Local Retail Can Compete This Holiday Season!

I really should be working right now but I need to get ahead on holiday shopping. My dad is finally cutting cable and wants to start streaming his favorite sports, shows and movies so I’ve spent the morning browsing and comparing smart TVs and streaming devices. It isn’t even lunchtime and, already, I have been delivered three different smart TV ads.  While watching college football highlights, a video ad played for a high-speed wireless router. Coincidentally, my dad will need to upgrade his internet speed to handle all of the streaming he plans to do. How convenient.

At this very moment, a similar scenario is playing itself out somewhere else in the world. In fact, it is playing out in the millions all across the United States. As we enter the 2018 holiday shopping season, online sales are expected to shatter records for another year. According to the Observer, the average online shopper is projected to spend $423 this holiday season. That is $423 per person local businesses are anticipated to lose out on against online retail.

Does that mean that consumers are now preferring the convenience of online over in-person shopping? Absolutely not. RetailDive’s report on 2018 retail trends suggests that while the current state of retail most certainly looks bleak, the future for local brick-and-mortar business is worth getting exciting about. The new digital landscape has created opportunities for brands to connect with consumers in ways previously unheard of and not possible. However, in order for local retail to begin to capitalize on the projected record-setting 2018 holiday shopping season and beyond, a strong digital presence is crucial. Below are three key ingredients every business should be immediately incorporating into their 2018 holiday advertising strategy.

A Strong Website

Your website is your digital foundation, your online brick-and-mortar, and a 24/7 virtual after-hours answering service. Just as your employees are the face of your company, your website ought to equally reflect your brand’s image and voice. As important as it is to ensure that your promotional displays are up, festive decorations are set, and shelves are adequately stocked, the same is equally true for your website. Are your holiday hours up-to-date and reflecting properly on Google?  Have your SEO tags been modified to optimize your search engine placement with holiday sales, products and services? How well do your holiday banners and images render on mobile devices? These examples are just a sampling of some of the minor tweaks that could increase the effectiveness of your website.

An Even Stronger Social Media Presence

Social media is both one of the greatest assets and most time-consuming burdens for even the savviest of business owners. Finding the time to adequately maintain a social media presence can be difficult enough but most small-to-medium sized business owners struggle finding the time to navigate the various and ever-changing social media channels. An effective and successful social media campaign is more than a flurry of promotional posts, product pics and sales pitches. It requires a deliberately crafted strategy and voice. Creating and distributing relevant and engaging content, consistent with your brand’s story, is what will strengthen your social media presence and keep you top-of-mind throughout the 2018 holiday season.

Most Importantly, Video

The 21st century digital revolution has forever changed the way in which video content is delivered to consumers. For 2018, eMarketer projects that by the end of the year 33 million U.S. subscribers will cancel their traditional cable service. Streaming services, Smart TVs, and mobile devices have transformed the media consuming landscape and paved new ways for brands to deliver to consumers. Gone are the days of the antiquated 15 and 30 second pushy and cliché sales pitches which have come to be expected on traditional cable television. Digital video platforms allow for much more creative, entertaining, engaging and informative ways to tell your brand’s story, reinforce your holiday message and deliver directly to users mobile devices regardless of what they happen to be viewing – or where.

Despite the recent failings of major retailers and chains, the new digital landscape should not be perceived as a threat to local business. Rather, digital and mobile technologies have created unique and innovative ways for brands to connect and communicate with their audiences. For small-to-medium sized businesses who have yet to fully embrace the new digital realities, the 2018 holiday shopping season is the prime time to strengthen their online presence. If a potential shopper is going to be delivered a video ad or a social media recommendation for a product, service or brand, why shouldn’t those ads and posts direct them to your local business? A strong digital presence will help to ensure that $423 remains in your community, supporting local business.

Adam Mahan is a contributor to the ThriveFuel blog. Adam has 15 years of experience in digital telecommunications and media, working with Fortune 500 companies as well as digital marketing agency start-ups.