the digital attention game is the small business’ advantage

In the golden age of advertising, brands battle for consumers attention with expensive above-the-fold ads. Such media allowed big brands to reach audiences across a wide range of demographics and geography.

Source: Wiki commons

Hence, the big brands built brand equity and trust while the small businesses were priced out of the game.

Not that it mattered back then, since small businesses thrived in smaller, tighter communities. The business was sufficient to keep their clogs chugging.

Then the internet came and flipped the tables.

Consumers loved it. They could find brands that suit their unique tastes and discover products and services beyond what the small businesses near them offered, gaining access to everything from cloths in the right sizes to quirky household items.

As supply chains became more efficient, they even unlocked access to cheaper goods.

But as with all things good, the internet became overcrowded with merchants. So, influencers popped up offering consumers cognition savings by helping to pick out the “best” products and services.

Big brands were losing trust as voices of the man on the street got louder.

Why it matters for small businesses?

While the big brands continued to command the mimetic desires of consumers, a new narrative was brewing alongside the development of the internet – small, niche brands were becoming cool.

Without the limits of a ‘brand deck’, small brands could experiment freely, explore new platforms faster and speak to consumers directly with a personable voice. 

Somewhere in the development of the attention game, the area of influence of small businesses expanded. We were no longer limited to their local community or geography. We can now reach customers on the other side of the world, without lifting a finger. We can be ‘cool’.

Paid reach has become accessible and affordable too

While expensive above-the-fold advertisements continue to exist, new ad platforms have sprung up in the internet era.

For as low as $1/day, small businesses can start advertising and growing their reach faster. 

But not all small businesses are maximising these advantages

Although we can now choose to grow our reach organically online, just like how we used to build word of mouth on the ground, save for a few small wins, many small businesses continue to operate as they did in the pre internet age.

While the pandemic had forced many to make the shift – the number of small businesses without web presence was 46% in 2018 vs 28% in 2021, it has also lead the rest to retirement (according to Mastercard’s report ~20% of businesses hit by the pandemic are closed permanently).

The “new-norm” will continue to see brands moving online and small businesses will need to start relying on a marketing model that uses both online and offline channels. Or risk becoming part of Mastercard’s statistics.

The digital attention game has levelled the playing field for us. Start maximising your advantage today.

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