Over the past two years, we’ve seen the importance of providing at least partial online service. However, not all business types are conducive to an eCommerce ecosystem. Their service model varies, and so do their marketing requirements. While some digital marketing strategies work for both online business marketing and brick-and-mortar businesses, your approach and methods can vary.

Online Business Marketing vs Brick and Mortar: What’s the Difference?

Both Need SEO, But With Different Priorities

Online businesses depend on SEO for brand awareness, traffic, and sales. Brick and mortar companies benefit from these things also, but to a lesser extent. They can use online platforms like websites and email for outreach, offers, and engagement, but these are less vital for their life’s blood than local SEO.

An online store should prioritize:

  • On-page SEO
  • Inbound marketing
  • Content marketing
  • PPC advertising

If you own a brick-and-mortar business, make sure you have the Internet marketing basics down:

  • Your website is optimized
  • Your physical address and contact information are prominently displayed
  • Your business profiles are completely filled in and updated on Google My Business, Yelp, and other business search engines and review platforms

Geolocation is Also a Consideration

This might seem obvious on its face. Online businesses are generally open 24/7/365. Physical locations are bound by both time and geography. This not only effects reach, it also impacts strategy.

An online business can highlight availability and provide more comprehensive, real-time customer support. Depending on the type of product or service, they can also reach beyond borders and tap into unexplored or under served markets. This means that their advertising should reflect convenience, speed, and availability. They should also be mindful of different cultures during outreach and marketing. There’s more competition online, so they need to differentiate themselves from competitors. What do you bring to the table that they don’t?

Unless they’re a chain or part of a well-known franchise, physical businesses are forced to concentrate their efforts within their geographic service area. That means raising awareness both online and in the real world. While it’s unlikely that they’ll have an associate sitting by the phone or behind a desk at all hours, they can make up for this by adding a chatbot to their website, being active on social media, and with responsive email support.

Like online stores, brick and mortar shops still have to cope with high competition unless they’re in a niche. However, their customer base is smaller and restricted to people within driving or walking distance. That means digital marketing should highlight specific value propositions, point out benefits like convenience in terms of location or operating hours, and price their products competitively.

Personalization is a Key Factor in Conversions

Despite the convenience of shopping online, you just can’t beat the ability to touch and try a product before you buy it. It’s also nice to experience some good, old fashioned customer service with an actual person rather than a faceless technology.

Marketing a physical store should involve a mix of traditional and digital marketing. You can emphasize the convenience of your location and the ability to check out the merchandise in person. Prime the consumer before they shop at your store by optimizing your website with value-added features like a company blog, newsletters, and images or video of your shop, staff, and real customers. Offer in-store discounts and flash sales, and use text messaging and social media to promote them.

Online businesses can make up for lack of in-person benefits by personalizing the online shopping experience. Make product suggestions based on previous purchase or online activity. Engage with them on social media. Flash sales and discounts also work very well in this environment, so add them to the front page of your website and promote them on all of your platforms.

Provide an opportunity for them to “try” your product with features like an online catalog and images that can be zoomed and viewed from multiple angles, or virtual fitting rooms so customers can see how your product will look on them. Make sure to list the dimensions and other specs so people will know exactly what they’re getting. Offer free trials or samples.

Both types of business will benefit by encouraging online reviews, offering perks like discounts and free shipping, creating robust service pages, and providing customer education features like relevant how-to videos and tutorials.

The Customer Journey is Different

When a customer visits a shop in their neighborhood, their most likely ready to buy. Unless they’re window shopping, the only things that will turn them away are high prices, lack of selection, and poor service.

Online customers have a much longer conversion funnel. They need awareness first. Then, they’re going to research various companies and products before visiting a website. Even then, they may not be ready to purchase.

Whether your customers are walking into your store, checking you out online first, or conducting all of their shopping in the virtual world, knowing where they are in their journey and meeting them there makes all of the difference.

Which Business Model is Best for Your Company?

The best answer is “Why not both?” However, it does depend on the type of business. An online plumber really won’t be much help when you’re knee-deep in water. However, that plumber will add value and generate more business by creating a web presence through effective digital marketing. An eCommerce shop can still generate awareness and good will by interacting with the public – creating live events and promotions that get their audience engaged.

Digital marketing is most effective when it’s flexible enough to work on multiple channels, targets the right audience, and connects with them on a personal level.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the physical location of your company, creating an effective online presence is essential. Customers will research products and companies online before ever making a contact, and local companies increasingly rely on local SEO.

That makes digital marketing essential for any company that wants to remain competitive and viable. Working with a digital marketing specialist from Level343 will provide you with marketing expertise and experience that’s tailored to your company.