Women-owned businesses go digital to attract customers post-lockdown

woman business owner using phone on escalator

Small business survival over the past year has hinged on resilience, with many owners and entrepreneurs embracing digital solutions to navigate the fallout from COVID-19 restrictions. 

Shirley Yuan, who runs a Sydney-based jewellery store Shirley and Owen, was one such business owner who had to close up shop for three months during the 2020 lockdowns.

But she said that those tough times gave her an opportunity to pick up new skills. 

“I bought a small light room to take photos of my jewellery for my customers. I also learnt a bit of marketing from my daughter. It amazed me that there are so many ways to do advertisements through social media,” she said. 

Yuan is not alone. According to new data from women’s community group Business Chicks, 65% of women business owners have been investing more in online marketing since the pandemic. 

More specifically, around 24% of women business owners are spending more on social media ads. Meanwhile 20% have increased their spend on IT/tech support, 19% on creative/design software, 15% on email marketing, and 7% on their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. Virtual chat/video streaming as well as learning and development have also risen in priority, with 25% and 29% respectively spending more on these areas. 

Out of the survey’s 586 Aussie women participants, nearly a third are now their own bosses. About 13% have started their own business while still working for someone else. 

“Record numbers are now running their own show and looking at ways to expand their business,” Business Chicks’ content and marketing manager, Brion Hunt said. 

“We are seeing a lot of SMEs re-examine their core offering, how they deliver it and how they reach and talk to their clients,” Business Australia’s general manager of content and acquisition, Genevieve Brock added.

“That has prompted [businesses to] re-examine their marketing strategies as well,” she said. 

Tips to elevate your digital marketing 

If you’re looking to grow your customer base online and widen the reach of your products and services, Brock has some tips to help you get started. 

  • Identify your gaps: Amid the flurry of day-to-day operations, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is why it’s important to take a step back every once a while. Identify the key problem you need to solve, whether it’s less sales than usual or a lack of repeat customers. Then look into a possible cause: Have you not been advertising? Is your customer service a problem? Are your products failing to meet changing client needs? 
  • Confirm with data: Once you have an idea of the issue, it’s time to find evidence to support your hypothesis. That could take the form of insights drawn from Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends or social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. It could also mean hosting your own focus group with current or prospective customers to understand whom your business or brand appeals to or doesn’t appeal to and why. 
  • Identify your target audience: While it may be tempting to say your product is for ‘everyone’, figuring out your niche can help focus your marketing so it’s more insightful and personable. 
  • Work out your budget: As with any other business investment, digital marketing will cost money, so you’ll need to also manage the financial side of things. Once you’ve calculated the overall amount you expect to spend, budgeting is a good way to keep track of individual expenses (e.g. paid advertising, sponsored content, a marketing consultant), and to monitor actual performance against projected results over a certain period (e.g. grow traffic by X% or make X% more sales).
  • Find the right channel and tech: Depending on your business, different channels may suit your desired outcome more. Brock gives a few examples: social media can be great for attracting new customers through geo-targeting and demographic insights; SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimisation) is good for converting customers who are close to a purchase decision; while email, messenger and SMS can be powerful tools for driving customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
  • Focus on learnings, not losses: Chances are you won’t get things spot-on on the first try, so A/B testing special offers and other initiatives are valuable in helping you figure out what clicks with your audience the most. Treat any setbacks as a learning lesson, and if you start seeing positive results, repeat those successes and carefully decide when you’re financially ready to scale your marketing.

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