How can small businesses adapt their marketing strategy to current challenges?

As non-essential shops re-open, Jacqueline Bourke, director, creative Insights, EMEA at iStock, shares her advice for marketers to adapt their marketing strategy.

Shops and cafes on a high street.

With the Federation of Small Businesses predicting that a quarter of a million small businesses (SMBs) could fold in the next 12 months, a sound marketing strategy is even more crucial now than ever.

Despite this grim prediction, SMBs can count on UK consumers’ support. A recent survey conducted by iStock to show consumers’ perception towards small businessesrevealed that more than half (54%) of UK shoppers believe that it’s important to support small and local businesses.

The challenge faced by small businesses is to convert those supporters into loyal shoppers. Indeed, our survey also revealed that only 35% of respondents who said it was important to support small businesses actually made a change to their shopping behaviour in order to do so.

As COVID restrictions are slowly being lifted throughout the country and a more normal life is hopefully in sight, SMBs need to capitalise on this consumer support. Based on the research from our Creative team, and the insights from Visual GPS – our insight’s platform which looks at the key factors affecting purchasing decision making and the visuals to which consumers respond to best – here are three marketing tips that can be implemented as restrictions are lifted.

Use smart targeting and personalisation 

Younger consumers are particularly passionate about supporting the local economy. Our survey found that the vast majority (77%) of UK Millennials, who have increasingly shopped with small businesses, have done so because they want to actively make a contribution and support them.

To successfully target Millennials, SMBs should prioritise video and image adverts on social media. 40% of respondents stated that video adverts influence their decision making when considering which brands to purchase from, and 44% said the same for picture adverts on social media. Small businesses should ensure these channels are activated and populated with relevant visual content, including the use of short video format, to successfully target this age group.

Consider the right content that will resonate with your audience

Sustainability is one important area of concern for consumers. Our survey found that almost a third (31%) of UK respondents stated that they would like to see more content from brands on this topic. In particular, visuals are an effective way of demonstrating a company’s commitment towards sustainability.

A good approach is to focus on visuals that emphasise the actions and approach taken by the business to be more sustainable in their business model and how they are supporting their customers to make sustainable choices with their purchasing power. This could include highlighting products which are sourced locally, weaving in visuals which show their sustainable packaging or depicting their recycling polices.

Reflect your consumers’ values and promote inclusivity 

Almost a quarter (23%) of UK consumers are more likely to shop with small or local shops if they see their values reflected. Our Visual GPS research showed that six in ten people globally prefer to buy from brands that are founded by or represent people like themselves.

In order to create inclusive advertising, we have outlined seven key communities which should be considered: Race & Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Bodies, Ability, Age and Religion. Keeping these seven communities in mind will help businesses create communications which promote greater inclusivity and belonging.

Consumers are more conscious of brand purpose and values than ever before and are actively looking to support small businesses. SMBs have a great opportunity to capitalise on consumers’ goodwill through a thoughtful and effective marketing strategy to drive sales and loyalty.

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