How SMBs Can Use Online Marketing Tools to Sleigh the Holidays
For small businesses, the holidays aren’t just the most wonderful time of year, they’re the most critical for driving sales and gaining new customers. While independent shops are popular for those who want unique and meaningful gifts for their loved ones, big-box retailers look to dominate the space through advertising and can’t-miss offers.
With powerful marketing tools also available to small businesses, there’s no reason to lose out. A recent survey from Bluehost revealed that many SMBs aren’t standing out, with 72 percent putting in no extra work to prepare their sites for the holidays. That gap in effort creates a big opportunity for small business owners who are motivated to go the extra mile. By implementing a few simple changes and taking the time to strategize this holiday season, they can maximize visibility, generate more revenue and level the playing field.
Holiday Challenges and Opportunities for SMBs
Online selling enables local businesses to expand their reach and customer base, but many small business owners don’t know where to start. According to the Bluehost survey, 38 percent of SMBs said that they weren’t comfortable building or maintaining their site.
DIY website building isn’t always realistic, as it takes lots of time and knowledge. Professional services are a great option for quickly setting up a high-quality site on an accelerated timetable at the hands of an expert. Now, there are new options such as artificial intelligence-powered tools that guide entrepreneurs through every step in the website building process. From there, upkeep — i.e., refreshing designs, listings, promotions and other content — becomes seamless and keeps shoppers coming back for more.
With many consumers defaulting to the convenience of online shopping, digital storefronts are often the first touchpoint and therefore serve as a company's first impression. Businesses that proactively leverage the right online tools will be well-positioned for the holidays, while those that don’t will be left scrambling to capture revenue.
How to Stand Out From the Big Names
Shoppers care about personalization and recognize when brands make an effort to stand out. However, differentiation needs to happen just as much behind the scenes as it does on the front end. Keen awareness of business needs and anticipation of customer wants is key to e-commerce success, and data collection can be a great way for business owners to glean helpful insights. Once the right measurement tools are in place, establishing customer identities and behaviors becomes much easier and allows for thoughtful targeting of selected niches. While big-box retailers achieve mass appeal through their generality, SMBs stand out by specializing in personalization.
With the right data in hand, activities like search engine optimization become a much easier lift. Business goals and customer priorities are distilled into focused keywords, and with a clear, unique identity, small businesses can find their niche in the digital marketplace.
Maximizing Results With the Right Tech
Affordable AI-backed tools are becoming increasingly available to SMBs and can be a great way to both keep pace with competition and streamline existing workflows. But how, specifically, can AI tools help small business owners?
According to Bluehost survey respondents, common holiday prep frustrations included a lack of time, resources and technology. Integrating the right AI tools holds the promise to address all three pain points, leaving more time for business owners to focus on the details that will elevate their holiday performance.
Businesses of all sizes should think of AI as a partner or co-pilot, helping to quickly aggregate and analyze data and inform decision making. Considerations like promotional timing, keyword strategies and site layout can be quickly assessed, validating existing practices or spotlighting new alternatives.
Ultimately, holiday success is predicated on having a strong brand identity and the right tech tools as a foundation. Once those are in place, just a bit of extra effort can go a long way in separating a small business from the competition and capitalizing on the promise and potential of the holiday shopping season.
Jason Cross is senior vice president, digital presence and commerce at Newfold Digital, parent company of Bluehost.