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How to Thrive Digitally Post-Pandemic

A Comprehensive Guide to Digital for Businesses in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of life as we know it, from our health and healthcare systems to our social lives, mental health, and economy. The result is a world turned upside down, with fear and uncertainty permeating many of our personal, professional, and business decisions. Businesses will either thrive or falter, depending on the actions they take now.

People who have otherwise operated offline have been forced to embrace digital technology, and recent research suggests that consumer shopping habits adopted during the pandemic will stick long-term.

What does this mean for your business? It depends.

If your company can adopt a lean, startup mentality, implement new digital technologies, and connect with customers online, you’ll likely emerge more successful than you were pre-pandemic. On the other hand, businesses who sit and wait for things to “go back to normal” will be left behind in the dust of competitors who act first.

Post-pandemic, digital is the new normal.

The goal of this guide is to help answer some of the most commonly asked questions about how businesses should utilize digital technology moving forward, and to serve as a general digital survival guide during and after this economically-precarious time.

If you have questions, feel overwhelmed about where to start, or just want to say hello, feel free to contact us directly at any point. Otherwise, enjoy the guide!

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The Post-Pandemic Digital Survival Guide

Adopt a startup mentality

illustration portraying startup mentality

If ever there was a time to innovate, it’s now. While innovation is the natural startup mindset, legacy companies often cling to the status quo to minimize risk at all costs. While the risk-averse mindset may have worked pre-pandemic, the current climate demands the boldness of a startup culture. In other words, your business’s survival depends on your willingness and ability to innovate at speed. This requires collaboration, agility, and openness among all team members, starting with management.

If your company could benefit by being more nimble, try some of the following:

  • Learn about and implement a Lean Startup Methodology.
  • Set up brainstorming sessions with top talent from different departments in your company. Ask each person to formulate and share 1-3 creative ideas on how to generate more revenue.
  • Remember that negativity is the biggest roadblock to creativity and innovation. Don’t shut down new ideas just because they’re outside of your comfort zone.
  • Give your employees autonomy in testing out new ideas and practices. If someone wants to take initiative to help better the company, let them take charge!
  • Find creative ways to reduce overhead and expenses; do more with less.
  • Don’t shy away from quick pivots if something isn’t working. Accept failures as valuable data to inform new efforts.

Evaluate your current web presence

illustration portraying web presence

Screen time is at an all-time high. If you’ve let your online presence stagnate for a while because offline sales were stable, now is the time to make updates. If your website or social media profiles don’t accurately reflect who you are and the value you offer, then you’re not giving customers what they want. Within seconds of landing on your website or social profiles, users should know exactly what you do, and target customers should feel confident that they’re in the right place. The improvements you make now will pay off tenfold once the economy kicks back into gear.

To figure out whether your business is positioned to thrive online, ask yourself the following questions. Ideally, you should be able to answer yes to each.

Does your copy clearly and concisely state your primary offering and value proposition?

If you’re unsure, put yourself in the position of your target. Within seconds of visiting your website, will they know exactly what you offer? If not, it’s time to rethink your copy. Work and re-work your copy until you’ve boiled your offering down to its simplest form, avoiding jargon and gimmicky sales-speak.

Do your visuals and imagery work together with copy to communicate who you are as a brand?

If you’re unsure, put yourself in the shoes of your targets. Assuming that your copy is clear and concise, your visuals should act as direct support to your messaging. If you’re selling a product, you should have multiple images of it — ideally in a setting that resonates with your customers. If you’re selling a service, you can use icons, symbols, or lifestyle photos to solidify your main points.

Does your website offer the necessary technology for prospects to easily convert?

Again, put yourself in the mindset of your customer. Customers want and expect easy, breezy shopping experiences. If you want customers to book an appointment, you should allow them to do so through your website. If you want to influence customers to buy a bundle of products, then you should have the functionality to group different SKUs together so you can mix and match bundles. The goal here is always simplicity and ease. If your goal is to get someone to take an action that’s possible to take online, then your website should make it easy to do so.

Do you directly answer all of your customers’ most common questions?

This point is often overlooked. Customers are coming to your website because they need your product or service. It’s your duty to answer the questions that stop them from converting by addressing the potential fears or hangups they have about purchasing. FAQ pages are great for this, as they provide a simple format to answer questions directly. If a customer is deciding between you or a competitor, they’re going to choose the company that presents itself as the authority, which means that you can’t shy away from addressing the tough questions.

Prioritize website optimizations

illustration portraying website optimization

People are using the web more than ever. If sales have been slow and it’s not because you’re offline, it may boil down to visibility (i.e., can customers find your website on Google?) or usability (i.e., once customers land on your website, is it easy to navigate?). Any website optimizations you make should focus on visibility, usability, or both. If you’re looking for a two-for-one deal, implementing a content strategy can achieve more search engine visibility and a better user experience. A content strategy simply means writing helpful blogs, creating relevant videos, and making sure your web copy is direct, concise, engaging, and informative. 

If you’re looking to optimize your website, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer no to any of these questions, that’s a great starting point:

Do you know what keywords your prospects are searching for?

If not, keyword research is your friend. There are tons of free, online tools to conduct some preliminary keyword research. Ideally, you should conduct keyword research for each of your products so you can optimize your product descriptions to include the most relevant keywords and search phrases.

Have you set up Google Analytics tracking, heat maps, or A/B tests?

Testing is key to your success online. At the minimum, you should add Google Analytics tracking to your website so you can see which pages are getting the most traffic, and which pages have high bounce rates. Similarly, there are plenty of heat map tools that can show you specifically where on each page your users are spending their time; heat maps are a great place to start if you’re considering making design updates. Lastly, A/B tests consist of changing one variable on a page and measuring its success compared to the original page. Again, a quick Google search will help you find lots of tools that make A/B testing very simple.

Is your website responsive or optimized for mobile devices?

This is a big one because people spend most of their online time on mobile devices. Visit your website from your smartphone. Is it easy to use? If you have to zoom in to be able to read the copy, you have a problem. Similarly, if the checkout process is glitchy from your mobile device, you better believe that people won’t purchase from you. The best way to optimize your website for mobile is to work with a web design and development team. Otherwise, you may end up with a website that’s even less functional than the one you started with.

Does your website have multiple, clear calls-to-action (CTAs)?

Providing information about what you offer is essential, but it’s just as important that you directly call users to take action. Your CTAs should stand out on your website, whether through their color, size, or amount of space around them. Additionally, your CTA copy should clearly ask users to take action; there should be no question about what you’re asking them to do next.

Prepare for pent-up demand

illustration portraying pent-up demand

Demand is going to increase once the economy kicks back into gear, and businesses that can handle the sudden rush of incoming customers will be the ones that enjoy a full recovery. The companies that don’t have the infrastructure in place to support increased demand will lose out to better-prepared competitors.

Here are some ways your business can prepare for increased demand post-pandemic:

  • Make sure your website and hosting solutions support spikes in traffic. Nothing will give your competitors a more significant edge than your inability to support a traffic rush.
  • Optimize your checkout process for quick and easy conversions. This means that the entire shopping process must be smooth, from initial browsing to checkout. You should also offer multiple payment options. Anything that currently gets in the way of or delays purchases must be removed or optimized.
  • Make sure your inventory is in-sync with your website; the last thing you want is to disappoint customers by processing orders you can’t fulfill.
  • Get your customer service team prepared and organized ASAP. We recommend integrating with a third-party customer service platform, like Zendesk, if you haven’t already. This will allow you to better manage your customer service team and solve potential issues faster.
  • Educate your sales team on your customers’ current needs and stressors, so they’re prepared to answer any new questions or concerns. Additionally, make sure you provide your sales team with all the necessary collateral to follow up with new prospects.

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Implement new sales channels

illustration portraying new sales channels

Business will be forever changed by the pandemic, as consumers of all ages have shifted to making regular online transactions. Companies should embrace this change in the market by incorporating new, digital sales channels. Accept that your customers’ past buying habits will likely not reflect their new buying habits, and make it a priority to adapt accordingly.

If you’ve yet to branch out to selling online, or have only done so in a limited capacity, try incorporating some of the following:

Add ecommerce functionality to your website

You can do this by working with a web development agency (like us!), manage it in-house, or you can ask someone like your tech-savvy nephew to do it. Spoiler alert: only one of these solutions usually works long term.

Allow customers to pay invoices directly through your website

This seems simple enough, yet it’s often neglected because its value is underestimated. Think about how much time you will save your customers if you allow them to pay their invoices online. It’s a simple website addition that will lead to timelier payments and happier clients.

Take advantage of social commerce

By social commerce, we mean selling products directly on social media platforms. You can do this by integrating with Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram Shopping. This will allow your followers to make purchases without ever leaving their social media feeds.

Get on Amazon

If you’ve ever used the internet, then you know Amazon runs the ecommerce space. You can set up an Amazon storefront, or, if that feels like too much of a commitment, you can start by listing your most popular products to gauge interest. It’s relatively easy to list your products once you learn your way around Amazon’s seller platform.

Partner up with complementary businesses

A great way to increase revenue is to work within a network of industry-relevant businesses that promote each other's products and services. This can be as simple as sharing about each other on social media, or as complex as integrating each other’s products on your websites. You can also get creative with how to compensate each other, whether through referral commissions or even revenue sharing. 

Tap into social media

illustration portraying social media

People are spending more time on social media than ever before. Consumers use social media primarily as a source of entertainment, meaning that they’re much more engaged on social media than on other mediums. Social media allows your business to capture attention in a way that feels as organic as stumbling on a new product while browsing in a store. The goal is to use social media to keep your business top of mind for current customers, as well as to introduce you to new prospects casually.

If you’re late to the social media party, it’s never too late to start. Here are some basic ways you can use social media to elevate your brand:

Be social on social media

Make sure you interact with other accounts via comments, likes, and reposts. There’s nothing worse than a business account that’s antisocial on social media. When you interact with other accounts and users, you allow your brand to cultivate new relationships. This also means that you should reply to or “like” any comments on your posts, especially if you receive any negative feedback. Every social media interaction is another opportunity to positively position your brand and publicly respond to upset customers, which can turn a bad situation into a good one, allowing other customers to see how you handle these situations.

Invest time into new relationships

Don’t be afraid to take relationship-building to the next level by direct messaging other businesses or influencers. One-on-one conversations typically yield stronger relationships as long as your outreach is perceived as authentic. While relationship-building isn’t a quick fix, real relationships become priceless in the long haul. Social media is ripe for building new connections.

Invest in your content strategy

If you use your social media account for constant promotion, people will tune out and lose interest. Instead, implement a content strategy that provides a solid mix of helpful, entertaining, and engaging content based on your targets’ interests. While a solid content strategy takes some time to implement, it’s worth the investment for long-term customer engagement, loyalty, and brand exposure.  You may ask, “Where do I start”? That’s a great question and we’ve found over the years that if you start by answering your customers questions in an honest way, this is the best recipe to develop authentic content to your customers, while also building keyword-rich content for your website.

Embrace digital advertising

illustration portraying digital advertising

We’ve already established that your customers are online, in large part because of the months-long stay-at-home orders that necessitated a sweeping embrace of digital technology. It’s no longer a question of if your customers are online, but where online? A simple way to locate your customers online is to test out targeted ad campaigns on a few digital platforms. You don’t need to start with a ton of budget either; you can start testing ads for as little as $10/day. Be sure to do some upfront research, as this will help you decide where to start.

However — and this point cannot be stressed enough — test only one variable at a time. Let’s say you start running an ad campaign and after a few weeks you’re not getting much traction. It’s tempting to scratch the whole thing and start over out of frustration, but that’s a mistake. If you change your audience targeting, copy, and imagery all at once, then you won’t know which variables made the biggest impact on conversions, and you’ll still be left guessing. Instead, when you create a new campaign, you should change any ONE of those variables. This way, you can gather direct evidence for what is and is not working.

Once you’ve collected a few weeks of data, being careful to test just one variable at a time, you’ll be able to determine which platforms are worth continued investment. Digital ads have been hugely successful for many of our clients once we identified the right platform, targeting, and messaging. The secret to successful digital advertising is testing, testing, and more testing!

If you’re new to digital advertising, here are a few great avenues to jumpstart your efforts:

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine ads (otherwise known as “paid search,” “PPC,” and “SEM”) are the first results that appear when a user types something into a search engine. They look like regular search results, but include the word “ad” or “sponsored.” Paid search ads allow you to promote your product or service on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo when users search for keywords relevant to your business. Depending on your industry keywords, prices can go up or down; there’s a ton of variability, which is why it’s so crucial to do keyword research upfront. However, when search ads are done right, they can yield incredible return on investment.

Social Media Advertising

Social ads are another great avenue for digital advertising. Unlike search ads, social ads are designed to reach your intended audience based on precise targeting. The first and most crucial step is defining your audience types — the best creative won’t yield results if you’re targeting the wrong people. Once you get your targeting on point, you can play around with different copy, content, and visuals to see what yields the best results. Once again, make sure you test one variable at a time. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself starting from scratch over and over again, wondering what went wrong. We typically recommend starting with Facebook and/or Instagram, but LinkedIn, Youtube, Reddit, TikTok, and Pinterest can also be lucrative advertising platforms.

Amazon Advertising

Similar to search ads, Amazon ads are based on keywords. If your product is part of a highly-saturated market, you can expect to pay more for premium ad placements. On the other hand, if you offer a niche product, you can expect to pay less for more exposure. Whenever you’re dealing with keyword-led advertising avenues, creativity is your friend. You can essentially own certain search queries if you can locate keywords or phrases that your competitors have missed. If you discover a keyword or phrase that seems like a great fit but notice that you’re not getting traction, it’s probably because it’s more relevant to another product. It’s essential to continuously monitor your Amazon ads so you can optimize to deliver the greatest return.

Influencer Advertising

When you think about digital advertising, you likely don’t consider influencers because their ads appear much less structured and more “natural” than traditional ads. However, influencer advertising can be a massively useful tool if you connect with the right influencers and provide them with the right information. As always, do your research, because it will require an investment depending on the size of the influencer’s following. Within minutes, you should know whether or not an influencer’s audience includes your target demographic based on their content and comments. Once you reach an agreement with an influencer on price and exposure, it’s imperative that you provide precise direction on how you want them to position and present your brand and product. This also applies to podcast advertising, as many podcast hosts are influencers in their own right. The key is making sure that their audience matches yours, and then crafting an engaging message.

Dedicate budget to digitization (especially if you’re B2B)

illustration portraying digitization

The businesses that will come out on top post-pandemic are those willing to make the upfront investment in digital. This may mean initially shifting resources to re-allocate them to digital, but doing so is key in helping you come ahead of your competition. Many B2B businesses have experienced slowdowns due to the current pandemic, and as a whole, B2B companies tend to lag in digitization when compared to B2C businesses.

Take advantage of the slow down; it’s the perfect time to focus efforts on making a digital transformation that will help your business shine during and after the economy picks up.

If you’re not sure where to start, think about incorporating some of the following:

Build out a new or updated website (whether ecommerce or not) — especially if you are a B2B business.

Again, the B2B industry is ripe for technological innovation because more often than not, B2B clients need your products or services in order to do their jobs. Anything that makes your clients’ lives easier is worth investing in, and that often starts with adding new website functionality, tools, or visualization configurators. If your competitors haven’t invested in creating a seamless web experience yet, there is even more opportunity to increase your market share.

Integrate with third-party applications to automate tasks and streamline operations

Time is money. If your employees are spending time on tedious tasks that can be accomplished faster and more accurately by incorporating new technology, then it’s time to make the switch. By automating daily admin tasks or using digital technology to streamline back-office operations, you allow your employees to be more productive. There are so many different platforms and tools you can use to do this, so it’s crucial to do your research as it will require an initial investment. If you don’t know where to start, we can recommend some integrations based on your immediate needs.

Invest in building a digital ecosystem to harness all of your data

If you’re running a business without utilizing your data, you are missing out on substantial growth opportunities. Many companies use a blend of different platforms and integrations to keep business running smoothly, but only a few sync their applications to produce richer data and insights. By investing in a system that blends your data to provide actionable insights, you are paving the way for your company’s future as a digital powerhouse.

Enrich the shopping experience with tools to increase efficiency

If you’re a B2B business, your primary purpose is to help other companies. Digital technology allows this to extend beyond your products or services by offering value through an enhanced digital experience. Even if your clients have been loyal for years, within the next 10-15 years, the workforce will be made primarily of people who’ve been using technology since childhood. These digital natives will not hesitate to switch over to a company that makes the procurement process easier, faster, or more engaging. We have found that the best way to decide which digital tools or enhancements will add value to your customers’ lives is to conduct surveys or focus groups. You will often find that your customers are hungry for more advanced web functionality.


 

Most of the information in this guide is applicable for forward-thinking businesses at any point in time, but the current economic downturn presents an unprecedented opportunity to make a huge impact on the future of your business. If you’ve been hesitant to fully utilize digital technology to grow your company — whether because it seems overwhelming, confusing, or expensive — now is the time to invest.

If this guide has been helpful to you, please share it! And, if you have any questions at all, please contact us directly. We promise not to try to sell you anything unless you want us to. The goal of this guide is to give you a solid starting place for your journey into digital.

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