Why Get Online?
The Internet and Small Business Success
Did you know that people in the UK are the most frequent online shoppers in Europe? As a country we embrace new technology with great enthusiasm and businesses that ignore this fact do so at their own peril.
As technology continues to revolutionise the way we discover and purchase products and services, it’s shocking to learn that only around half of the UK’s small businesses have a website.
Are you one of those getting left behind?
The Importance of an Online Presence
The average UK shopper now owns 3.1 connected devices (insider-trends.com), and 86% of the population are able to access the internet at anytime from anywhere.
With these figures in mind it’s hardly surprising that according to OfCom we’re now spending twice as long online as we did ten years ago!
With technology making it incredibly easy to access the internet at any time and from anywhere, it has become essential for businesses to have an online presence in order to survive and thrive in today’s marketplace.
The way that we discover, interact with, and buy from businesses has dramatically changed over recent years as a result of our increasing reliance on the internet. Shops and restaurants advertise in their windows asking customers to leave them a review on Google or Trip Advisor, bar staff encourage customers to ‘check-in’ on Facebook and business cards proudly display website addresses and business hashtags.
If your business hasn’t yet ventured onto the internet then we’ve got a few more stats to make you sit up, take note and get excited about setting up shop on your own little piece of the internet.
Potential customers are no longer turning to the telephone book to look up small or local businesses; instead they reach for their smart phone, tablet or laptop and use a search engine to find what they’re looking for. BIS Entrepreneur-in-Residence Simon Devonshire even went as far as to say: “British businesses should consider having a presence online as more important than having an office landline telephone number. Online is the new landline.”
Government research suggests that there are as many as 2 million UK businesses out there that don’t have any kind of online profile or website; it’s these businesses that are losing out on countless opportunities.
What Do We Mean By ‘Get Online’?
Being successful online means a lot more than just creating a pretty website – but that is a good place to start.
A strong and effective online presence may also include some or all of the following:
- Social media profiles and posts
- Directory listings
- Blogs and content both on and off your site
- Paid advertisements
It may sound like a lot of work, but you don’t need to get everything set up at once. In fact it’s sometimes better to take things one step at a time to ensure that everything is working efficiently before moving onto the next stage.
Getting online can revolutionise the way you do business and help you reach countless new customers. Although it may sound like a lot of new things to learn, just remember that it will be worth your time, Rome wasn’t built in a day after all!
Benefits of Getting Online
So, how exactly will the internet help your business?
Many small and local businesses mistakenly believe that getting online isn’t relevant to them and won’t help their business.
In today’s digital world there isn’t a business out there that won’t benefit from having an online presence.
That’s because getting online isn’t always just about selling your products directly through your own website. Here are just a few of the other key benefits:
Credibility – A solid online presence will make your business appear more credible, authoritative, established. In this day and age your customers will expect to be able to find out more information about your business online. Many people use the internet to research businesses and products before making a purchase, so if your business cannot be found online it may be off-putting for new customers and may result in them going to your more tech-savvy competitor instead.
Expansion – Moving your business online is a great way of expanding and reaching new markets without the need to open expensive new premises. Offline businesses are often restricted by geographical factors, whereas a website can help you to reach anyone, anywhere in the world if you wish to.
Cost-effective – Opening a new branch or new business premises can be expensive and risky, whereas launching a website is comparatively inexpensive, flexible, and has a much wider reach.
Convenient for customers – Your customers will appreciate the option to shop with you at any time and from anywhere online. It can be difficult to find the time to visit a physical store or business premises; online shopping is a far more convenient option. If you don’t offer the option to buy your products or make an enquiry online then your customers may turn to your competitors instead.
Express your brand – Your website is your business’ very own public space on the internet and can be used as a fantastic marketing tool for expressing to potential customers exactly what your company is all about.
Share content, news and offers – People tend to browse the internet in their own time and at their leisure so it’s the perfect platform from which to promote any offers, competitions, company news or content to your customers. You can add to and amend the content on your website whenever you want, making it far cheaper to share content with customers online than it would be to print it and share it offline. Creating and sharing useful or engaging content with your customers online is also an inexpensive way to add value to the service that you’re providing them with.
Steps to Getting Online
Getting set up online can seem like a colossal and impossible task, but if you break it down and get some help from the professionals then it’s actually quite clear-cut.
The journey to success online can be divided into three main stages.
1. Get Online
The first thing you’ll need is your business’ very own online base or ‘hub’. The type of website you will need will depend on what your business does. If you want to sell products online then you will need an ecommerce website. If your business sells a service then a basic, informative website may be more suitable.
Your website is your business’ online premises. It should welcome potential customers with an attractive, clean and professional design. It should be designed with user experience and conversion in mind, and encourage visitors to take the action that you want them to, eg. buy something, sign up or make an enquiry.
Learn the basics about website design – Successful small business web design explained
Learn about mobile-friendly design – Mobile-friendly websites: a simple guide for small businesses
Learn how to improve your website’s performance – Using psychology to improve your website’s performance
2. Get Found
Once you’re happy that your website is functioning well, offers a good user experience, and has an attractive design that accurately reflects your brand, then it’s time to start getting visitors.
You could have the best website in the world, but if it’s floating around amongst billions of other websites and no one can find it then it’s not going to be beneficial to your business.
The two primary methods for getting more traffic to your website are paid search (PPC) and natural search (SEO). Paid search is the process of paying for adverts on search engines like Google to help your website appear at the top of search results when searches relevant to your products or services are performed. You can achieve almost instant results using PPC.
The other option, natural search, also helps your website appear higher up in search results when keywords or phrases relevant to your business are searched for, but it does so naturally without paying for ads. Although it usually takes longer to see results from SEO, the process will really strengthen your online presence and provide lasting results.
Learn the basics about PPC – Paid search explained
Learn the basics about SEO – Natural search explained
Learn about Google penalties – Google penalties explained
Learn how to promote your website – 19 cheap/free ways to promote your business online
3. Grow Online
This is the final piece of the jigsaw. When your website is getting visitors and successfully converting these visitors into enquiries or sales then it’s time to take things up a gear. The internet is a multi-faceted platform that offers businesses the chance to get creative in order to communicate with and engage their customers.
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ will help you connect with new and existing customers; engage with them regularly and add value to your service by providing them with exclusive content, competitions and offers.
When used correctly, social media and content marketing can help you to massively improve brand awareness, reach new audiences and turn customers into highly engaged brand ambassadors.
Get set up with social media for business – Which social media platform is right for your business?
Learn how to use social for business – The business guide to posting on social media
Getting online is probably one of the best business decisions you’ll ever make. Simply being online helps people searching for products and services like yours to discover your business and can help you to reach much wider audiences. A well thought out online presence can help you to gain valuable insights and feedback from your customers and could even revolutionise the way that you do business!
It may sound like a daunting task but it’s simple when you’ve got a team of skilled experts behind you. At Add People we’ve helped hundreds of small businesses at all different stages of their online journey to succeed.