Almost every day in 2020 has been like Cyber Monday for small business owners like Kelly Plair because most of her customers shop online.
“We’re online, thankfully, so we’re rocking and rolling,” said Plair, who owns the South Coast Baby Company in downtown Thibodaux. “We have at least 20 orders ready to pick up right now. We were really lucky that we had just completed our website right before the pandemic hit. Everything was already online, so we didn’t have to scramble. We were ready to go.”
Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, had its origins in the early days of online shopping, when home computers were not as common as they are now, and internet shoppers used their office computers at the first opportunity after Black Friday. According to the National Retail Federation. the term Cyber Monday was first coined in 2005.
A record 189.6 million Americans shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday last year, which was up 14% from the previous year, the federation said. Online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving raked in $3.1 billion alone, according to Adobe Analytics.
Forbes recently reported about 36% of Americans have been doing their shopping online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, it forced small business owners to use technology to reach customers like never before, said Dawn Starns, Louisiana director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
“What we’re seeing from our members is that they have really elevated their presence online during the quarantine,” Starns said. “What you’re seeing is a lot more folks establish an online marketplace through their websites, Facebook, Instagram or other social media outlets to promote their websites. A lot of small businesses had struggled with that in the past because it’s time-consuming. But during the quarantine they really pushed out their sales because they knew people would be shopping online. It’s allowed small business owners to keep their doors open.”
The pandemic revealed that customers also quickly adapted to the new normal, Louisiana State University Marketing Professor Dan Rice said.
“At the heart of any business is the customers,” Rice said. “Mom and pops are going to have a hard time going directly against big-box stores on some of the main points, especially ones that are price-based, as their price structure is usually higher and strictly online as the big-box stores have lots of people working on online digital marketing. So where does that leave the mom and pops? Well for one, the day they may want to really focus on is Small Business Saturday, where the big boxes can’t compete, specifically because, well they are big, not small. That’s not to say all is lost for Cyber Monday, but they do have to make sure they have something that is compelling that big box stores can’t offer.”
It takes more than just a social media page for small businesses to lure customers, Rice said.
“Could the small mom and pops use the social media? Sure, but it’s got to need more than just having a Facebook page,” he said. “They have to have an overall strategy that brings value to the customer and enough presence to let people find them. Having a Web page that is optimized for search engines and strategically using the internet to build your online connections are also important.”
Ashlie Wiggins, who owns the Lagniappe Shoppe at 700 St. Patrick Highway in Thibodaux, said she hopes to attract customers with a unique inventory that you can’t find at a typical super store.
“We just reopened on Nov. 5 and are still finalizing the launch of our website so I’m not ready to participate in Cyber Monday,” she said. “However, we are participating in Black Friday. What we to do to stand apart from the big-box stores is offer locally crafted and themed products. We love supporting our local artisans and entrepreneurs.”
Richard’s Supply at 235 S. Hollywood Road in Houma is offering a combined Cyber Monday/Black Friday deal, where the restaurant supply store is open on Friday and Monday but also offers online specials all week long, said President Ryan Richard.
“We offer unique items that are professional quality that can be utilized for home or professional purposes,” Richard said. “We also offer local support and personalized service to all of our customers. We are the largest kitchen store in Louisiana and offer high-quality cookware, kitchen gadgets, residential appliances, outdoor appliances and commercial appliances. This differentiates us from all the major box stores.”
Plair said more than 80% of her sales come from online buyers.
“It’s been challenging but we continue to grow,” she said. “I miss seeing everyone in person but I much rather they be safe.”
— Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.