The announcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on May 13, lifting almost all restrictions on fully vaccinated people in the U.S., was a game-changer for many businesses. Brick-and-mortar shops that previously shut down due to a lack of customers started to reopen. For the whole month of May alone, 500,219 new business applications were submitted, showing an increase of 1.2 percent from the previous month. Companies are optimistic as the vaccine rollout continues. Data from the CDC shows that 158.6 million Americans or 47.8 percent of the population were fully vaccinated as of July 9. As the vaccinations continue, more people will be going out and patronizing businesses.
How will the CDC announcement affect e-commerce vis-à-vis in-store sales? According to a study published on June 29, among people who shop online, 73 percent stated that they would continue to do so at the same rate, 17 percent intend to shop more online, and nine percent intend to shop less online.
Among those who shop in-store, 69 percent stated they would continue at the same rate, 22 percent intend to shop more in-store, and nine percent intend to shop less in-store. This reflects the statement of many experts that people’s shopping habits have become ingrained. Those who have experienced shopping online during the pandemic and loved the experience will continue doing it. On the other hand, those who still prefer in-store shopping will revert to it once it is feasible.
Level Playing Field
The playing field is now leveled for both in-store retail and e-commerce. Physical shops must remember that even those who will return to in-store shopping are now greatly influenced by digital marketing. In other words, among physical shops, they will be drawn to those that have won them over through digital advertising and marketing.
Every business nowadays, even those operating as physical shops, needs a fully functional and interactive website. This is because most people nowadays who need to purchase any item start by searching for it online. They are most likely to click on the websites that appear on the first page of their search.
Once they are on a web page, they expect it to load fast and have a clean and attractive design. They also expect an interactive function that immediately responds to their queries. Coincidentally, these are the Core Web Vitals that Google’s algorithm is now measuring to rank websites.
In e-commerce shops, the entire purchasing experience can happen on the website. They must have a streamlined system that offers many payment options. In a few clicks, the visitor can easily and quickly purchase one or more items or services.
Businesses with brick-and-mortar shops can also provide a complete online purchasing experience if they choose to. They can also use the website as a springboard for the customer to want to see the goods in person in the shop.
Digital Advertising and Marketing
All these can only happen if the website ranks high in searches. This is why, in tandem with web development and maintenance, a business needs to hire a company that provides full-scale professional search engine optimization (SEO) services.
This company will provide relevant content to the website that will ensure incoming traffic from searches. Nowadays, this includes not just text search but also voice search and image search. Both website maintenance and SEO services are not one-time investments but, rather, ongoing practices that will keep a brand in front of its target market.
A business must also have a digital advertising and marketing team that knows the current pulse of the brand’s target market online. This means having a strong presence and engagement with the market on various social media sites they congregate in. A knowledgeable advertising and marketing team will know how to differentiate and maximize the nuances of language on each social media platform.
Content must be highly creative to be competitive online. It must have the highest impact in the shortest time because online viewers have short attention spans. They are easily distracted by the huge and often overwhelming volumes of content continuously fed to them.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is now a must to customize the online experience of every visitor. AI learns from the visitor’s online behavior on the company website and the company’s social media assets. It then uses the data to present a personalized version of the website and advertisements to the visitor. Omnichannel marketing can use AI to personalize offerings that follow the customer on whatever platform they are in.
Nowadays, some social media platforms can also be used to link back to the company website and close sales on the platform itself. These opportunities to quickly clinch a sale are vital to capture the customer’s impulse to purchase.
Online and Offline Selling
Whether selling online or offline, the key today is to first reach the buying market digitally. Most people search for purchases through their mobile phones and are on it all day and night. The seller that can hold their attention most will likely win a sale.