LOCKDOWN highlights the importance of every business having a strong local online presence….. says Lee Taylor-Craddock, Sales Director at LOCALiQ Cumbria publishers of popular websites newsandstar.co.uk, thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk, nwemail.co.uk, hexham-courant.co.uk, in-cumbria.com, whitehavennews.co.uk and timesandstar.co.uk.

I have spent most of my working life in the world of marketing and PR, during that time I have seen the industry change enormously and at significant pace.

The change has been driven by us the consumer, we now more than ever and certainly in the current circumstances live in a world where we demand that products, services, reviews, and information are all available at the click of a finger.

The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly encouraged those who were already shopping online to do so more or in the case of those who were doing very little online shopping or none at all it has forced them to seek out the products and services they require in this way. This is evidenced by recent data which has seen a record high in online sales in the last two months, coupled with Open Reach reporting a 24 per cent surge in online data traffic since lock down.

This has been a challenging landscape for many local businesses I have spoken with to navigate, due to the fact that their websites are either outdated and do not rank in local search results or more importantly they do not have an e-commerce facility leaving them with no alternative or efficient way to take their products to market in this lockdown scenario with no high street to fall back on.

For me this has been a time of reflection for businesses in terms of how and where they spend their marketing budgets in the future. During this period of reflection, the first question any business should asking themselves is – Is my website fit for purpose? followed by, does it create a positive user experience?- we have all been that website which is clunky to navigate or not mobile friendly, you don’t stick around for long… Does it allow me to be found online locally and easily? And finally, if I do have a physical product to sell, does it allow me to compete in the online space by having the facility for consumers to transact with me online? I have asked a number of businesses over recent weeks had your website been e-commerce enabled would it have been easier for you to adapt to the current environment? On almost every occasion the answer has been yes!

Lockdown as difficult as it has been for many businesses across the county has been a wake-up call to take their online presence seriously. Firms understand they need to ensure they have a website which is fit for the future and reaches local audiences and allows them to transact online where appropriate. For many the news of lockdown being eased further and retailers being able to open back up mid-June, is very much welcomed and I personally cannot wait until we see our high streets operating again in a safe way and being able to visit my favourite shops and the range of other eclectic and amazing independent retailers we have across Cumbria. The high street is certainly not dead and will come back fighting but there is a whole virtual online high street out there which will also continue to exist. My advice is make sure your business is set up to compete in this space also, ensure you have at least a basic online presence and a website which is fit for purpose and allows you to transact online where possible.

If you are unsure where to start on this journey or not sure what makes a great website and which online marketing is a must to ensure a strong local presence online, feel free to reach out to myself or one of my experienced team members at LOCALiQ Cumbria.

We will be more than happy to take a look at what your online presence looks like now and give you some free friendly advice on how to improve this.

For those businesses who want to look at taking their products online and have a fully functional e-commerce website allowing you transact in the online space we can also help you with this too. We have recently revised and tailored a new and extremely cost-effective e-commerce solution which is designed with your full input and can be turned around quickly giving you that all important online presence and the ability to trade in the online space. We will also be providing free training on how to keep your website in tip top shape and up to date with your latest products and prices.

For a limited period of time we are also supporting all new e-commerce website builds with a 4 month dedicated marketing campaign which includes coverage across social media, local directory syndication and a targeted advertising campaign across our online news network of 7 sites across Cumbria which attract over 1.4 million local users monthly. Our news network includes, westmorlandgazette.co.uk and newsandstar.co.uk amongst others which provide quality local news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Feel free to reach out and discuss how you can improve your online presence.