Decades after the evolution of the internet globally, research shows that almost 4.66 billion people, making 59 percent of the global population were active internet users as of October 2020. Technology and innovation have advanced greatly, with information becoming easily accessible with the use of the internet.
COVID-19 has forced the world to live online in more ways than we can imagine. From online schooling, remote working and many more, having a solid online space has become more of a need than a want
Prior to COVID, having a digital presence was considered top priority for businesses who needed to grow, reach new people and connect properly with their customers. Nothing has changed, if not for anything at all it has rather reiterated the need.
It is clear that having a strong digital presence is an essential part of brand building. Even if your business is not yet not online, your customers are so it is better you catch up with them.
Own your space
As a business, having an online presence through mediums such as websites and Social Media is equal to owning your own virtual space where you have the opportunity to grow and engage with stakeholders properly. Sectors such as e-commerce benefit greatly from operating their services entirely online; satisfying requirements such as shopping, payment and marketing. With the ‘new normal’ as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, more people are likely to patronize online purchases compared to in store options going forward. With the increased use of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, webinars and virtual tours for instance are gradually becoming the norm as well.
Present information about your products and services
A business’ digital platform can be used as a one stop place for information about its products and services. Therefore, it is appropriate to take advantage of this for brand positioning through online mediums to educate and create consumer awareness about what is being offered in order to create value.
Broaden your reach
Most people who access the internet do so on mobile devices to find information. By building a solid online presence, you open your business up to a new audience who may easily find you via Social Media and search engines as compared to for example when your only known presence is in a brick and mortar space. The world is global now and potential clients and investors can easily find your business once it has an online address.
Increase credibility and build a solid brand identity
It is easy to attach credibility to businesses with online presence as they are presumed to be more transparent. And so, it is advisable to take advantage of this to build confidence and a solid brand identity which will in turn reward you by opening up new business opportunities.
Engage seamlessly with your clients
Mediums such as websites and Social Media provides a direct way for brands to engage directly and effectively with their clients. In critical times like what the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, connecting with the consumer directly Is essential as it enables the brand to have first hand information about what they think about your brand and presents opportunities to understand them better; and also manage and resolve issues such as complaints effectively hence giving the brand more control and ultimately competitive advantage.
Contrary to what some people think, having an online presence for your business does not necessarily have to be expensive. It is important to invest in building a quality, modern and secure website, but starting out on Social Media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are absolutely free.
Use data to understand trends and Consumer behaviour
Data and analytics presented from digital platforms enables a business to understand consumer behaviour, trends, patterns and key details such as geographical location, gender and other preferences. This helps in planning and taking strategies for the forward movement of the business. Apart from conducting a physical research, the easiest way to do this is via information gathered online. Most Social Media platforms provide this kind of basic data for free. Google Analytics is another widely used option for websites and also provides Google search statistics.
In order to maintain a strong and relevant online presence the following tips will help:
- Make use of effective SEO techniques whether through organic methods such as blogging and the use of relevant keywords. Alternatively, use paid options such as Sponsored Advertisements. Either ways, be sure to invest into your brand.
- Use Social Media to engage consumers properly and encourage them to help you grow your presence in order to increase following and reach as well.
- Pay attention to aesthetics and functionality to ensure smooth user experience on your digital platforms, especially on your website. Content is key, make sure your message is clear, concise and consistent. The quality of your content online will attract new customers and keep existing ones.
- Prioritize reputation management of all your digital platforms as it can make or break you. Pay attentions to reviews, conduct periodic surveys, get customer feedback, use data, analytics and tools such as ‘Google Alert’ to monitor online activities of your brand.
If your business is not yet online, it is not too late to do so even if it is a startup. Adapt to the digital world as a business and make use of the opportunities it presents. COVID-19 has taught us that in order to thrive and be effective, you will need to adapt or phase out. More people are relying on digital platforms to access products and service. It is important to find out the best approach that works for your business. One of the best things you can do for your business in the coming year would be to get it online or build a more solid presence to enhance your brand if you are already on digital platforms.
By: Theresa R. Fianko, Managing Editor of Diaspora Digital News and Author of ‘Practical Marketing Communications Techniques for SMEs in Crisis.’