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Tips on How Small Businesses Can Adapt to Consumer Behavior Shifts

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    The only permanent thing in life is change, or so the saying goes. Even in the business world, consumer beliefs and behaviors can shift quickly. At the time of writing, it’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it. Businesses must take care to ride the changes of our new normal and be ready for what lies next in the years ahead.

    For small businesses, in particular, the pandemic brought extreme challenges that many had to shut down their operations. According to the US Census, about 80% of small businesses reported experiencing a moderate to large negative effect up to August 2020.

    A September 2020 report by the US Chamber of Commerce report does show that economic recovery is slowly taking place, with 52% of small businesses operating at full capacity and 34% remaining partially open.

    As a small business owner, what can you do to withstand the changes in consumer behavior, most especially at a time with threats to people’s health and safety?

    Staying Proactive in the Face of Changing Consumer Behavior

    The pandemic’s disruption in the way we live our lives changed the face of commerce. 

    To help ensure that your business grows during this time, here are some things small businesses can do to meet their consumer’s new behaviors and satisfy their changing needs.

    Engage in Social Listening

    If you want your business to succeed, you have to listen to the feedback of your customers and your target market. Social listening is one of the hottest trends in digital marketing and here are some of the metrics you should look into to maximize this opportunity:

    1. Social media followers and the rate of growth
    2. Social media mentions and when they engage to you
    3. Sentiment analysis and seeing the positives, negatives, and neutrals
    4. Influencer analysis
    5. Share of voice or how often you are mentioned vs your competitors

    If you feel unsure on how to translate the following analytics, you can use tools or hire digital marketing firms to help you.

    Revisit Brand Messages

    With consumers spending more time at home and reevaluating what they value, small businesses must also learn to adapt their brand messaging to fit these times. With lots of uncertainty ahead, customers will surely appreciate those who communicate their messages with a better tone.

    First, in the midst of these trials, what people yearn for is battling the pandemic together. The message you want to deliver is that you are one with them during these times.

    For instance, Cottonelle acknowledged the panic buying of toilet paper in the United States and responded by easing customers’ high emotions and encouraging them to “stock up on generosity instead.”

    Integrate New Sales Channels 

    Every small business wants to sell more, especially now when we are still journeying towards recovery. Nowadays, physical or brick-and-mortar selling is the least priority as many places have on-and-off lockdowns and social distancing requirements. So, where should you get your sales from? 

    If you haven’t had a website yet, now is the time to get one. Design a user-friendly shop, organize online payment processors, and allow orders to easily pour into your site. You can also use a third-party retail site like Amazon, as this widens the accessibility to your product.

    Many people are also looking for extra sources of income in this pandemic. You can partner with local area distributors or other small business owners to generate more sales to your brand.

    Adopt an Agile Approach to Marketing

    There’s no way to go around it: Small businesses must master digital marketing. This means you have to convert your traditional marketing activities to stand out on the online landscape.

    As the name suggests, Agile marketing is the process of creating dynamic campaigns that address consumers’ changing attitudes. Such marketing projects are broken up into “sprints,” or short and intensive periods where teams can test out projects and adapt them over time.  

    Agile marketing projects include things like social media advertisement campaigns and/or content creation. This tactic is different from launching a massive, one-time marketing project, and it works especially well for businesses who can coordinate across a small team. 

    Focus on Cultivating the User Experience

    No matter how amazing your product may be, your small business won’t see success if customers find it hard to connect with you and have a bad experience at your platforms.

    For instance, you should ensure that your website looks professional with informative content. Most of all, it should be mobile-friendly, as most users go online now through their smartphones. Consider how your website is set up, particularly if you have log-in pages or e-commerce shops.

    Additionally, you should consider expanding your payment options from usual bank transfers and credit cards and also offer mobile processing applications like PayPal or Venmo.

    Frequently Asked Questions 

    How can my business stay on top of changing consumer trends? 

    The business world is very fast-paced. So if you want to stay ahead of your competitors and be on top the trends, you should consider these tips:

    1. Connect and understand your customers through social media.
    2. Understand the social listening metrics and utilize them to form strong strategies.
    3. Adapt agile marketing campaigns that can meet current consumer behaviors.
    4. Integrate new sales channels to accommodate the modern customer.
    5. Ensure your brand message matches your customers’ needs and expectations.

    How can a small business stay competitive? 

    The business world is extremely volatile, so you have to be ready to fight against the increasing competition within your chosen market. If you want to gain a competitive advantage, here are some strategies to apply:

    1. Look at how your competitors are changing business operations at this time.
    2. Analyze your data to identify what your market wants.
    3. Audit your current site to gauge user experience.
    4. Automate your after-sales services to improve user experience.
    5. Step up your marketing gain by mastering digital marketing techniques or hiring experts to help you.

    Additional Resources

    U.S. Small Business Administration 

    The U.S. Small Business Administration offers counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the country’s ultimate resource for small businesses.

    U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Nation

    The Chamber of Commerce’s website has resources, toolkits, and statistics on a variety of business topics.

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