6 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Website
There is a retail apocalypse taking place in the U.S. and Canada. Foot traffic is down in malls across the continent, transforming many shopping centres into retail graveyards. There have been hundreds of store closures this year, including brands like Sears, Macy’s, Target (Canada), KMart, J.C. Penney, and RadioShack that were once anchors of the brick-and-mortar world. Retailers are closing stores because they’re not giving people what they want in terms of things like price, fashion and selection.
Shoppers are increasingly turning to online and discount merchants for better deals, especially during “events” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday where many of the best sales occur exclusively online.
With the competition beginning to thin out, now is the best time to take assertive action, especially if you’ve been on the fence about launching a website — and here are some reasons why:
1. It establishes credibility.
A 2015 study performed by Verisign reported that 84% consumers believe that small businesses with websites are more credible than ones who are not online. Moreso, the study also concluded that 65% of consumers consider a company branded email to be more credible than one from a generic email account such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo.
If all your competitors have websites and your business doesn’t, who do you think looks more credible?
Personally, I chose my own wedding photographer largely because his online presence in 2003 looked more polished, thought-out, and presented his portfolio more beautifully than others. If he was willing to invest in himself in that way, I thought, he would be willing to invest in me too.
2. Be found. Period.
The same study by Verisign also reported that 9 out of 10 consumers rely on the internet to locate and evaluate local goods and services. Many clients I work with will Google their own websites to go to their home pages as opposed to typing out the address. It’s therefore difficult to understand why 46% of small businesses do not have a website. An even smaller percentage have company Facebook pages (which costs nothing to build and maintain). But for those that do, they enjoy a clear advantage of being found.
With over 3.5 billion Google searches occurring each day, if someone is searching for your products and/or services, they are either finding you, or your competitors. Business websites allow potential customers to access your business and learn about your products and services 24/7, letting you sell product while you’re sleeping.
3. Become relatable.
Customers are less and less likely to pick up the phone and call your business to learn more about you and your products. A website, in conjunction with social media, is becoming the primary way retailers now connect with their audience. By using these platforms to tell a story, usually by establishing a brand persona, it can create a relationship that can easily go viral and personalises your small business experience. Moreover, without an online presence, you can’t take advantage of social influence marketing (SIM), where people who like your services will often refer your business to others when seeking recommendations on social media.
4. Be flexible.
Traditional advertising, such as printed posters, brochures, and radio tend to be costly. Printed items can’t be updated, so they end up in the garbage when obsolete. Now more than ever, customers expect to see fresh marketing campaigns and information on a continuous basis. Small business websites allow for demographic information, services offered, business hours, and pricing to be edited at any time for no cost — and it’s easy to push and promote inventory given real-world situations such as weather conditions, or time of day.
Web developers will (or should) create sites that are mobile-friendly, letting customers enjoy a user-friendly browsing experience while they are on-the-go.
5. It’s a sales tool.
Although a small business website serves many purposes, the main objectives are:
- To inform
- To engage
- To convert
The most effective ways to use a business website to this end is to provide high quality information, learn about who your audience is, what they want, and create a sales funnel that nurtures them through the sales process. In conjunction with other tools such as Google Analytics and social media, you can see where traffic is coming from, how they found out about you, and then target those customers with specific messaging.
6. It lets you expand.
Maybe your business is a brick and mortar business that would like to expand to a larger market. Being online lets you benefit from making your products or services available worldwide. Having a website for your business is a “must have” and not just a “nice to have” element of being in business. Not having a website puts your business at a competitive disadvantage.