Visuals, Data and Insights: How Business Owners Can Survive and Thrive in Today’s Economy

The COVID pandemic has forced us all to rethink our habits, and small businesses are no exception. Now, three years on, the economic uncertainty is also taking its toll on female-led businesses. Despite female founders building more new businesses in the UK in the last year than ever before, they currently have mixed feelings about their survival, with around half of female entrepreneurs feeling confident in their own business prospects over the next 12 months. 

When quarantine forced us all to stay at home, it was critical for many startups to expand their reach online. They turned totechnology and social media to supplement their losses, especially as lockdowns forced many to go out of business, permanently. 

iStock’s VisualGPS research, which has tracked how consumers engage with businesses of all sizes for over three years, indicates that 75% of Brits would rather buy from small, local businesses as a way of supporting their communities. However, UK search data from, which serves the visual needs of SMBs, reveals that searches for terms such as ‘community’ and ‘trust’ have decreased by -15% and -19% year-on-year respectively.

This disconnect highlights the need for entrepreneurs to better engage with their customers and local communities by using visuals that will connect with them and by meeting them in the physical and online spaces they inhabit.

To drive sales in today’s digital age, it is now more important than ever for all SMBs to enhance their marketing strategy, maximise their return on investment and reach new customers through authentic and engaging visuals – without breaking the bank. Here are some tips to help you get started. 

Use video, video and more video!

Video has a strong influence on people shopping locally. With consumers spending more of their free time watching videos online, small businesses can benefit greatly from adding promotional video production Melbourne to their strategy to build brand awareness. According to VisualGPS data, almost a third of consumers say they select where to shop or whom they do business with via video content alone. While custom video shoots can be costly, high-quality stock footage is a more affordable and worry-free option. Whether it’s to promote an event or announce a sale, stock footage can just as easily bring visual storytelling to life. 

Embrace the power of social media

The rise of TikTok and other similar platforms have bombarded consumers with quick soundbites of information. Engaging content – particularly video – has become critical to capturing attention. It can also humanise a business, showing its personality and helping brands connect with their target audience. VisualGPS analysis shows that while 69% of Brits say watching video content on social media makes them laugh or smile, 87% also state that humour in visuals is often an effective way to get your point across.

As they have evolved, social media platforms have enabled SMB owners 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. 

Social media can also be critical to reaching customers beyond a local community. It has given the opportunity for a brand to go viral – a small shop can see overnight fame through a single post, resulting in a significant spike in sales. Through target ad spend and organic reach, business owners have an opportunity to increase awareness at lower costs and give video content a much longer lifespan. 

It’s all about the data 

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. However, data-driven marketing strategies have never been more important. Expanding that mindset to the creative part of your process is extremely valuable to increase impact and reach.

To help fuel this process, digital tools such as VisualGPS Insights, iStock’s free visual trends tool for SMBs, allows youto access data that your bigger competitors have with insights specific to your industry, location and business size. The tool, which analyses over 2.7 billion searches and downloads from, can also help you inform and make content decisions based on timely and relevant conversations happening within and outside of your business.

Use the right visuals

To authentically build deeper connections with consumers, consider using images and videos showcasing customer interactions, the business as a gathering place, ordering products on an app, entrepreneurs working from home, or a customer paying with a smartphone. Also think about how you are depicting people from different generations, cultures and lifestyles in your marketing. These nuances are critical to accurately portray how your business is continuously evolving to meet the needs of all consumers. iStock offers millions of images and video clips that celebrate diversity of all kinds, which you can view here.

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