Maintaining a Small Business During COVID-19

Maintaining A Small Business During COVID-19

Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana looks different these days with many businesses shifting toward working from home or even closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hustle and bustle traffic of summer’s past is nothing more than a distant memory; a memory that could become a fantasy as Indianapolis adapts to the new normal.

Surviving COVID-19 as a Small Business

Jody Alexander is the owner of City Nail Bar (CNB), a local nail boutique located on the corner of Market St. and New Jersey St. and has been blessed to be one of the surviving businesses during COVID-19. Since its opening in September 2018, City Nail Bar has been nothing like your typical nail salon. With an intentional focus on delivering high-quality services centered on the sustainability of not only nail care but clients, Alexander explained “I truly pride myself in customer service which is #1 in my book.”

However, CNB’s great customer service didn’t make them exempt from feeling the effects of COVID-19. Closed for a total of 81 days, Alexander learned quickly that being adaptable was critical when evaluating the needs of her employee and clients and more important the sustainability of her business. Alexander applied twice for The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and was awarded funds only after the second attempt. Designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll, and that’s exactly what it did for the CNB staff. Alexander explained “The PPP loan was a major contributor to how we were able to reopen and survive over the past few months. It allowed me to get employees off unemployment and stay current on bills.”

How Digital Marketing Helps Small Business

CNB’s focused marketing efforts have helped enhance high customer engagement while maximizing operations. Before COVID-19, CNB’s primary focus was to market the business and to boost sales of products. Now, Alexander has leveraged marketing to communicate the health & safety precautions to clients with their personalized email templates. Alexander added that “With personal services now being an optional service people need to feel comfortable with those services.” With their email database growing 300+ addresses in roughly 3 weeks, CNB hasn’t missed a beat. Interested clients can have the option to provide personal information and opt-in to receive updates based upon their preferences. They’ve also leveraged it to promote sales, increase bookings by appointment and sell gift cards.

Maximizing Your Client Interactions

As Indianapolis rolled back to Phase 4.5 recently, CNB is only booking by appointment. Alexander sees the positive in this and says, “By not accepting walk-in appointments it allows for each client to be the main focus during that time.” Identifying ways to be more efficient with marketing helps maximize time with the clients. Most importantly, it’s helped communicate some of the following best practices around sanitation such as mask wearing, sanitization stations, and partitions between each client and nail technician.

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Digital Marketing Trends Pre and Post COVID

While it’s been over six months since the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s still an active virus impacting the United States and therefore, consumers and business daily. We’ve seen several adjustments to how companies are advertising and how consumers are responding and proactively approaching the market as well.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, global advertising investment was estimated to grow at a 7.1% clip in 2020.  Now, it is estimated to see a rough contraction of 8.1%.

Digital marketing trends during covid

“Telecoms & Utilities”, which will experience a 4.3% increase in ad spend throughout the year as more consumers spend increased time at home using more utilities.

Even factoring in the pandemic, most online mediums will see an increase in spending according to Medium. Specifically:

  • Social media: 9.8%
  • Online video: 5%
  • Online display: 2-3%
  • Search: 1-2%

However, that’s compared to rates of 12-20% pre-pandemic which is to say that digital ad spending is seeing a rebound although it’s still off plan.

That said, 73% of media buyers indicate that Coronavirus will have an impact on Upfront 2020 and 2021 spend commitments and expect a 20% decrease in upfront spend v. original plan.

e-Commerce is a leader during covid

For those willing to invest, there’s good news. Online CVR (Conversion Rate) was up 8.8% in February showing that the dollars that are being invested are working at rates similar to Cyber Monday.

According to SEMRush, the “BUY ONLINE” keyword search volume skyrocketed in March globally for up to 27K searches per month showing consumers are ready to shop, and buy, online. Recent studies conducted at the end of Q1’2020 show that 24% of customers won’t be comfortable shopping at malls for the next 6 mos.

Even more good news is that a recent survey by Engine found that people are spending 10-30% more online so advertiser dollars are working harder than ever. This may be why West Elm invested in WFM Virtual Backgrounds. This is a creative way to drive traffic to their site while millions of Americans work from home.

Another company taking advantage of the pandemic is Bissell. They hosted online sessions of how to use steam tools and sales of their steam mop went up 500% Y/Y. One of the Top 5 Home Improvement stores has seen eCommerce jump 700% M/M.

Surprisingly, even with the increase in CVR, the jump in online shopping and these success stories, ad spends were down across the board for large and small retailers spending under $1M/mo. when comparing March and Feb. ad spends. by 1-9%. For those spending more than $1M/mo. they were up by 5.6%.

The same goes for industries, they were down across the board with travel hit the hardest however, Beauty & Fitness was up 28.9%.

Here’s the catch: With ad spend down, the cost of advertising is down as well so now is the time to get in the game. CPC (Cost Per Click) is down across the board with few exceptions such as Beauty/Skincare, Home & Garden and Jewelry.

Five tips for standing out during covid

  1. With the changing landscape, look for new opportunities. With the new online habits, consumers are online at times marketers never considered targeting. So, you may want to shift your advertising to the times best suited for your audience before your competitors figure it out.
  2. You can capitalize on the rise of media traffic and news outlets related to the constant stream of breaking news, and target these platforms with your online advertising at a lower cost than before the coronavirus pandemic.
  3. The key idea of marketing and advertising in the new coronavirus and post-COVID-19 era is to adapt to the new customer. So, keep things digital and map out how your target audience’s lifestyle is changing. For example, Nike stopped subscription fees for NTC Premium Service which gains them new customers. Post pandemic they’ll be able to monetize on these customers.
  4. Locate them at the right place and at the right time, and if you are willing to allocate some ad budget, you can now reach them at an unprecedented cost.
  5. Your messaging might also need to change along with customer behavior. You can advertise new deals, offer customer-friendly loans for your services, or just shift your entire marketing message to meet the altered customer demand.