Guest Post: Ramon Ray - Smallbiztechnology
For any company doing business today, a website is far more than a way to promote products and services. With a consumer market that heavily relies on the Internet for everything from directions to reviews, any small business that has not yet set up an online presence could be missing out on a gold mine of potential customers. In fact, Shop.org projects online holiday sales to increase between 13 and 15 percent to as much as $82 billion during the months of November and December this year, and the U.S. Commerce Department reported that final Q4 (October – December) e-commerce sales in 2012 increased 15.7 percent.
Small business owners can’t rely solely on a physical store to grow their business. It’s time to get online as customers now expect to be able to find information and, ideally, purchase products or book reservations using the Web.
Here are a few compelling reasons to boost your online presence by establishing the best website you can – some of which were recently highlighted by small business owners in a survey that Verisign conducted with Merrill Research.
Perhaps most important of all, a website gives a small business credibility. According to the Verisign-commissioned research, two-thirds (65 percent) of small businesses with an online presence said they elected to create a company website because it makes their company look more credible.
A Web presence can boost a business’s reputation, providing exposure beyond its storefront. By ensuring that presence includes a professional, informative website with established credentials – such as your BBB accreditation – small businesses can capture online audiences and answer the questions consumers have about the products or services they’re offering. This will help establish your business as a serious force in your local community.
In today’s competitive search environment, content is everything. Google has revamped its algorithms to meet the way users search today, including setting up better voice search responsiveness and placing an emphasis on location search. If a tourist is traveling five miles from your business, will your business show up if they search for “nearby restaurants?” If a local resident tries to access your phone number by asking Google for it, will that customer receive the most accurate phone number for your business?
Every business has competition. The good news is, although 85 percent of customers use the Internet to find local businesses, according to Search Engine Land, most small businesses still didn’t have a website as of February 2012. In fact, a recent survey from Yodle found that 52 percent of small businesses don’t have a website. This is good news for those with a website and presents a prime opportunity for those without, as a local business with a website that readily answers customer questions is at an advantage when trying to win over the aforementioned 85 percent of customers on the Internet.
If your business is local, you’re missing out on a large customer base that exists outside city limits. A retail shop could provide their items online, shipping them to customers on the other side of the country and overseas. Even a service provider might discover customers in a neighboring city or state are interested in their services, leading to a larger service area or the addition of regional offices in these areas.
Ramon Ray is editor & technology evangelist of Smallbiztechnology.com. He is passionate about helping small businesses grow their businesses using technology as a strategic asset.