The year is 2020, and every small business needs a web presence – and not just as an extra piece of marketing that might draw some business from a few tech-savvy individuals.
Today, being online is much more than a way to expand the reach of a business. It’s a matter of survival. The whole world is online now, with people ordering their clothes, appliances, books, movies and even groceries on the internet and getting them shipped to their front doors. And, keep in mind – this was before a global pandemic started, keeping millions of Americans confined to their homes, many often left with not much else to do but surf the web.
A strong web presence is more vital to survival than ever for businesses, and this crisis only brightens the light shining on this already critical need. So let’s recap the biggest reasons why – if you haven’t already – you need to take your business online.
Network & Credibility – Why “Don’t Need It, Don’t Want It” is the Wrong Approach
According to a 2019 survey from Visual Objects, around 40 percent of small businesses do not have a website. While many cite cost as a primary deterrent when considering investing in a new site, websites are actually more accessible and affordable than ever. The same survey found that over 60 percent of businesses with a modern, professional website paid less than $10,000 for it, and for the simplest websites, costs can even be substantially lower.
While cost was often a primary concern, another common reason for passing on web development is the perception that a website is irrelevant for their business. A large number of business owners instead prefer to operate based on personal networking and word-of-mouth referrals. Although these traditional tactics may work well in the short term, word-of-mouth only travels so far and that network will eventually be exhausted.
Plus, as has become clear in the current climate, a storefront can be subject to unexpected interruptions, effectively wiping out the ability to do business. Without an online presence, people may never find a local business or not be able to verify if they are open, leading to countless sales lost before they ever had a chance.
The number of people that look online for signs of credibility is only increasing, as well. Search Engine Land reported on a BrightLocal survey that found that 97 percent of millennials read online reviews when determining whether they think a business is of high or low quality, and 89 percent of them trust those reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from a friend.
With Forbes finding in 2019 that millennials account for over $1 trillion in annual U.S. consumer spending, the claim that an online presence is somehow irrelevant to the future survival of a business simply doesn’t hold water.
Communicate with Your Customers
With some industries still facing uncertainties over their “essential/nonessential” status, it is very difficult for the regular customers of any business to know if and/or how it is still operating – that is, unless they’re told.
Communication with customers and clients during this time is crucial, even if it’s just to let them know that nothing has changed if your business is essential. If things have changed – which, for most people, they have – it is very important to have an online space to let people know about those changes, especially since people need the information as soon as possible and they need it to be accessible as possible.
When the Offline World Stops
Obviously, the current COVID-19 crisis is an extreme example, but as we can all now see, there are scenarios where entire industries may have to be converted almost exclusively online for uncertain periods of time.
So, say a business in a Main Street district has no online presence or ecommerce capabilities, instead relying heavily on foot traffic and word-of-mouth. All of a sudden, access to that foot traffic gets cut off. How will this business survive? They have loyal, regular customers, but if they can’t physically get to the store to shop, how are those regulars supposed to support the business if they can’t shop online?
The businesses that are doing the best right now are all the ones that were prepared for online connectivity and have stayed engaged with their customers over their websites and social channels.
Even removing the current crisis from the situation, a website is extremely important to survival. Although a business might have a solid referral network or foot-traffic sales for now, MineWhat found that 81 percent of shoppers do research online prior to making any purchasing decisions. Simply put, people can’t support a business they can’t find or don’t know about, so make sure these users can find you online.
ROI & Lasting Value
Referring back to the Visual Objects survey in regards to what businesses spend on websites, more than half spend less than $10,000. Approaching this from a ROI perspective, how many sales would it take for that website to have paid for itself? Probably not that many, especially for those in B2B markets.
And, compared to many marketing tactics – TV, radio, print, outdoor, digital banners, etc. – a website lasts for an incredibly long period of time. This gives you some flexibility on the time it takes to see the return on your investment. While with other marketing tactics, once their run is up, it’s over, a website lasts and can be easily updated as your inventory or service options change. You will likely need to remake or refresh your site every few years (more on that over here), but think of it like buying a car – with routine maintenance and upkeep, it can last for years and take you far further than walking ever could.
Not Online Yet? Let’s Talk
If you’ve never seriously looked into going online, you’ve probably got a ton of questions about how the process works, what you need and how to get started. Get started with us. We can help walk you through what to expect and how to take your business online. We’re also offering many flexible options to help make getting a new website more affordable during this difficult time for so many businesses. Let’s talk – give us a call or contact us online today.
Bringing with him more than a decade of experience in traditional and online news media, digital marketing and content production experience, Ryan Yaeger is the copywriter and digital content strategist at J. Fitzgerald Group. When not busy wordsmithing at his proverbial word anvil or working on client SEO, you can find him testing new board games or cheering for the Bills or Sabres.