Why Online Marketing is a No-Brainer
Now more than ever, online shopping–and thus digital marketing–is a win-win for both the consumer and the retailer, and without a doubt, buying products via the internet will continue to trend upwards in the months and years to come.
Online shopping didn’t come out of anywhere, though. There’s plenty of history to show why consumers are primed and ready to shop online. If you’re a business owner, it’s important to be aware of the merits of online advertising and why online shopping has become the behemoth that it is. Without a doubt, in 2020, online advertising is arguably the best place to invest your marketing dollars.
Since COVID, it’s obvious that traditional retail brick-and-mortar businesses are experiencing some big hurt–which might be permanent. Even before COVID-19 delivered a knock-out punch to brick-and-mortar stores, there were signs of trouble. If the majority of people now find mates online, chances are they’ll also going to find their vehicles, their jeans and their groceries there too.
Let’s face it, it’s cheaper for a business owner to run an operation online rather than opening and maintaining a physical storefront. And because of this trend, more and more businesses are going to lean towards online advertising and online business models. It makes sense for the bigger players in the marketplace and it certainly makes sense for the smaller ones too. For the sake of argument, if you open a store on Main Street that sells clothes, you’re looking at major expenses, major overhead. The precise costs will vary, but to give you an idea, renting a space may cost anywhere from $3000-$5000. Signage could exceed $1000. A professionally done website could cost up to $5000. Market research, over $1000, utilities maybe $500-$800 per month, insurance, $3000 a year. Hire a standard five employees and you’re looking at $130,000 per year. A manager to do schedules, recruit staff, train employees and aid in advertising strategies will cost a minimum of $46,000 per year. So a small hypothetical clothing business–traditional brick-and-mortar style–will cost roughly $300,000–just to get in the game. Starting an online clothing business will cost you the price of wifi as well as the cost of your product.
Online businesses are on pace to even replace The Mall. It’s appropriate to capitalize The Mall because it used to be the hub and center of North American lives. However, The Mall is likely going the way of the dodo bird. The North American love affair with The Mall that started in the mid-50’s is waning. The first notable enclosed mall was the Valley Fair Shopping Center in Wisconsin. It opened in 1955 and coincided with the trend of sprawling suburbs, endless freeways and a hyper-reliance on the automobile. The popularity of malls was arguably already declining and when COVID hit, they closed completely and people found alternative and easier ways to shop. Ways that didn’t involve sitting in traffic and wading through hordes of people–something that is decidedly unappealing in the age of a pandemic.
Amazon is tops in terms of online retail shopping and they rely heavily on online advertising. Going back to pre-COVID sales figures, Amazon snagged $54.5 billion USD in online sales, in the States alone. Post-COVID those numbers are projected to spike dramatically. Generally speaking, online sales are set to increase 18% in 2020 and a big part of that growth is due to the unprecedented expansion of online food and beverage sales. Online grocery sales are projected to grow 58.5 % this year.
Catalog Orders–Popular When Your Parents Were Your Age
Catalogs ordering was–once-upon-a-time–extremely popular for consumers because it was easy, convenient and was endowed with the mantle of ‘tradition’. Leafing through a catalog, looking at glossy photos and placing an order was an annual event, especially near the holidays. And it was fun. Catalog ordering was beneficial for businesses because it allowed them to avoid paying exorbitant costs for retail square footage. Those savings were often passed on to the consumer, in the form of cheaper products. However, according to the American Catalog Mailers Association, catalog numbers have also taken a hit and have dropped from 19 billion in 2016 to an estimated 11.5 billion in 2018. Again, this can be attributed to the massive popularity of online shopping. Now, it’s easier, more user-friendly and more efficient to buy an item online versus buying it through a catalog. It is worth noting though that catalogs will likely maintain a niche for the foreseeable future. Older people (and younger people perhaps drawn in by nostalgia) still will likely enjoy flipping through a catalog rather than staring into the abyss of their computer or phone screen. Catalogs will never be as dominant as they once were, but even Wayfair, Bonobos, Birchbox, and Amazon are now printing catalogs. That said, don’t count on online sales being dwarfed by catalog purchases anytime soon, especially now, when people are hesitant to handle and touch tangible objects that have been placed in their hands from strangers in large warehouses.
The Problem With Mail-In-Rebates
Mail-in-rebates were also once super-popular but are now arguably outdated. Their effectiveness in today’s marketplace is considered questionable, at best. Even though people LOVE when the “magical product” just shows up in front of them, most consumers are now accustomed to operating within the digital landscape. It can be irritating and cumbersome to be asked to shut down your computer and hurl yourself into the world of paper and snail mail.
A typical scenario involving a mail-in-rebate? Find the product you want to buy, photocopy your receipt and proof of purchase, locate a stamp and envelope, mail-in the paperwork, (then the envelope sits in postal transit for x-number of days or weeks) and eventually, way down the line, the payout is processed, the check is stamped and mailed out to you. It sits in transit for another week or two and then you finally get your check in the mail. Inconvenient and a poor strategy, especially when you consider that even five years ago, 87% of males aged 35-44 preferred relating to businesses via the internet.
Big Box Stores
Of course, big box stores have increasingly dominated the scene for decades and have been wise enough to operate both online and in brick-and-mortar (they can afford to do both).In 1966 Minnesota businessman Richard Schulze opened a handful of stores which would eventually morph into the Best Buy franchise. Home Depot started in 1978 in California and the first Costco opened its doors in Seattle in 1983. But again, the success of these franchises relied upon the willingness of executives and managers to be adaptable and change with evolving consumer tastes and methods of shopping. One big box store which of course failed to adapt was Toys R Us which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after drowning in billions of dollars in debt for years. Analysts blamed a stagnant business model, poorly-run stores and an inability or unwillingness to stay current in a competitive marketplace.
Niche & Boutique Stores
Niche stores like Pet Value have been around since the 1970’s and have over 900 brick and mortar stores in North America. People shop here for their pets and the business model manages to fend-off low-price competitors like Wal-Mart by giving each outlet a small, friendly, caring environment, where dogs are allowed to shop with their people and even get a bath and blow-dry for a super-affordable price–around $10. Scented shampoos, fluffy towels and even complimentary dog treats are provided without extra cost. And like big box stores, Pet Valu has integrated an online presence and digital advertising into their business model.
Of course infomercials and TV shopping are billion dollar industries that have paved the way for digital sales and thus digital marketing. The existence of The Shopping Channel & QVC with Lori Greiner as well as the passion of legends like Ron Popeil and Billy Mayes continue to allow people to buy at home and have the product arrive at their door. When Billy Mayes passed away in 2009 his death was a featured news topic in almost every major publication.
So Where Should You Spend Your Marketing Dollars?
Any business–large or small–obviously has a finite budget with which to market themselves. Should they purchase magazine newspaper ads, billboards or focus solely online? As we’ve outlined, the trend towards online business models and thus online marketing is both tangible and undeniable. Traditional ads don’t allow you to make last minute changes in content or style. A billboard or a TV commercial will stay the way it is–if your pitch person gets into a scandal or your inventory runs dry, you either have to stick with the ad you paid for or pull it completely (at a loss). Traditional marketing is also far more expensive than digital. And with traditional ads, it’s nearly impossible to verify if the campaign was successful or not.
Digital advertising, on the other hand, has numerous perks and advantages. Given the current state of the economy and the tough spot many businesses now find themselves in, digital advertising just makes sense–if only from a cost standpoint. Nowadays, more than 80% of shoppers research a product or service online prior to handing-over their credit cards, anyway. Almost 60% of adults use Facebook on a regular basis, 94% of B2B marketers are consistently using Linkedin as part of their marketing campaigns, as of 2019, mobile accounts for over 70% of digital ad spending. And finally, 90% of B2C businesses report social media as being the most effective content marketing tactic.
So if your business is smaller, mid-sized or massive in scale, it’s critical to understand the convenience, effectiveness and relative affordability of digital marketing. To go old-school and avoid digital marketing is to do so at your own peril. In the age of millennial shoppers and COVID-19, skipping-out on online advertising is a risky proposition for your marketing campaign–and ultimately your business.