Norfolks Voice

Christmas 2020: A BIG opportunity for small business?

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While some of us may cringe at the thought of the festive season already looming, Christmas is a pivotal period for many businesses. The impact of Covid and accompanying lockdown has already been felt across the key dates of 2020. Unsurprising then that there remains an element of doom and gloom around the festive season. However, at Image Development we have a different perspective. With a unique insight into the world of independent small business here in Norwich, we believe Christmas 2020 could be a big opportunity. We round up some of the relevant changes to consumer behaviour as a result of Covid; explore why this benefits small business and how to prepare a marketing strategy to make the most of this opportunity.

How has Covid changed consumer behaviour?

It might seem obvious to say, but Covid has had a significant and immediate effect on consumer behaviour. Many have reported years of change taking effect in a matter of weeks or even days. This contributes to the system shock felt across business. For many of us, challenging times have followed a near universal hunkering down in terms of spend and attitudes to purchasing. Meanwhile some businesses have seen a surprise uptick, usually if they have been agile in embracing digital and maintaining brand salience and ease of access to their audience. McKinsey and Company highlight the importance of this digital omnipresence, with e-commerce continuing to grow across all product categories in the UK. Admittedly, big ticket sales remain wobbly, with many consumers realigning their behaviour to meet the uncertainty Covid has wrought with more modest value-driven purchases.

This uncertainty has also shaken loyalty. Established relationships with brands that were interrupted by Covid brought with them opportunities for their competitors. Value, ease of access and quality replaced loyalty, as 70% of UK consumers adopted new shopping behaviours. Convenience also ranked highly as a reason why shoppers decided to make a change, adding to the melting pot of new trends business must navigate. But what does this have to do with small business? Surely with the landscape moving underneath our feet it’s a game for the big brands with deep pockets? Well not necessarily. We believe that many trends are playing right into the strengths of small independent businesses.

What are the benefits for small business?

Covid has certainly given us time. Time to think about whether that lockdown haircut was ever a good idea. Time to think about sourdough recipes and home workouts to burn them off…but also, time to think about value versus cost. Consumers have had time to put value in perspective. Sentiment has shifted to more value-driven purchases. Trends indicate a move away from big ticket purchases to items that offer a different type of value, especially as financial fortunes remain uncertain. Add this to the desire to support local business, and we start to see the emerging opportunities. Rather than a big screen TV or flashy fashion accessory, consumers may now have a bigger appetite for smaller gifts. These gifts may not cost as much, but arguably offer more value to their loved ones. In other words, gifts that tell a story, support local business and provide emotional connection are valued more. Now we don’t know about you, but this sounds just like the kind of quirkiness and quality we’d find in the streets of Norwich. The problem however, is that we’re not walking the streets of Norwich as much as we’d like to be. It's not as 'convenient' as pre-covid. Equally the wider population has become more of a homebody too. So whilst there is an appetite for value and local product, the question arises, can small business satiate it conveniently enough? When you’re hungry, it’s often easier to eye up the takeaway menu than conjure up a meal yourself. Such is the salience and ease of access other larger brands often have to their advantage. So as a small business, it’s important to ensure you’re visible and accessible, both on and off the high street.

How to market for success this Christmas (& beyond)

Now we’re not suggesting that consumers won’t flock to the big brands or have the best of intentions as they fill their Amazon baskets. They will. However there is an opportunity for small business to leverage this change in behaviour, with the right marketing. Digital will remain a big factor, with an appropriate online presence important for almost all small businesses. That’s not to say we won’t return to the high-street. In fact this is one of the first areas people want back in their lives, with many consumers already strutting the streets. However, the numbers who can frequent your brick and mortar store are going to be reduced, so it’s worth considering how to translate part of your experience online, even if it’s a sleek booking system for in-store visits.

Brand values and purpose remain important to consumers, so ensure you’re sharing your story as well as your products online. This can often be overlooked in the rush to simply ‘sell’ online. Engage other aspects of digital in your efforts too. When we talk about brand salience, it’s simply how quickly and clearly your audience thinks of you, why not give them a little help? Share your story, services and product across social media, email and even consider print depending on your goals and business type. A good functional website is of course important but it isn’t a silver bullet when taken out of the wider marketing mix.

While you’ve got your storytelling hat on, it’s worth considering what makes your product unique? What makes it relevant for your audience? Why should they buy it from you? Tell them. People like to be part of a story and given half the chance they might become part of yours. With the passion that often goes hand in hand with small businesses, sharing even a small piece of that can go a long way. It’s often a matter of reaching the right audience, especially in the noisy world of digital marketing. It’s here that the use of paid advertising can come in handy. With many social platforms offering quick and relatively simple entry into advertising, it’s worth looking into as a means to amplify your voice online. Just be sure you’re aiming for the right places and people to suit your business. In all it’s about communicating your story as clearly, quickly and genuinely as possible.

Whilst we’ve massively simplified the process, we hope we’ve helped to add some context to the opportunities for small business this Christmas. Needless to say the world remains a challenging place to navigate, business and marketing included. Whilst we wish we had a little festive magic to sprinkle on your marketing efforts, we’ve worked hard to develop a set of affordable and accessible marketing resources specifically aimed at small businesses – our DIY marketing packages. These are fixed price guides and training sessions to help develop personalised marketing strategies that small business owners and their teams can then manage themselves. Starting with a completely free consultation, we’re passionate about providing honest, effective support for our clients.

By all means get in touch with us to discuss your ideas, help boost your business this Christmas and future-proof your marketing efforts.