It’s been a year since Canada’s first pandemic lockdown, when many small businesses shifted online to reach customers and sell products in new ways. We’ve all learned a lot this year, including that many online consumer behaviours will stick — which means many of the digital strategies businesses have implemented will remain.
In January, new research conducted by Maru/Matchbox on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), found that a year after lockdown, reaching customers online tops the list of business priorities.1 The research also shows that over one third of small business owners say selling online has been essential to survival through the pandemic.2 And it looks like this trend will be here to stay — 48% of small businesses say they will stick with e-commerce after the pandemic ends.
Yet 40% of these businesses say attracting customers online will be their greatest challenge.3 As a result, small businesses are looking for new ways to strengthen their digital strategies and stay competitive with other e-commerce sites. Here are ways small businesses can focus on growing their online presence and their customer base in 2021.
Assess online channels and build on e-commerce foundations
If last year’s strategy focused on getting online, this year’s should be about growing online. Companies should build on e-commerce foundations built last year and continuously assess the strength of their online presence.
Grow My Store, recently relaunched with new features, is a free tool that can give you a clear picture of the state of your site, how it stands up against competitors, and suggests new ways to offer frictionless customer experiences. CFIB has also partnered with Digital Main Street to offer a free webinar series focused on digital marketing and introduction to e-commerce.
Find new opportunities to attract customers online
While only 1 in 4 small business owners say they are sticking with e-commerce because it has been a success for their business already, the top reasons to sell online post-pandemic are about potential. Almost half say it will drive growth and revenue,4 and a third say it will enhance their competitiveness and ultimately be the future for their business.5
Last year’s shift online has allowed Canadian retailers to connect with consumers in new markets, and get their products in front of new customers. Explore tools and resources to continue growing business online and build digital skills at Google for Small Business.
Future-proof e-commerce business strategies
This year, businesses can focus on future-proofing strategies by making digital maintenance a regular part of their routine. Almost half of small businesses selling online plan to prioritize e-commerce because it drives revenue and growth.6 There are many free tools and resources available to help grow and advance digital marketing skills, including certification from the Google Analytics Academy and Google Skillshop courses.
Businesses that haven't yet moved online could qualify for Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program to get one-to-one support to build, launch, and manage your online store.
By continuing to build on the e-commerce momentum of last year, connecting with new customers and looking beyond the pandemic, Canadian small businesses can continue to be ready for new challenges that arise.