“However, when you look at how people search for local businesses, the first port of call is usually a search engine like Google and if local businesses don’t appear, they’re lacking that shop window and missing out on valuable customers.”
The 2015 holiday shopping season was a good one for businesses online. Thanks to strong sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online retailers reported an increase in sales of 15 percent from the previous year with Cyber Monday proving to be the largest online sales day ever, netting $3.07 billion.
However, in the US only 51 percent of small businesses have websites, despite the fact that 97 percent of consumers search for products and services online, according to figures released earlier from The SCORE Association (SCORE).
The disconnect between small companies and the growing number of consumers who vet brick-and-mortar businesses based on their online presence could be keeping entrepreneurs from millions of customers – and dollars. SCORE Vice President of Marketing Bridget Weston Pollack said, “If a company or a small business doesn’t have an online presence, they are missing a huge percentage of the population that could be shopping at their store.”
A website not only helps small businesses promote and sell their products and services, but it also allows them to distinguish themselves from their competitors, especially for customers who rely heavily on the Internet to learn everything about a company. This makes a website one of the most important business assets for sharing information, building credibility and standing out in crowded marketplaces.
According to a recent Verisign report, 97 percent of U.S. small businesses with a website recommend other small businesses also establish a website. Here’s why:
1. FIND CUSTOMERS
Verisign found that 88 percent of U.S. small businesses with a website agree that it’s made it easier for customers to find their business. Today, customers are constantly searching on computers, tablets and smart phones. A website enables them to find your company and learn about your business and what it offers at anytime and anyplace.
In today’s competitive online search environment, content is key. Google has revamped its algorithms to better serve user searches today, including rewarding sites that provide visitors with helpful content and a good user experience. This means that if someone is looking for a product or service that your business offers, your website needs to show up in the search results or you will miss out on potential sales leads.
2. BUILD CREDIBILITY
You can build a brand presence for your business on social media, but you’re restricted by the platform in terms of design, process and technology. A website can help small businesses increase flexibility, control, branding and credibility. Eighty-four percent of U.S. consumers believe a business with a website is more credible than one that only has a social media page. To be credible and attract new customers, a website can make a difference.
3. GET MORE CUSTOMERS
Ongoing business success oftentimes rests on your company’s ability to bring in new clients. Reaching thousands of people using only traditional marketing methods like direct mail or print advertising can be very expensive and unreliable. Getting online enables you to reach more people locally or outside of your region while paying less for the exposure—and you can even measure the specific results. In fact, 77 percent of U.S. small businesses said a website is a great way to find new customers.
And, it’s not just about gaining new customers; you can use a website to better serve existing customers too. The ability to update business information 24/7 on the Internet improves customer communication while freeing up time to focus on other business priorities. And with a branded email, you can begin email marketing, driving traffic back to your on- and offline sites and boosting customer loyalty with your brand.
4. GROW YOUR BUSINESS
Many small businesses aim to expand in the market and reach out to new customers. While face-to-face interactions can be important and business often comes from word-of-mouth, a website gives you a chance to “pass your card out” to thousands online. With an e-commerce store, you can sell items online and ship the product to customers almost anywhere in the world. You might discover that customers in a neighboring city or state are interested in your services, leading to a larger service area, and maybe even an expansion to regional offices. In fact, 81 percent of U.S. small businesses say that a website has helped to grow their business. With a website, you can reach a greater number of potential customers and opportunities.
5. GAIN COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
The recently published Verisign report shows that 93 percent of U.S. consumers use the Internet for research before making a purchase. Consumers want to be informed about their purchasing decisions— what they buy and from whom they buy. Without a website, you risk losing customers to businesses already taking advantage of the online marketplace. If you’re in direct competition with another business that has a website, your competitor has a clear advantage—especially if they are effectively marketing their website. A website can help level the playing field.
Eighty-four percent of U.S. small businesses surveyed by Verisign said their website is important or critical to their business. More than half of U.S.-based small businesses don’t have a website, so there is no time like the present to establish your business website and get ahead of the competition.