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Small business official says many consumers research products online, but purchase locally

Writer: Brad McEwen,
Source: Albany Herald

ALBANY — With the holiday shopping season in full swing, many area small businesses are hoping to reap the benefit of marketing strategies provided by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Albany.

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According to Debbie Finney, area director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Albany, consumers are increasingly using different technology, like smart phones, computers and tablets, when shopping.

Finney, who has 28 years experience in working with and running small businesses, feels that understanding the role technology plays in people’s lives is important when developing marketing and sales strategies.

The SBDC provides a variety of services to small business through it’s many programs, but increasingly the organization is educating business owners on marketing in the digital age.

“Technology is here,” said Finney. “The key is, how do we use that technology to maximize it for local business? It’s a fact that people are using smart phones and tablets to research products, to read reviews of products, but there’s still a lot of advantages to shopping local. Even Google statistics show that while we might use or tablet or our smart phone initially, or even twice during the buying process, if we find that local business that can help us match that decision, shoppers will go to a local business. A lot of consumers are studying and making decisions before they leave their house.”

That behavior is especially evident during the holiday shopping season when retail sales peak.

“At the small business development center we work a lot with retail businesses and holiday season marketing probably is at the forefront,” said Finney. “We always try to stress that the marketing has not changed, what’s changed is some technology that retailers can take advantage of.”

While there is a lot to consider when incorporating use of technology into marketing strategies, the two most important things are understanding and maximizing Google and having a website prepared to handle traffic generated by the search engine.

In fact, Finney said utilizing Google has become such an important part of the SDBC’s training and seminars, consultants have to remind audiences that they don’t work for the tech giant.

While tech-driven marketing strategies are an important part of the marketing mix for retailers, Finney said it’s important for all types of businesses to understand technology use can make an impact.

Business owners who want to learn more about marketing around changing technology or about other SBDC programs can visit the SBDC website or contact the Albany office directly at (229) 420-1144. The Albany Area SBDC is located at 125 Pine Ave. and serves a 27-county area of Southwest Georgia. Finney said the organization does not charge for its services and helps businesses of vary sizes in a multitude of areas.

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