Cyber Monday is just around the corner.
Traditionally, it’s been a once-a-year buying holiday primarily embraced by digital-savvy companies. But this year, Cyber Monday could be a pivotal opportunity to catch up on profits lost during the pandemic.
To be sure, many businesses have already moved toward digitalization out of sheer necessity. Whether or not their employees remained in the office setting, consumers made their preference clear: They wanted contactless, safe buying options from vendors that didn’t traditionally sell online. And they wanted them immediately.
Indeed, customers’ penchant for online shopping has risen, meaning being visible and accessible digitally is even more essential than usual. In fact, 63% of consumers surveyed by Salesforce say their buying habits have been transformed this year. At the same time, nearly 70% said COVID-19 created a heightened overall expectation surrounding companies’ digital offerings. In short, companies that haven’t yet adapted to digital realities and marketplace changes run the risk of becoming inconvenient for customers—or, worse yet, obsolete.
Digitalization advice that is sure to enhance your Cyber Monday (and overall digital strategy)
Despite the undeniable need for change, knowing how to quickly make the move to digital can be daunting. That’s why I connected with some longtime leaders and entrepreneurs to provide best practices and inspiration for organizations like yours. That way, you can take advantage of Cyber Monday—and shifting consumer preferences during this “new normal”—instead of losing the chance to ride those economic waves:
1. Beefing up online operations: Amanda Signorelli, managing partner at Golden Steer Steakhouse
Restaurants were hard hit in the earliest months of COVID-19, and even iconic eateries such as Las Vegas’ Golden Steer Steakhouse weren’t immune. Despite being a famous brand, the 62-year-old tourist hot spot went from seeing thousands of customers walk through its doors monthly to zero.
For Amanda Signorelli, the writing on the wall was clear—she would need to transform the restaurant into an e-commerce company or risk permanent damage. That’s how the Golden Steer Steakhouse came up with a clever, socially distanced solution that morphed sophisticated cuisine with Zoom meetups.
“We reimagined fine dining as a box that could be shipped nationwide,” Signorelli says. “Then, we launched virtual private dining events for B2B customers looking for a genuine and fun alternative to in-person events.” The result was a digital smash that created a symbiotic relationship with the much-loved brand (rather than cannibalizing the steakhouse’s core business when restrictions lifted).
Signorelli recommends other companies stay imaginative but also evaluate suitability using data-driven frameworks and predetermined metrics. “Not everything we tried succeeded,” she admits. Yet she’s quick to add that by testing constantly, she and her team were able to hit the digital selling jackpot without jeopardizing brand quality or credibility.
2. Turning flops into first-class finishes: Sean Cotton, president and co-founder of Coegi
It might sound counterintuitive, but Coegi’s Sean Cotton maintains that blundering and recovering is the answer to thriving in a world that’s becoming more digital by the minute. In fact, being the head of an online marketing agency gives Cotton a unique perspective on the importance of continuously falling down to make progress—and not getting caught up in the weeds. As he cautions, “Analysis paralysis will severely slow down the adoption of digital strategies.” Instead, he suggests failing—and failing fast.
So how did he apply this “cut losses” mentality when COVID-19 hit hardest? “Our company is comprised of digital natives, so the current environment has been much easier for us to adapt to,” he notes. Nevertheless, Coegi made some internal shifts, including adapting to changing consumer behaviors by adopting a digital-first communication, customer engagement, and sales strategy. His staff also put a greater emphasis on encouraging virtual collaboration and teams—preventing a silo effect, which could have brought down morale.
What does Cotton think organizations should do to boost their presence in the digital space for Cyber Monday and beyond? His approach is to build partnerships with and learn from other people and companies that have already succeeded in pivoting—and to fail temporarily on the way to big achievements.
3. Reevaluating the inside to appeal to outsiders: Greg DeLine, founder and CEO of DeLine Holdings
Digital transformation happened almost immediately for the businesses in Greg DeLine’s diverse portfolio. When pandemic closures started, he took the opportunity to make immediate improvements online, including updating their website, scrubbing contact information, revamping their social media presence, and improving the overall user experience for customers.
At the same time, DeLine concentrated on generating better camaraderie and connections among team members. “Since the pandemic began, we have increased our virtual one-on-one meetings, sent daily email updates, and recorded video messages for each other,” he says. By concentrating efforts on keeping everyone in tune, his staff stayed culturally tethered to each other and the business.
And as his company’s internal digital processes became more modernized and centralized, so did his employees’ customer relations. During COVID, they asked for customer feedback, got it, and used it to make sure they were on target to provide unforgettable experiences. And they did it all by working together and thinking of themselves as world-class players.
“Digital transformation isn’t just for large enterprises,” says DeLine. Consequently, he assures other small businesses that they can take steps toward better digitizing their inside work and processes to appeal more strongly to digital-savvy customers no matter what size budget they have.
4. Spreading optimism as an antidote to digital reluctance: Brett Beal, president at DaysToHappy
If Brett Beal believes in anything, it’s the power of positivity. As a result, he urges other executives to expect but not get bogged down by pessimism toward digital changes, including great ones. “Every digital transformation will face heavy resistance,” he admits. Yet he cautions against believing that change can’t happen after initial friction. “Help people first understand the benefits so they can be excited about the change, and then demonstrate an empathy and real understanding of how the change will impact them.”
When COVID-19 hit, Beal’s own company wasn’t immune: Its pipeline shrank. Rather than assuming the worst, he and his team lit up a new digital approach to get in front of potential clients by participating in virtual conferences. This was certainly a major shift for personnel. Nevertheless, team members found inroads to opportunities they might have otherwise missed if they’d waited until the pandemic passed to take action.
Apart from this, the DaysToHappy group rebuilt its website and simplified content to more clearly articulate the company’s brand, mission, and services. As a result, the newly optimized website shows early indications of substantial traffic, conversation, and deal size improvements.
To be sure, the work’s not quite done: Beal plans to continue working with digital marketers to achieve the organization’s purpose of helping 1 billion people be happy. As he explains, “Successful digital transformations strengthen and improve the human experience.” His final advice on embracing digital transformation? Make micro-adjustments based on industry trends and insights—and stay happy.
5. Responding to customers by being what they need: David Murphy, SVP, Valassis Local
David Murphy minces no words when talking about the importance of going digital for small brands: “For many Main Street merchants, including a digital presence has literally made the difference between surviving (and, in some industries, even thriving) and struggling or potentially closing.” To help his clients establish pain-free pivoting, he and his team helped drive in-store and online traffic through a unique blend of complementary print and digital offerings.
But how did Murphy’s employees find the perfect marriage of traditional and online marketing for each customer? They leveraged data and analytics to assist in finding out what those clients’ customers wanted. As Murphy points out, “Adapting your business model to new methods of shopping or reaching your consumers is important.” Small businesses that creatively solved hurdles by leaning on digital solutions like apps, emails, push notifications, and web-based customer loyalty programs fared better than organizations unable to react as rapidly.
As a final recommendation to any business gearing up for Cyber Monday, the holidays, and a bold new year, Murphy recommends emphasizing an omnichannel approach. The more chances for visibility a brand has, the more opportunities to meet customers in real time and bring in real dollars.
No one can change the past. Nevertheless, companies willing to shake off COVID-19’s initial shock and embrace digital transformation might emerge winners beyond their wildest expectations.
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