Few are struggling right now like freelancers and independent businesses all around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought small local brands to their knees, even forcing some of them to consider how to temporarily cease operations.
The folks at PR and marketing boutique Ask Communications have some different bits of advice entirely. Instead of giving up (and in) to the pandemic, you should work harder than ever to ensure your local label has an active online presence. The time is now to build even stronger, more solid communities than ever before, to guarantee that your local brand will stand even taller on its feet when all of this is over.
We have had a chat with Lynda Heath, managing director at Ash Communications, to look into the benefits of introducing a local brand to e-commerce.
Why bring your local label online?
Hard on the heels of the ‘isolation economy’, a recent survey has shown that over 90 per cent of consumers will shop more digitally to fulfil their needs and they’re likely to continue this trend if they’ve been satisfied with the services and products that they’ve ordered. With more and more businesses and services moving online, there’s never been a better time to reach the untapped audience who want what you are selling, especially if you’re a Made in Britain brand, by joining the world of e-commerce.
A global Ernst & Young survey also reinforces this outlook. Responses show that 42 per cent of consumers believe that their shopping habits will fundamentally change due to COVID-19, with a third being prepared to spend more on local products.
Consumers perceive shopping as one of the few acts of free will in the pandemic
Although you might think that businesses that provide nonessential products or services are likely to be at the bottom of consumers’ priority list, shopping is perceived by people as one of the last acts of free will over which they have some control. In this pandemic context, this benefits their wellbeing but also impacts positively on companies’ chances of survival. Aside from the economic reasons such as contributing towards local taxes and supporting jobs inside the country, there are also environmental reasons which are taken into account when choosing a local brand, especially if that brand is consciously employing less packaging, and committing to organically-sourced local products to reduce shipping costs and carbon footprint.
Photo by Chloe Ings for Farmdrop.
The benefits of having a local label now
Having a local label could now become a brand’s biggest asset, as small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing local workforce, generating more business for their network of local suppliers, and helping to reinforce the entrepreneurial values of the private sector.
In addition, local brands are likely to have an added advantage because they can be perceived as part of the local culture and can capitalise on the emotional appeal that emerges from being at the heart of the community. When you keep your ear to the ground, it’s much easier to identify with your specific audience and access insights which can lead to creating stronger community ties. You can cater for particular customers as you probably already know them and understand their desires and demands.
When you keep your ear to the ground, it's easier to create stronger community ties.
In this situation, continuing to interact with your community is vital, and the online world offers you just that. Websites have the potential to become a digital gathering place, as making the transition from bricks to clicks will allow you to be wherever your customers are.
Photo by Jessica Allen for Wolfworthy
The power of e-commerce to help your local label
Instead of contemplating closing your business, investigate the potential an e-commerce platform can offer you to generate more revenue and keep the company going. An integrated strategy facilitates an easier access to the market, assists you in eliminating the pricey office or retail space and helps you manage your cash flow better when dealing with stock inventory, if applicable. With the right tools, you can identify customers quickly and stay connected with them. Aside from having the flexibility of operating your business from any location, you can also update your catalogue, product prices and sales campaigns with more ease.
Online buyers are more likely to shop and return after having a positive experience, so we recommend you aim to bring with you online as much as you can from the offline shopping experience. For example, staying true to your traditional store look and feel is very important. You can achieve this with the help of a good design layout that reflects your brand identity, engaging product copy, and enticing images and videos. Although you can’t appeal to all senses, at least you’re sure to grab your visitors’ attention. Colours and fonts are also key drivers for stirring the emotions, while descriptive storytelling can form that connection you need for them to become loyal customers.
Similar to a store, we recommend you consider upselling buttons and pop-ups which encourage customers to discover more of your range. For prompt assistance, we advise you introduce virtual assistants such as live chat functionalities or chatbots. A website is considered as the main source of information before the buying circle is completed, so look into ways in which you can respond real-time.
Photo by Ayhan Duran for Mothercare
Once you have defined what the ambiance and identity for your brand is, be sure to recreate it through all your channels – not just your website – such as through your social media platforms. Instagram recently launched a new feature called ‘Support Small Businesses’, harnessing the power of online communities in endorsing their favourite entrepreneurs.
With the right approach, you can turn this pandemic challenge into an opportunity and introduce your brand to an expanding digital audience. As an independent business, you can use your community-centric position to help consumers cope with these challenging times. With so much invested in your project, your commitment to making things work and being flexible to adjust to a new market can be inspirational for both your customers and for the rest of the industry. And this is something you can be reminded of once your business is back on track.