by Adam Trickey, Owner, Specialty Toys Network
When you work in the marketing industry, particularly the web development industry, the most common question you get is: “Do we really need a website?” Even before we established Specialty Toys Network in 2006, our answer was emphatically: “Yes.”
Following an historically painful economic crash in 2007-2008, consumers became acutely price-conscious and Amazon’s pricing, vast and easily-accessible product catalog combined with the wide adoption of its 2005 launch of Prime’s ‘free shipping for members,’ shifted consumers away from local businesses. This presented the question, “Do we really need e-commerce?” Our answer again (and we admit it sounds seemingly self-serving!), was and remains emphatically: “Yes.”
American Express recognized the impact of the new consumer mindset and introduced “Small Business Saturday” in November 2010, and the quiet voice of the “Shop Local” movement grew increasingly louder. Fast-forward to March 2020: the world comes to a plague-era halt seemingly out of nowhere. Millions of storefronts close, and the economic impact on small businesses has shifted communities to collectively shout, “SHOP LOCAL!” Hallelujah! But shop…where?
Consumers are turning to local virtual storefronts. Our customers with active e-commerce websites saw greater revenues in March than in previous record-holiday seasons, and at the time of writing have not slowed down.
Reaching out to colleagues I learned that “Shop Local Online!” is not unique to the toy industry. Restaurants are offering curbside pickup and have increased their offerings to essential grocery items. Specialty retailers are providing “Stay at Home” bundles of sundries, crafts, gardening supplies and more. Consumers are changing how they shop, and retailers who bridge the social distancing gap using online sales and marketing tools are seeing hope for the continued life of what they have worked so hard to build.
If your physical storefront has kept you so busy that your online presence has been neglected, we have a few tips to help you use the web to get in front of your community:
No Website – Low/No Social Media Presence
TIP #1: Spruce up your Facebook Business Page (it’s easy to claim or create one). Make sure your listing details are up to date.
TIP #2: Claim or create and manage your Google Business Listing (business.google.com). Fill in all possible details. If you don’t have a web page, list your Facebook page. Go to Tip #3.
Website – No Online Store
TIP #3: People assume ‘non-essential’ businesses are closed. Let them know that you are open for phone orders and can provide curbside pickup service, free local delivery or shipping. Go to Tip #4.
TIP #4: Categories that are currently trending for industry online sales are books, puzzles, games and activities. Cherry pick some of your favorites for these categories and promote them.
Though it will take time for people to do so comfortably, eventually we will all be free to return to in-person shopping. Websites, social media and e-commerce are here to stay. The last time our economy halted in recent history, consumer behavior shifted enough to make “Shop Local!” a unified movement. We hope this living history has shifted consciousness to return “Shop Local!” to a way of life.