Coronavirus & digital marketing: How small businesses are adapting


11 min read

Small businesses affected by Coronavirus

Every one of my clients, both past or present, have had their business affected by coronavirus in some shape or form. For some their entire operation has been completely put on hold, with an indefinite restart date. Many have had to pause their Google Advertising and put web developments on hold. Some however are fortunate enough to still offer their products and services during this time, but to do so effectively have needed to adapt their digital marketing tactics.

This post looks at two very different clients of mine, who have done just this. One, a Christian Church in Maryland, USA, and the other, a coffee shop and cafe in Eastbourne in the UK.

LifePoint Church

I’ve been working with LifePoint Church for several months- long before coronavirus. Initially, I didn’t know what to expect from a church in terms of their marketing efforts, but I was certainly pleasantly surprised. LifePoint are a non-profit, with a very clear strategy to embrace digital technology in order to reach new people and provide their existing audience with a brilliant experience. My favourite type of client!

Churches adapting to coronavirus

When coronavirus became a very real, non-avoidable reality, LifePoint, like many other places of worship across the globe, were sadly forced to close their doors to their 2,000+ weekly visitors.

This is a very big and very real problem for a Church who offer hope and reassurance to so many people, especially during such an unprecedented and unsettling time. Not to mention that their audience resides in the country worst hit by the pandemic. For these reasons, LifePoint wanted to ensure they were doing everything they could to still offer their community a ‘place to belong’ and turning their attention to their website was a brilliant place to start.

A faster website

The LifePoint team already had page load speed on their agenda, but due to the increased numbers of people visiting their website during coronavirus, it jumped right up the priority list.

I used an online tool called GTMetrix to establish the current page load speed, which for the homepage was coming in at 9 seconds. As you can appreciate, this is a long time to expect visitors to wait until they can view all the content and images on a page. Users have come to expect fast-loading websites and will often abandon one which is slow to load, before they have found what they need. Not to mention that site speed is also a confirmed Google ranking factor, meaning a sub-standard loading time can negatively impact Google rankings.

GTMetrix is a brilliant tool for diagnosing site speed issues and I’d recommend it to anyone who is keen to understand their page load speed and possible causes for it being sluggish and off-putting to their customers.

I could see very quickly that the problem for LifePoint was unoptimised, large images. The images used on the site are beautiful – authentic, high-quality photographs taken at the Church. They look crisp and professional. Some of them however had been uploaded directly to the website without being resized to fit their purpose and some were as large as 3,000 pixels wide. Such high quality, granular photos are inevitably going to take a while to load, and in more cases than not, don’t need to be that large for the screen size they are displayed on.

After resizing many of the images on the LifePoint website, the site speed dropped from 9 seconds to 4.5 seconds, without compromising any of the image quality. This might sound like a small victory, but doubling the speed of your website, when 100% of your visitors are now online, can make a huge difference to your overall user experience.

Increased customer engagement

For LifePoint, connecting with customers is more important now than ever before, and so, with a now much faster website, the team wanted to turn their attention to ways they could increase their customer engagement. Many of their website visitors were new and they wanted to offer as personalised service as possible, and help each user to navigate easily to the pages most relevant to their needs- whether that was joining a virtual event or submitting a prayer request.

To help facilitate this, I implemented Intercom onto their website – a hugely powerful customer messaging platform which enables you to engage with your customers through automation.

Now, when a visitor lands on the LifePoint website, they are greeted with a small and discreet popup in the bottom right hand corner. It’s not invasive, and it can easily be dismissed if it’s not needed, but it opens up a conversation with every website visitor, and the response entered by the user can result in a number of different eventualities, depending on what they’re looking for. Intercom is now enabling LifePoint to offer every individual a highly personalised welcome, just like they would receive if they were to visit the Church in person.

LifePoint really are thinking about their objectives as a non-profit and using digital marketing tools and tactics to achieve them. This kind of online adaptation will see them through these unsettling times and ensure they come out even stronger in the long run.

Beanzz Coffee & Kitchen

Across the pond in the UK, I was excited to recently start working with a brand new client. Forced to close because of the social distancing measures, Beanzz, a coffee shop and cafe in Eastbourne, were unable to generate any income and had been racking their brains as to how they could still operate in some way or another.

This independent cafe had built up a brilliant customer base and following on social media, and received a lot of love for their homemade flavoured brownies. These include 10 different, indulgent flavours, such as Lotus Biscoff and Almond Bakewell – they’re just as delicious as they sound!

Within just 10 days of getting in touch, I had built Beanzz a brand new e-commerce website,
which would enable them to sell their brownies via postal service. At the time of writing this, the site has been live for just 2 weeks and Beanzz have now sold over 50 brownie trays to customers all over the UK.

Understanding that there’s still demand for their products and that they just needed a new platform through which they could sell, meant that this small business has still been able to generate income, at a time when their physical premises has been forced to close.

I love working with businesses like Beanzz and LifePoint. They’re such different operations, which share one thing in common – A desire to utilise digital marketing to adapt and overcome everything the current climate is chucking at them. And I’m confident they will both flourish, during and after coronavirus, with that unfaltering determination.