COVID-19 Digital Solutions Checklist for Hawaii Businesses: View tips and resources to emerge stronger

Digital Solutions Checklist for Hawaii Businesses

We are Hawaii. We are in this together.

As a member of the aio Hawaii family of companies, we are committed to Hawaii. While the impacts of COVID-19 in our community are wide and significant, there are powerful digital solutions local businesses can leverage immediately in this new normal.

To support our local community during this time, we have compiled some of these digital tools and tactics into the digital solutions checklist below.

This list is by no means exhaustive and will continue to evolve with our local business environment. As each business is unique, some of these digital tactics will be more applicable for your business than others. However, we hope it provides actionable guidance, inspires collaboration, and empowers Hawaii businesses.

Should you need further assistance, you may also contact us.

Digital Solutions Checklist

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  • 1) Use Data to Understand Your Customers

    Use Data to Understand Your Customers

    Identify, analyze, and connect with your customer groups with content that’s most relevant to them.

    Start by defining your primary target customer segments. If you’re able to leverage data to do so, that’s ideal. Sources of data may include:

    • Your customer relationship management tool and/or point-of-sale system
    • Your website’s Google Analytics
    • Your social media (Facebook and Instagram) analytics and insights
    • Social media post — engagements and comment sentiments

    Each customer segment will generally be defined by a combination of:

    • Customer goals (ex: purchase of a specific service or product category)
    • Purchase behavior or history (ex: prospective customer, new customer, repeat customer, inactive, wholesale vs. retail, etc.
    • Customer characteristics — age range, location, language, family status, career type, interests, device usage, etc.

    You will generally start to see patterns across these customer segment characteristics. For example you may notice that your customers most interested in x and y products, generally learn about your business through friends or social media, often also purchase z product, and tend to respond well to your email campaigns that highlight sale items.

    This “persona” for this customer segment should be used to inform the kind of content that should be created for them, the marketing platforms and tactics that should be used to reach and attract them, and the sort of commerce experience that needs to be delivered to convert them. Your initial investment in defining and understanding your customers will enable you to reach and service them more effectively going forward.

  • 2) eCommerce — Serve Your Customers Online

    eCommerce — Serve Your Customers Online

    Whether you’re a local business with a limited eCommerce presence or a brick-and-mortar product-based company that had predominantly focused on an in-person store experience, there are a range of platforms out there to help you drive sales online. Below are digital commerce platforms and strategies worth consideration.

    eCommerce Platforms

    Facebook and Instagram
    The social nature of Facebook and Instagram allows you to create an online shopping experience for your existing customers while also being discovered by new customers. When paired with information sharing (posting), engagement, and promotional capabilities, Facebook and Instagram should definitely be part of your eCommerce toolkit if you’re a product-based B2C business.

    In May 2020, Facebook rolled out Facebook Shops, which they’ve promised to make widely available over the following months. Facebook Shops is definitely something worth looking into and setting up if you are a B2C business interested in selling online. Here’s what Facebook is saying about Facebook Shops —

    Facebook Shops make it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram. Creating a Facebook Shop is free and simple. Businesses can choose the products they want to feature from their catalog and then customize the look and feel of their shop with a cover image and accent colors that showcase their brand. This means any seller, no matter their size or budget, can bring their business online and connect with customers wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them.

    People can find Facebook Shops on a business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile, or discover them through stories or ads. From there, you can browse the full collection, save products you’re interested in and place an order — either on the business’ website or without leaving the app if the business has enabled checkout in the US.

    We’re also investing in features across our apps like Instagram Shop, live shopping and more that will be integrated with Facebook Shops to help customers discover products they’re interested in and make purchasing easier.

    While you don’t need a website to utilize Facebook Shops, Facebook is also working with popular online shopping platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and others to help businesses build and grow their Facebook Shops. For example, businesses currently using Shopify to sell online can utilize a plugin that enables the export of their Shopify product catalog to Facebook Shops and Instagram. Plugin installation and setup generally takes a few hours.

    Pinterest
    While not as large as Facebook and Instagram in terms of active users, 93% of Pinterest users use the platform to plan their purchases, making it a platform worthy of consideration especially if your products are visual and appealing to female customers.

    Google shopping actions
    Google has over 1 billion users across all of their platforms. Almost half of product searches begin on Google, and 84% of respondents use Google 3+ times a day or more often.* So getting your business in front of people on Google is a no-brainer, and thanks to Google’s Shopping Actions tools, businesses are able to acquire and convert customers across Google’s surfaces — including Search, Shopping, Assistant, Images, and soon, YouTube. Shopping Actions is commission-based, so businesses only pay when a sale is made. Commissions taken by Google on items sold through Shopping Actions range from 5-15% depending on the product category.

    Google Actions provides sales, customer, and return support, while the merchant handles fulfillment. The Google-backed guarantee adds credibility to your business when new customers consider purchasing. Customers can buy confidently, knowing Google is there to help if they don’t get what they are expecting, their order is late, or they have issues getting a refund. Google also provides its merchants access to data about customers, enabling you to send follow up marketing and grow customer loyalty. This isn’t the case with alternatives like Amazon.

    https://www.oberlo.com/blog/google-search-statistics

    Online marketplaces (ex: Amazon, eBay, Etsy)
    Unlike social media platforms, where the intent is centered around community and connection, and Pinterest, which largely thrives on visual discovery, online marketplaces are directly tied to purchase intent, and they bring millions of shoppers (sort of like a physical shopping center). Amazon is where the other half of product searches typically begin (when not on Google). However, the tradeoff to selling on Amazon and popular marketplaces is the inability to retarget customers off the platform, lack of customization related to the experience and visual design of your online storefront. Amazon charges merchants $0.99 per item sold or $39.99/month regardless of the number of items sold, plus a referral percentage per sale based on product category — generally a percentage or two higher than Google charges.

    Shoppable landing pages
    With platforms like Mailchimp, you can start selling your products without an eCommerce website. However you’ll need to be sure to direct customers to your shoppable landing pages to make purchases via email marketing, social media, and/or digital advertising campaigns.

    Shopify
    Unlike Amazon, which provides immediate exposure but is an aggregated seller marketplace, Shopify allows businesses to build and manage a unique, standalone online store (eCommerce website). If you’re seeking more control over your branding, management, and customer relationship and fulfillment process AND can dedicate resources to marketing to drive people to your online store, Shopify might be the best bet. Basic commerce website platforms like Shopify also generally will include other benefits, such as integration with online marketplaces and social media (including plug-ins for Google Shopping and Facebook Shops), abandoned cart emails, and insightful analytics.

    Online food ordering services
    With fees typically between 15-30% for popular online ordering and delivery services like GrubHub and UberEats, it’s worth exploring alternatives. While the specific solution that makes most sense for your business will depend on your current situation, below are leading online ordering systems to consider, many of which are waiving the first month or two of fees:

    • 9Fold
    • BentoBox
    • ChowNow
    • CloudWaitress
    • Gloria Food
    • iMenu360
    • MenuDrive
    • The Ordering.app
    • Restolabs
    • Skip the Commission

    It’s important to note that the platforms above are not an exhaustive list, nor should they be considered mutually exclusive to each other. You may start with eCommerce on social and then layer in another platform for further reach and capabilities. Assess your needs, your customer needs, and leverage data to guide your strategies.

    eCommerce Strategies

    Loyalty programs and promotions
    Most consumers (57%) say that businesses that offer special deals, coupons, or promo codes for returning customers stand out from the competition. *

    Customer reviews
    Three-quarters of consumers say that having reviews either gives the business a competitive advantage (36%) or is expected (40%). However, only 7% have been asked to write a review of a local business even though 89% are willing to do so if they had a positive experience and were asked. *

    Remember that comments and engagement on social media platforms can also serve as informal reviews, so interacting with your community there is important. Business accounts on Facebook and Google My Business also include reviews, so monitor those closely. Platforms like Yelp are also worth looking into.

    Leverage your best-selling or popular product or content
    If you have a commerce platform with the ability to rotate content, place your top-selling product next to product that’s newer or not as strong. Leverage suggested products features and key placements like your homepage, hero images, and the top of product results or upper third of the page to pair your popular content or product with ones that could use a bit more visibility. For social this means planning your posts so that popular product is featured alongside content you want to promote, ideally either within the same visual or as part of the same post.

    Create and distribute content to communicate relevant information about your business or products. Make your products or services available online via ecommerce platforms and tactics. And utilize digital marketing solutions like search engine optimization, social media, paid media advertising, and email marketing to reach and connect with customers and our local community.

    * http://www.yodle.com/downloads/what-consumers-want-from-local-businesses.pdf

  • 3) Create Relevant and Useful Content

    Create Relevant and Useful Content

    Creating, distributing, and promoting content that communicates what your business is offering and how your business is adjusting to meet the needs of your customers and community is critical. However, make sure that your content is relevant, helpful, and informative, and give extra consideration toward context and tone.

    Make sure you are creating and sharing content around the following:

    • Descriptions of your offering — Especially if you typically rely on in-store or in-person experiences to drive sales, creating content to supplement this will be crucial. Take and post photos of your newest product arrivals or your weekly takeout menu specials. Make sure to include sizing charts and other information based on frequently asked questions.
    • Scope of your offering (services or product availability) — Have you scaled down specific services or added new ones? Are you offering different products or modified versions of them?
    • Pricing and promotions — Has pricing of any of your products or services changed? Are you offering promo codes or discounts?
    • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
    • Methods to access your offering — Is the way you are providing your services different? Ex: adjusted store hours, curbside, takeout, partnership with delivery services, virtual client appointments, expanded online store, products now available for purchase on Instagram.
    • Your response to the new normal — AWhat is your business doing to ensure the safety of your customers and staff?

    Avoid creating content that can come off as insensitive or self-serving. In between your informative content, think about content that connects and contributes to our local community.

    Onsite wayfinding and signage
    Wayfinding and signage that supports updated traffic protocols within your physical space and social distancing and sanitation protocols are also important parts of your content strategy. As you know, instilling a sense of trust and safety is more crucial than ever

    Share your personal story
    All of us are feeling the impacts in one way or another. Shared stories and experiences will be important as we move forward over the next few months. Ones that convey hope, especially, are needed. “Meet the staff” and behind-the-scenes content can also help to foster the sense of connection and community that’s critical right now.

    Contribute to Hawaii’s community
    Utilize your specialty or area of expertise to create content that supports or addresses the concerns of our community at this time. Some of our local government officials are vetting and consolidating key COVID-19 government updates and sharing the pieces most relevant to Hawaii citizens as posts across their social media accounts. Fitness instructors are offering free classes livestreamed on Facebook or Instagram to keep our community connected and healthy. Subject experts are creating and offering downloadable ebooks or relevant (and SEO-friendly) blog posts. The list goes on. What sort of content can you create and share to support our local community?

    Examples of platforms to consider distributing your content across include your website, eCommerce platforms, social media, email communication, and even paid advertising and print collateral. Check out the rest of this checklist for info on tactics to utilize the digital platforms mentioned above.

  • 4) Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

    Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

    When conducting searches on Google, 90% of survey respondents state that they were likely to click on the results on the first page of results (Searchengineland, 2018). The same survey showed that 60% of mobile users were “very likely” to click on the first two or three search results on the page. Organic search engine rankings are important.

    Luckily, there are tactics you can implement to increase your search engine ranking.

    Search Engine Optimization Content Checklist

    Audit and update the existing content on your website to leverage the following best practices on your primary website pages, and if possible, on your content category landing pages and key product pages.

    • Target keywords — Each page should have target keywords that are tactfully used throughout all page content, titles, headers, and page descriptions. Each page should have different target keywords.
    • Page word count— Ensure each page has at least 250 words.
    • File and image data — Make your file names readable and descriptive of the file or image.
    • Alt tags and image titles — Ensure that they are descriptive and unique to each asset.

    Other search engine optimization (SEO) best practices

    While the following tactics may require a bit more technical know-how or external coordination, they’re worth considering.

    • Secure site — Ensure your website defaults to a secure HTTPS connection.
    • Mobile responsiveness — Test how easily visitors can use your website via the tool at https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
    • Internal linking — Link to other pages within your website where appropriate to increase page connections. Use concise, yet descriptive phrases telling users what they’ll find rather than general “click here” or “more” copy.
    • Anchor Text — Ask others to direct audiences and customers to your website when relevant (in press releases or on About Us pages for example) via hyperlinking words related to your products or services.
    • Backlinking — Incorporate external links (URLs of other websites) when relevant.

    Google My Business

    Update and manage your Google My Business to improve you search engine ranking on Google. Enter complete data, verify your location(s), keep your hours accurate, and add photos at the bare minimum. To improve your visibility even more regularly manage and respond to reviews and encourage customers to leave feedback.

    Take advantage of the most recent updates and features Google has, or will soon be, adding to Google My Business profiles as well as in Search and Map results.

    • Additional business profile attribute options like “online classes”, “online appointments”, or “online estimates”, “curbside pickup”, “no contact delivery”, and “dine-in”.
    • Online service bookings allow customers to find available times, book a slot, and add it to their Google Calendars from your Business’ Google profile.
    • Online food delivery and takeout: more third-party ordering providers or services have been added, and restaurants will be able to indicate their preferred online ordering partners on their Business Profiles. The Ordering.app is worth exploring as an option to quickly enable online ordering linked to your Google Business profile or existing website.

    To amplify your SEO further, create more relevant and informative content and leverage social media and paid advertising to drive more traffic to your website.

  • 5) Leverage Social Media

    Leverage Social Media

    Social media, now more than ever, is proving to be invaluable in keeping people connected. In addition to the commerce capabilities, SEO benefits, and reach of social media, you will want to be sure to leverage these platforms to maintain open lines of communication between you, your customers, and our local community and government.

    Remain informed on developments
    Follow official sources like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and local sources like Hawaii State Department of Health, and local and national trade organizations (like Hawaii Retail Association, National Restaurant Association, etc) so your business is able to act quickly to updates.

    Keep your customers and community informed
    Post about your critical business announcements and use features like Facebook’s pinning, which allows you to keep important posts pinned to the top of your business Facebook Page. Leverage Instagram and Facebook stories to share personal content, like the examples provided in the content section of this checklist. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are also ideal platforms to share breaking updates. And platforms like Google My Business, YouTube, and Yelp, which generally show up high in search results, are also great ways to inform your customers about updated business hours or service modifications via updating your business “About” information. Again, remember that this is a sensitive time for many, so focus your posts and content around what’s most relevant to your audience.

    Prepare a customer service plan
    Your customers are sure to have questions and requests during this challenging period. Use Instagram direct messaging, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp Business to connect with your customers and community for free in real time. If your business has multiple people engaging with customers on your social accounts, outline response templates to FAQs and anticipated subjects of interest to ensure alignment and timeliness. Aim to respond to customers as soon as possible, within the same business day at the very least.

    Drive to your website and/or online store
    If a social platform is not serving as your primary online commerce platform, leverage the discoverability and reach of social to find new customers and, when relevant, drive them to your website to get more information, engage further with your brand, and/or purchase your products or services.

    Livestream gatherings
    Rather than cancelling a physical event, like a workshop, panel, or event, use Facebook or Instagram to host live sessions. You can also leverage social to promote the event and share it as a post once the livestream is done.

  • 6) Utilize Digital Advertising

    Utilize Digital Advertising

    If your business is not offering a product or service that’s deemed “essential” during this time, you may want to reconsider the angle or timing of any planned digital advertising campaigns. However, if there is community-demand, paid digital advertising is perhaps the quickest and farthest reaching, yet targeted, method of letting our local community know you can help.

    There are a slew of paid media products out there. Some will naturally be better suited for specific types of companies, customers, and business goals. However, generally speaking, the below represents options with the most flexibility when it comes to turnaround and budget.

    Google Responsive Display Ads
    No-frills, but a great place to get started due to the massive reach and user base of Google, paired with its DIY functionality, targeting capabilities, and measurable campaign performance data.

    Note — as of March 30, 2020 — As part of Google’s effort to alleviate costs for small and medium-sized businesses, existing Google Ads accounts are being given a combined $340 million in ad credits. If you are a small or medium-sized business who has been an active Google advertiser since the beginning of 2019, you should see a credit notification appear in your Google Ads account in the coming months. These credits can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across Google advertising platforms.

    Get more information and developments on Google’s ad credits

    Paid Social (Facebook and Instagram)
    Leverage first-party data and social media’s massive reach and highly engaged audience to get your business’ message in front of your existing customers, their networks, similar audiences, and the larger local community.

  • 7) Send Email Marketing

    Send Email Marketing

    Use email marketing to speak directly to customers, but as with the content you are creating, make sure that this email communication is relevant, informative, and helpful.

    Email signup forms

    Grow your email subscriber list and customize your forms so you can collect the data (everything from age and gender to interests and subscription preferences) you need to send customers personalized, relevant content. Mailchimp and many other email marketing and commerce platforms offer plans that allow you to create custom signup forms and distribute them across a range of methods — — ex: embed and/or activate signup form pop-ups on your website, share your form via posting links on social or elsewhere, etc. Review your signup form sources and data to learn more about where customers joined your list and what they are interested in and apply these takeaways to future marketing strategies and customer segmentation.

    Send (or automate sending) relevant, personalized content to your entire email list and/or to specific customer segments

    (And, remember to exercise sensitivity.)

    Some examples include:

    Relevant and timely updates
    Don’t waste your time and clog inboxes with general information that isn’t helpful or unique to your business.

    Welcome emails
    Consider offering tips, suggested next steps, and or promotions to welcome new subscribers.

    Abandoned cart emails
    According to Mailchimp, 69% of shoppers abandon their carts before checking out. Get would-be customers to complete their purchases by emailing reminders of items they’ve left in their carts.

    Loyalty and/or promotional emails
    Support your local community and customers with special offers or promo codes, while growing your sales at the same time.

    Product or service follow up emails
    Get feedback from your customers via a survey, send helpful info about their purchase, offer an incentive in exchange for a review, or recommend additional or new products.

    There are countless other triggers that may make sense to activate an email marketing campaign or other marketing campaign around. Some examples include time since last purchase, birth date, purchase from a specific product category, previous email not opened, specific link in previous email clicked, etc. However, you’ll want to pick the ones where you’re able to provide the most relevance and value to subscribers.

  • 8) Automate What You Can

    Automate What You Can

    In addition to ensuring that your digital marketing and content is providing value to your customers and our community, there are also obviously return on marketing investment and time factors you’ll need to consider. Marketing automation platforms are designed to maximize both when paired with ecommerce and social media platforms.

    As with the marketing tactics listed above, the extent to which you utilize specific tactics and platforms will depend on your specific needs, your customers, and your existing workflows, but below are a few marketing automation platforms worth consideration:

    While marketing automation may require greater up-front investments in time and dollars, when utilized correctly, they streamline the analysis of data and automate your marketing efforts so that you’re able to spend more time on other areas of your business or solutions for our local community.

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