When you’re ready to reopen, getting the word out to customers as quickly and clearly as possible can go a long way in kickstarting your business. The most effective and immediate way to convey what reopening looks like for your company is to go where your customers are — online — by investing in digital ad spend.
“People have consumed digital media at record rates while sheltering at home,” says Dan Grech, founder of BizHack Academy, which provides digital marketing training programs for small business owners.
“The increase in digital engagement, combined with the elimination of traditional nose-to-nose marketing channels, such as conferences and chamber meetings, has resulted in a rapid move to digital marketing—the ideal vehicle for announcing you’ve reopened,” Grech suggests.
A study conducted by Kantar, a data, insights and consulting company, supports this advice. Surveying more than 25,000 consumers across 30 markets in April, their study discovered “web browsing increased by 70 percent, followed by (traditional) TV viewing increasing by 63 percent and social media engagement increasing by 61 percent over normal usage rates.”
How Digital Ad Spend Can Get Customers to Your Store
“Digital ad spend brings traffic to your website,” says Tory Gray, CEO and digital marketing strategist at The Gray Dot Company, an SEO and digital strategy company. “You then use marketing messages to send page visitors to your physical store.”
The benefit of paid advertising is the enhanced ability to target your ideal customer online, adds Grech.
“Paid ads, whether they're through Facebook, Google or elsewhere, are one of the most powerful—and increasingly only—way to reach new and existing customers.”
By using irresistible offers that require in-store redemption, Grech has found that retail businesses have been able to drive traffic to their stores despite the pandemic.
“I work with a group of independent retail stores in a shopping center that, with the support of their landlord, banded together to offer coupons to one another's locations for anyone who came into one of the stores,” he says. “The campaign was very successful.”
To stand out from the crowd, go beyond the typical rhetoric about sanitization and social distancing in your ads.
—Andrea Beacham, CEO, Wit Digital
Tapping Social Media for Digital Ad Spend
With the rise in social media engagement since the pandemic began, many businesses are advertising more frequently on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and other sites.
According to a survey conducted in mid-June 2020 by marketing data provider MarketingCharts, of 150 marketers and agencies that budgeted for regional/local advertising in the second half of the year, 75 percent were planning on using paid social.
“Currently, social media digital ads are more available, cheaper and have greater reach, as traditional advertisers, such as travel and hospitality, have pulled ad spend,” says Aalap Shah, founder of digital marketing agency 1o8.
“Smaller or newer brands can use the newsfeed to create engagement and connection with their products and services," Shah continues. "Our clients with an e-commerce and brick-and-mortar presence are seeing a four to seven times return on ad spend with their digital budgets.”
Grech has seen similar results.
“One of my clients, a bake shop, had so much success with Facebook advertising that he had to stop running ads, because he couldn't keep up with the demand,” he says. “That client spent $3,523 on the ads and attracted 151 new customers with a lifetime value to his business of $151,000. That's $43 in revenue for every $1 he spent in ads.”
The data collected during social media engagement can also benefit your advertising efforts, believes Mary Ann O’Brien, CEO and founder of OBI Creative, a research-based advertising company.
“Advertisers can leverage the data and targeting capabilities of social to identify prospective customers based on interest or by uploading a customer list, identifying similar attributes and finding more customers who look like their best customers,” she says.
O’Brien recommends starting with organic (non-paid) posts to understand what type of content resonates with your target audience regarding reopening. Then use paid ads to extend the messages.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Media Advertising
As with anything, there are pros and cons when considering digital social media ad spend.
Facebook provides "a wide audience reach and microtargeting and retargeting, as well as lookalike audiences,” says Pratik Dholakiya, founder and CEO of content marketing agency Growfusely, a content marketing agency. “However, there is diminishing reach that may require you to spend more on ads, and Facebook advertising tends to be a time-intensive process.”
Instagram's benefits include the ability to do detailed targeting; it also offers retail and e-commerce friendly features.
“There is also a higher engagement rate than Facebook,” Dholakiya says. “On the downside, Instagram has a more limited younger audience. This platform is also time-intensive and has diminishing organic reach.”
While LinkedIn ads are more expensive than Facebook, they offer enhanced targeting criteria around industry, job title and LinkedIn group that can make it a more precise targeting tool for B2B marketers, notes Grech.
Consider your product or service when choosing a social platform, advises Gray.
“People aren't likely to trust legal services they find via a Facebook ad or buy tennis shoes because of a LinkedIn ad.”
Encouraging shoppers to come into your brick-and-mortar location with social media digital advertising requires some forethought.
“To stand out from the crowd, go beyond the typical rhetoric about sanitization and social distancing in your ads,” says Andrea Beacham, CEO of Wit Digital, a digital marketing agency.
“Customers may be wondering what the risk versus benefit is to coming into your store to try on clothing,” she says. “Consider compelling angles besides safety to get customers in store. For example, time savings, getting the right fit the first time or even a discount.”
Using Keyword Search Ads
Connecting with customers to let them know about your reopening plans can be successful through Google or other search engine keyword pay-per-click (PPC) search ads.
“Search engine marketing typically sees the highest conversion rate of any paid advertising tactic," O’Brien agrees. "Such advertising makes it easy for customers actively searching for what you offer to find your brand and in-person store. We recommend a combination of nonbranded, competitive and branded keywords to capture the attention of as many prospects as possible throughout the sales funnel.”
While search ads can be effective, they have drawbacks, including high costs.
“PPC costs for some keywords are exorbitant,” says Gray. “It's not unusual for some of my clients to pay $10 to $40 or more for clicks from a specific keyword.”
“Search advertising on Google ads by bidding on keywords is expensive and complicated," Grech agrees, "but a savvy keyword strategy can be an incredibly profitable way to get customers into your brick-and-mortar store.”
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