The Future of Digital Marketing: Five Trends to Seize a Small Business Opportunity

Jameson General Store was a historic treasure in the small North Carolina community. Jim Jameson, the owner, had been a part of the family legacy for over 100 years. The company had seen bad times, including the Great Depression. However, his hard work and the loyalty of his customers had sustained the company’s success.

Even when a neighboring community got their Walmart’s Marketplace store, their customers remained loyal. Jim did not believe in using online advertising and social media platforms. He believed that these activities were just a fad. However, his customers gradually started shopping online because the Jameson General Store’s product offerings were limited.

In fact, most of the business that Jameson Store lost went not to local competitors, but to online sellers. Jim was adamant about resisting the temptation to shop online. However, when he saw his own 10-year-old grandson buying a hard-to-find item online at a significant cost, Jim had to reflect on his current marketing strategy with the changing landscape of the nation.

Today’s customers can purchase a variety of items online with minimal effort. Faced with this scenario, physical companies are struggling to stay alive with the fierce competition of the Internet. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Square and Mercury Analytics that analyzed 1,164 US business owners, the following observations were made:

  • 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their lifetime, 80% in the last month alone.
  • 51% of Americans prefer to shop online.
  • 67% of millennials and 56% of Gen X prefer to shop online over in-store.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers spend almost 50% of the time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older counterparts (four hours).
  • 51% of seniors have shopped at markets, 66% at large retail sites, 30% at web stores or independent boutiques, and 44% at category-specific online stores.

Marketers understand the importance of the Internet and how to harness this power effectively. According to, 90% of marketers use social media for their business. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not recognize this fact. Many companies have chosen to bury their heads in the sand in the hope that this “Internet thing” will go away. I did not do it!

In fact, electronic commerce is growing more than 23% per year; however, 46% of US small businesses do not have a website according to research from Square and Mercury Analytics. This article focuses on how small businesses can take advantage of digital marketing to achieve greater success and improve their market opportunities.

Digital marketing should be a tool that every serious small business should use. Digital marketing goes by many names, such as eCommerce marketing, online marketing, and internet marketing. Digital marketing can be defined as “the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers”. The key objective is to promote brands in the use of the Internet.

Digital marketing extends beyond Internet marketing to include channels that do not require the use of the Internet. Some digital marketing channels include websites, social media platforms, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), blogs, podcasts, and online advertising to name a few. Beyond technological tricks, companies must know their customers and their core competencies. Digital marketing is not a panacea. Digital marketing is a tool for the savvy business professional.

Catherine Juan, Donnie Greiling and Catherine Buerkle, authors of Internet Marketing: From Start to Finish, suggest that effective digital marketing requires a lot of careful planning. They add: “The heart of getting real traction from your Internet marketing program is to link marketing and sales data, with metrics. Track what you’re doing, track impact, and track sales.” resulting”. Looking at the technology and innovation landscape on the internet, small businesses should think strategically about the following five digital marketing trends:

Artificial intelligence – Some people develop elaborate doomsday scenarios of machines to control the world. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a way of life in marketing. AI can be defined as “the theory and development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence”. Voice-activated technology like Amazon’s Echo is drawing public attention to AI. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchases without interacting with a person.

Internet search – Buyers are more informed than ever with Internet access. In fact, 81% of shoppers do research online before making a big purchase. Therefore, exploring how to use search engine optimization and get your business to the top of searches is an invaluable step.

Mobile Communications – Most Americans have grown accustomed to instant gratification and easy access to technology. Mobile and tablet e-commerce will reach $293 billion by 2018. Smartphones and tablets are part of this wave of innovation. Mobile devices will account for 72% of US digital ad spend by 2019. Marketers acknowledge that mobile marketing is an untapped business tool.

Social networks – Social media platforms, like Facebook, allow shoppers to virtually connect with each other. 65% of business-to-business companies have acquired customers through LinkedIn ads. Marketers realize this value.

Web content – Good content will attract customers. In fact, customers are more likely to buy from sellers with good, relevant videos/photos on their website. 52% of marketers globally cite video as the type of content with the best ROI.

Facing competing tenants, small businesses need to use digital marketing. Some small businesses may be hesitant to explore digital marketing due to their lack of trust and understanding of the Internet. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of MarketingManagementnotes: “Major companies are comfortable using technology to improve the way they do business with their customers on a business-to-business basis.”

This article demonstrated that small businesses today can use digital marketing to improve their market opportunities. Hopefully gaining this knowledge will help business owners not continue to bury their heads in the sand. Internet is here to stay. Pray that you are listening to this message.

© 2017 by DD Green

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