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iStock 1306680401
iStock 1306680401

 Staying ahead of the curve: strategies for small business success in times of economic uncertainty

 Staying Ahead of the curve: strategies for small business success in times of economic uncertainty

By Jacqueline Bourke, Director and Head of Creative Insights EMEA at iStock

SMBs and entrepreneurs have demonstrated incredible resilience in the face of multiple challenges and uncertainties in the last few years. The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in many small businesses expanding their reach online and on social media to communicate with consumers, with 70% of UK SMBs stating that they were most likely to use their company website to serve their customers during and post-pandemic. 

Three years on, iStock’s latest VisualGPS research shows that the top concerns for Brits are the cost of living crisis (80%), the rising costs of energy (74%), and the increased costs of goods and services (68%), which have directly impacted their purchasing habits. Therefore, it is unsurprising that UK midsize company leaders are now worried about how the current state of the economy might affect their business, with 91% saying that their businesses are currently facing challenges due to inflation.

As we navigate through this period of economic instability, it’s vital for SMB owners and leaders to have access to tools that can help enhance their digital marketing strategy, reach new audiences, and build lasting connections with their customers to drive sales. Here are some actionable tips to help you get started, backed by real-world data and insights, that don’t require breaking the bank. 

Technology As A Benefit To Business 

There has been a growing desire from consumers for more personalised services that deliver convenience.  Technology is seen as a seamless way to do this and helps drive performance for small businesses in new ways as a result of changing consumer preferences. Our VisualGPS data shows that more than half of both small businesses and consumers feel empowered by all the technology available to them. As businesses continue to reach customers outside of traditional bricks and mortar, it’s important that marketing visuals keep up. 

To authentically build deeper connections with consumers, consider using images and videos in your marketing channels that illustrate some of the digital realities of today, such as customer interactions, the business as a gathering place, ordering products and services on an app or via a website, entrepreneurs working from home, or a customer paying with a smartphone. Also think about how you are visualising people from different generations, cultures and lifestyles. These nuances are critical to reflect and accurately portray how your business is continuously evolving to meet the needs of all consumers.

Use Video to Communicate with Audiences

Video has a strong influence on people’s spending habits and can be the deciding factor in sales, with almost a third of VisualGPS respondents saying they select where to shop or whom they do business with via video content alone. 

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While custom video shoots can be costly and time-consuming, high-quality stock footage is a more affordable and worry-free option, and can be an effective marketing tool to lean on in promoting an event, announcing a sale or adding short demo reels or stories to social channels. 

Lean on Social Media to Enhance Sales

With 61% of Brits using their mobile phones to make purchases, social media can be critical to reaching customers beyond a local community. This provides business owners with an opportunity to maximise their ROI at a lower cost through targeted ad spend and organic reach. 

As they have evolved, social media platforms have also enabled SMBs and entrepreneurs to interact with customers through new video formats like behind-the-scenes tours or product demonstrations. This doesn’t mean a lengthy production – there are many cost-effective editing tools available, and a video subscription can help keep costs down. Immersive short clips or live streams can be a great way to showcase a new product. 

It’s also worth considering humorous content as a way to engage your audience. According to our data, 69% of Brits say watching video content on social media makes them laugh or smile and 87% also believe that humour in visuals is often an effective way to get your point across. Humour can also humanise a brand, showing its personality and helping businesses connect with their target audience. 

Embrace Data and Insights to Drive Customer Awareness

Finding the perfect stock image or video isn’t always easy. Instead of choosing relevant visuals that specifically target a certain type of consumer, people often resort to generic content for the largest possible audience. 

Through embracing data and insights into trending visuals, small businesses can make more informed content decisions. Accessing data that gives insights specific to their industry, location and business size gives them similar insights to their bigger competitors, keeping them in the loop in terms of relevant conversations happening with and outside of your business. Data-driven marketing strategies have never been more important, so expanding that mindset to the creative part of your process is extremely valuable to increase impact and reach.


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