Awards & Engraving

October '17

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28 • A&E OCTOBER 2017 E verywhere you look you see people using their phones and tablets to surf the web, look for business con- tact information, or shop for products they need. The vast majority of the population uses the internet to do most of their com- merce these days, whether it's searching Amazon to purchase clothing or utilizing Etsy to sell their homemade gifts. And while it's still common practice to hit the mall or shop at a department store, the age of digital shopping has come on strong… and shouldn't be ignored. As awards retailers, it's important to view this digital competition as something to capitalize on rather than fight. Online retail doesn't have to kill your physical busi- ness—in fact, the internet world can work in your favor. For those who haven't wan- dered into the web arena yet, or for those looking to expand their digital presence, there are many ways to take on the online "competition"—you just need to know how to make it work for you. EMBRACE THE COMPETITION First and foremost, it's important to not be afraid to embrace the digital world. It may seem like fierce competition, but it doesn't need to be. In fact, when executed correctly, a strong digital presence will help small brick-and-mortar shops compete against sites like Etsy or even Amazon. "If you are scared about the digital age, don't be," says Aaron Montgomery, 2 Regular Guys and MontCo Consulting. "It is the same if not easier than how business was done 30 to 40 years ago." The main aspect he points out is to not solely focus on what the competition is doing, but instead to focus on your own company. And in the case of online business, you can even make the competition part of your own plan. "Think about Amazon. They sell pretty much anything, and their products are easily accessible for most people," says Peggy Waters, Unisub. "Many people think that it's easier and less expensive to buy products on sites like Amazon than it is to go to a physical location. That's why it's helpful to have a (web presence) so people can find you." In order to beat the online competition, you have to join it. And if you haven't yet taken advantage of a digital presence, it's time to do so. "The majority of today's consumers are making purchasing decisions based on research from the internet regardless of when and where they wind up making their final deci- sion and placing the order," states Kelly "Rags" Ragland, Rags to Stitches Produc- tions. "Pew Research reported in December 2016 that eight of 10 consumers are now purchasing primarily online." In other words, online retailers will prove to be fierce competition if you aren't in the game. SET UP YOUR SITE There are a lot of different avenues to take when jumping into the online world. Knowing where to start can be tough. If you aren't sure, the best and most basic place to begin is with your own website. "To be successful, you need to be where your target market can see and interact with you, so having a website is critical to that success," emphasizes Waters. "A website CHALLENGE ACCEPTED Meeting the Challenge of Online Competition By Cassie Green MARKETING TECHNIQUES: ONLINE AND PHYSICAL MARKETING GO HAND-IN-HAND By Peggy Waters, Unisub What are some techniques businesses can employ that keep their physical and online presence working hand-in-hand? Try pro- moting these physical events online: • Open houses • Store events • Sidewalk sales • Drawings/contests • In-store redeemable coupons • Tie online purchases to in- store pickup • Host a "shop local" day, either the national one or local event • Promote events on social media lends credibility, and it can enhance your company's reputation as an established and professional business." Since the majority of people are using the web to compare busi- nesses and find contact information, having a professional and well-put-together website places you high among your competition. It's easy to set up a basic website, according to Montgomery. First, keep in mind that it isn't necessary to hire a profes- sional to do so, depending on your situ- ation. "Using a tool like WordPress, you can quickly get a site up and keep it up to

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