brand reputation and increased brand loyalty. Speaking of tracking engagement, too, one of the biggest perks of digital marketing is that it means you can use clever analytics tools like Google Analytics in order to better understand the demographics of your audience, how they interact with your website and social media pages, and other useful information.

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Brian Hong

Title: Owner

Company: Big Easy Roofing

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianhongnola/

When transitioning online as a brick and mortar business, don’t treat your website as a catalogue. Treat it as if it’s an extension of your physical store. Most brick and mortar websites simply showcase their products and services in static pages that don’t encourage user interaction. For customers to avail of products and services, they still have to either call the business or go to the physical store itself.

You don’t have to treat eCommerce as an enemy. Even if you’re brick and mortar, you can still use some elements of eCommerce to your advantage. For instance, your website can contain a virtual showroom where customers can browse on 3D images of the products you offer. It can also offer real-time chat support and online quote estimators so your prospective clients don’t have to go to your store just to check if you’re the right fit for them. The less you waste your customer’s time, the better it would be for conversion.

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Kirill Sajaev

Title: Founder

Company: AUQ.io

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirill-sajaev-14549715

Make a marketing strategy.
Developing a marketing strategy for your online store may involve a fundamental change from your brick-and-mortar store. Begin with your overall goals so you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Now it is time to consider who your target audience is. Most likely, it will be people who already frequent your shop. Choose a marketing channel where you are most likely to encounter them.

Evaluate your bandwidth.
Because of the shift to e-commerce, you must account for a higher volume of customers shopping on your site at the same time. Ensure your online site does have enough bandwidth to handle the increased traffic and concurrent payments. Choosing the right tech professionals to evaluate your bandwidth and make improvements is critical to your site’s proper operation, particularly if your sales rely on it.

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Matiah Fischer

Title: Founder

Company: RetireBetterNow.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tyfischer1/

I have two pieces of advice for a business that wants to transition and succeed online:

1) Invest in SEO
Search engine optimization is the foundation of how my business generates leads. The best part is that once you rank for keywords, it brings you leads and new business non-stop without having to pay for it. This is huge because online lead generation using Google PPC or Facebook can get really expensive and not yield the best results. Organic search leads are high-quality because of their search intent and inherent trust they have finding you on Google.

2) Use Email Marketing to Reach Past/Current Customers
For brick-and-mortar businesses that want to transition online, you should market to your existing database using email marketing to keep in touch and drive them into your website. Email marketing is inexpensive, and you can send out emails more often than you think. Also, don’t forget to capture new email addresses on your website to build up your list!

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Julie Braun

Title: Founder & CEO

Company: Super Purposes

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/super-julie-braun/

In a Word, Hurry

The most successful brick-and-mortar businesses developed online presence and did it years ago. Maybe you thought it was a phase or trend? The good news is if you scramble to add online to your business, you can follow the most successful examples and learn from their mistakes. It’s not too late!

There Are Two Main Ideas

1. Translate your physical environment experience to a wow customer online experience.
2. Integrate online opportunities to drive traffic to have a wow customer experience in your brick-and-mortar store.

Amazon is Copying Bricks-And-Mortars

You might think, “There is no way I can compete with Amazon.” Guess what? Currently, in Glendale, CA, Amazon is testing a retail clothing store called “Style.” They know that many people want to try on their clothes before they buy them. They removed the old-fashioned racks, and now, they offer one example of each outfit. You pick your selections, let the sales associates know what sizes you want, and magically, your chosen clothes — in your sizes — end up in a fitting room behind the scenes. Not only can you walk out of the store with your new outfits, but you can also order them online.

The key here is Amazon is putting its techy spin on retail. They are making the experience unique and special. If you already have a physical store, you are already where Amazon wants to be. How can you make your updated retail experience covered by the media? How can you develop rabid fans by delivering your products and services to them in your physical location and online?

Answer that question because that is your solution to rising to the top of your business.

Customers Want Relationships

Something that Amazon can’t do is develop a face-to-face relationship. They will always remain as the “customer service person” or “bot.” You can do what they cannot. You can use a chat function or text message telling them, “Come in tomorrow, say hello to me, and you’ll get something special as I’ve enjoyed meeting you remotely.”

Your customer’s something special? It should be low to no cost and meaningful to your customer. Some ideas to get you started are a freshly baked cookie, a slight discount, or choosing one thing from the clearance table (after all, it’s been clogging up our stockroom for a decade).

Likewise, Use Online Experience to Driving Traffic to Your Physical Location

Online carts get abandoned all of the time. Meanwhile, physical shopping carts usually don’t. Once you develop your online presence, make driving traffic to your physical site your #1 priority. When you get your customers to step into your store, you can use personal touches, marketing displays, and general merchandising strategies to encourage multiple sales and stickiness of the physical experience.

An example would be for a Garden Center to offer “mention this code “Spring Flowers” to get your free seeds when you visit our Seattle location. One of our favorite garden centers is Swanson’s Nursery, where they have an extraordinary experience that makes their customers green with envy for their ever-changing interior and exterior designs. Their price point is on the higher side, yet Swanson’s has leveraged its understanding of their customer beyond delighting them, so they happily pay for those experiences.

Love the Company Culture

You can blow them away. Leveraging your physical and online presence with your stellar company culture will make you stand out from your competition. An example is Beautiful Day’s wait staff and restaurant owners in La Quinta, CA. Their beautiful online presence makes the visitor want to go to their physical location to see if they live up to the beautiful online presentation.

Their company culture is lovely. When the waitstaff has crinkly-eye smiles that are genuine and heartfelt, you know it’s real, not fabricated. There is no substitute for an authentic “these people love their job” environment.

Their social media presence matches their physical location, and owners Mackenzie and Justin know how to convert “just looking for something good to eat” into positive raving customers. They are pros at bringing people to them even though they offer delivery and takeout.

Even their website makes people smile when typing in, “it’s a beautiful day, love,” to check out their menu.

You Got This!

Using these skillful examples will help you transition from 100% brick-and-mortar to an online presence that will help drive more traffic and revenue to your business.

Supportive Resource Links –
Amazon Clothing Retail Store = https://www.cnet.com/culture/fashion/amazons-first-retail-clothing-store-is-now-open/
Swanson’s Nursery = https://www.swansonsnursery.com/
Beautiful Day = https://www.itsabeautifulday.love/

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John Simmons

Title: CMO

Company: InboxAlly

Linkedin: https://www.inboxally.com/

The key to transitioning a brick-and-mortar business online is to make sure you are focused on the right things.

First, you need to understand that your brand is not the same thing as your website or social media presence. Your brand is what makes people feel good about the company they’re doing business with — it’s how they perceive the company’s mission and culture, and whether or not they trust it.

It’s important that you take this into account when designing your online presence so that it doesn’t conflict with what people already know about your brand. For example, if your company has been around for ten years and has a strong reputation for quality craftsmanship, don’t try to sell low-quality products online! That would be a huge misstep for any brick-and-mortar business.

Finally, it’s important to remember that online sales are still just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to ecommerce success; there are many other ways of driving revenue through an online store that doesn’t require selling physical products at all (like selling services or digital products).

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Sinoun Chea

Title: CEO and Founder

Company: ShiftWeb

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sinoun/

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business looking to move online, there are a few key things you should keep in mind:

1. You’ll need to invest in a good ecommerce platform — This is the foundation of your online business, and it’s essential to choose a reliable and scalable platform. Shopify is an excellent option for businesses of all sizes. The key is to find a platform that fits your needs and budget.

2. Make sure your website is optimized for search engine ranking — This is how potential customers will find your site, so it’s vital to ensure your site is optimized for SEO. This includes things like using relevant keywords and having quality content. You can also invest in PPC advertising to help get your site seen by more people.

3. Consider using social media to promote your business — Social media is a great way to reach potential customers and build brand awareness. Make sure you’re active on the platforms your target audience is using. A social media marketing strategy can help you make the most of this channel.

4. Invest in quality product photos — Since customers can’t physically see or touch your products, it’s crucial to have high-quality product photos that accurately represent what you’re selling. The better your photos are, the more likely customers will make a purchase.

5. Offer competitive shipping rates — Shipping costs can be a significant barrier to purchase for online shoppers. Offering free or discounted shipping can help encourage people to buy from your site. You can also offer different shipping options to give customers more choices.

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Will Yang

Title: Head of Growth

Company: Instrumentl

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/willcyang/

The best way to successfully transition your store online is to put the time and effort into creating a solid foundation for your store’s website.

Here are several tips for you to get started:

Use beginner-friendly platforms such as Shopify to handle your store.
Shopify makes it easier to personalize your website, integrate it into multiple channels, and effectively handle orders from there. I also found that Shopify is a catch-all system for everything you would need to manage your online store from sales and social media channels to marketing tools, and analytics from different devices whether on the web or on mobile.

Improve website experience and website architecture.
Make sure your website runs well through its design, functionality, and user experience. Have everything organized in a way that makes the web experience engaging and convenient by having everything they need with ease. One common mistake I’d particularly look out for is failing to redirect old pages to new ones, which prevents your users from accessing the information they need.

Build your online brand through your content.
Use your social media pages to share content that’s directed back to your website. Personally, I would only focus on creating content that’s specifically within your niche or industry. You could be a baker setting up a website for your store and creating content related to your industry such as sharing baking tips and sharing your brand’s story. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be wise for you and your brand as a baker to share unrelated content that’s neither your expertise nor what you offer.

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Brian Greenberg

Title: Founder and President

Company: Insurist

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianjaygreenberg/

To succeed and transition online, a brick-and-mortar business needs to understand their audience. They need to know what their customers are looking for, what they’re interested in, and how they want to interact with the brand.

This will help you create content that is focused on those things, which helps you connect with your customers and build trust. As you get more familiar with the way your customers prefer to engage with your brand, you can tailor your approach to fit their needs even better.

For example, if you notice that many of your customers are looking at content from multiple devices at once — or even on mobile phones — then it might make sense for you to focus on making sure all of your content is mobile-friendly.

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Daniel Nyquist

Title: CMO

Company: SaaS

Linkedin: Confidential

The most important thing a brick-and-mortar business can do to succeed online is to listen.

There’s a reason that people prefer to shop online — it’s convenient. They don’t have to leave their homes, they don’t have to wait in line or deal with crowds or other distractions, and they can easily compare options and find what they’re looking for. If you want your brick-and-mortar business to succeed online, you need to adapt your business model so that it’s as convenient for customers as possible.

In my experience as a consumer, I’ve noticed that many brick-and-mortar businesses don’t seem to realize how much easier it is for me not only to shop from home but also from my phone (or my computer). If you want your business to succeed online, you need to make sure that it’s accessible from the devices that people are using most often. This means making sure that your website has mobile-friendly versions of all its pages — not just its homepage — and making sure that any applications you develop are available on Android and iOS platforms.

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Robert O’Neill

Title: Founder and CEO

Company: Thatch Web Ltd

Linkedin: Confidential

The key to transitioning a brick-and-mortar business online is to remember that you can’t just dump everything from your physical store over onto the web. You have to start from scratch, with a new way of thinking about your business.

The first thing you need to do is forget about what worked for you in the past. You need to ask yourself: What does my customer want? What are they looking for? How can I deliver that experience online? And then build it into your website one piece at a time.

Here’s an example: If you’re selling clothing, don’t just put up pictures of all the clothes in your store on an online catalog — put up pictures of clothes people would actually wear! Don’t show them stuff they won’t buy or couldn’t fit into even if they wanted it (because they have no idea how it will fit). Show them pieces that would look great on them and make them feel amazing when they try them on.

And then make sure those items are available in all sizes and colors! If someone comes across a dress she loves but wants it in another size or color, make sure she can get that dress too — and if not yet, let her know when it will be available (and tell her why).

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Eve Acosta

Title: Founder

Company: Eves Watch LLC

Linkedin: Confidential

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give a brick-and-mortar business to succeed and transition online is to focus on their core strengths, which should be reflected in the products or services they offer.

If you sell clothing, for example, then you should make sure that your online store offers clothing that is similar in style to what you offer in person. If you’re a restaurant, focus on offering the same type of food.

It’s important not to spread yourself too thin by trying to be everything to everyone. If you do that, then customers will get confused and frustrated because they can’t find exactly what they’re looking for when they visit your website.

You want people who come into your store knowing exactly what they’re going there for — and why they need it.

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Paige Arnof-Fenn

Title: Founder & CEO

Company: Mavens & Moguls

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn

You do not exist today if you cannot be found online. If we learned anything during Covid it is that ecommerce is only growing in importance. As an ecommerce business you always need SEO because the whole point of having a web site is to make it easy for customers to find you. Being invisible online is a terrible strategy so making sure your site is keyword rich, mobile friendly, loads quickly and produces meaningful content today is the price of entry. That also happens to be a great foundation for effective SEO. Your home page is the most important to hook in prospective customers if it does not load quickly or they do not see something that grabs their attention the opportunity will be lost. It must include enough of your value proposition to start the conversation so they will click further to learn more about your product or service. The goal is to make the navigation intuitive and easy so they follow the breadcrumbs to get their questions answered or problems solved. When your brand foundation its strong the metrics show that you shorten the sales cycle and people spend more time on your site. Here are the top trends to promote your brand:

Social commerce explodes — During the pandemic shopping became more virtual with social media platforms as an increasingly popular shopping outlet. Shops on Instagram/Facebook Shops lead the way especially with younger audiences, TikTok has product links too.

Optimize for multiple mediums — Searching by text, voice and image must all be addressed going forward. For example voice search adds usability/functionality to your site making it accessible to all users including those with limitations/disabilities. It’s not about complying with the ADA/responsible web design/CSR goals but it is also good for the bottom line by reaching a broader audience.

More video content — The world is becoming more visual when it comes to consuming content which has made visual-driven platforms like YouTube/Instagram/TikTok gain popularity. With the rise of a generation that would much rather watch/look at something vs sit/read, there is going to be a growing trend of more visual content including pictures/videos (long and short form)/memes/diagrams/infographics. As more people shifted online during the pandemic, live streams were increasingly used to host public events/meetings on platforms like Twitch.

Influencers on the rise — The future of successful influencer marketing is to utilize a mix of influencer types. Instead of just focusing on the most popular/branded individual influencers, it will include internal experts, micro-influencers, niche experts and customers in the influencer marketing mix. Getting multiple perspectives and insights always enriches the discussion and generates more activity online. Content, products or designs that are co-created by the brand and influencers from the very beginning will thrive in 2022. Co-creations can provide inspiration, tips and information for the audience. Brands may be better served by working with micro-influencers for example who offer smaller follower counts, but post around niche interests, leading to more meaningful one-on-one connections with audience members. Input from the brand should flow seamlessly with their other content which comes down to an understanding of micro-influencers’ core messaging, with brands seeking to match campaign posts with the micro-influencer’s usual look and feel. It should not feel like a paid opportunity, slapping on the #ad to a post. You want to give them the freedom to create their own content too, but ensure it’s still getting the message across.

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Luke Lee

Title: CEO

Company: PalaLeather

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/luke-lee-287784210/

Make sure you have a strong online presence. It is crucial to have a well-designed website that is easy to navigate, informative, and engaging. Additionally, it’s important to make sure you are active on social media and have a solid online marketing strategy.

Focus on the customer experience. Excellent customer service is even more important online than in brick-and-mortar stores. Make sure you offer fast, free shipping, easy returns, and excellent customer service. A positive customer experience will keep customers returning and encourage them to leave positive reviews online, which can help attract even more customers.

Pay attention to your data. One of the benefits of selling online is that you can track data and analytics to see what is working and what isn’t. Use this information to your advantage to make changes and improve your business. Analyze what products are selling the most and adjust your inventory accordingly.

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Jed Morley

Jed Morley

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Founders Mag — Author, CEO PlatPay — Platinum Payment Services