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Top 8 reasons your business should be online NOW

6 minute read

You know that feeling when you’re stuck at home alone while a party is going on elsewhere? If your business has yet to adopt a digital presence, you might well feel the same.

If you’re reading this blog post, then you may already suspect there are benefits of getting your business online. You may have concerns that the process will break the bank and involve building a top-of-the-range website, adopting a vast social media strategy or hiring a digital marketing team.

Not true! Getting your business online can begin very modestly, and you can build on your online platform as you gain confidence and experience. Plus, the benefits of being online far outweigh the effort involved – read on and see for yourself with the following top 8 reasons:

1. Gain instant credibility
2. Be where your customers are
3. Face down the competition
4. Have greater control over your brand
5. Get online reviews to endorse your product or service
6. Be open all hours
7. Be easier to find
8. Get more bang from your marketing buck

1. Gain instant credibility

As a business owner, you’ll already know that reputation is key to retaining customers and attracting new ones. You can rely on customer recommendations and word-of-mouth to spread your name, but being online would save a great deal of time and gain your business some instant kudos.

Simply having a professional website demonstrates credibility, and using it alongside a variety of online tactics can gain you bonus points instantly.

HOW:

  • Start with your website. It’s worth investing in a web designer to ensure that your site represents your brand and responds to your customers’ needs. If you’re a retail business, consider setting up an eCommerce website.
  • Build up your social media presence by setting up some social platforms that work best for your business.

2. Be where your customers are

Recent statistics show that over half the world’s population are now online, with a total UK eCommerce spend expected to reach £76 billion in 2018. Even if consumers buy products or services in a bricks-and-mortar shop, 81% will have done their research online beforehand.

As such, it’s imperative that you respond to your customers’ behaviours and get your business on the web. Not only will it be easier for them to find you, you’ll be in a better position to respond quickly to their enquiries, complaints, and feedback.

HOW:

  • Workshop your customers. Draw up some customer profiles or “personas” to help identify their key characteristics, needs, online enquiries and behaviours. Hubspot has some tools to help you with this. The more you get to grips with your customers’ needs, the better placed you’ll be to respond to them online.
  • Use your profiles to find your customers. Ensure all your digital marketing responds to the customer profiles you’ve defined.

3. Face down the competition

Any business worth its salt has an online presence, and it’s likely that your competitors have a website, are running social media marketing campaigns and are visible on Google Maps.

It’s also likely that they are stealing your trade. Why? Because they are more visible, responsive and in tune with their customers’ needs than you. Don’t be left behind by the competition!

HOW:

  • Take a sneaky peak at what your competitors are doing online. What’s their website like? Is it a simple brochure site, or is it an online shop? Do they have a social media presence? Are they visible on Google Maps?
  • Workshop how you can go one better and improve on their online activity to gain the competitive edge.

4. Have greater control over your brand

When customers walk into your shop, all they see are your products. But online it’s a different matter: here, the world is your oyster. Your website and whole digital marketing strategy should be geared towards demonstrating your skills and expertise, explaining why YOU are the top choice.

This is where content, both on- and off-site, is key to honing your brand and showing off what you do to your defined customers.

For example, if your product or service is very visual (e.g. a flower shop), you might consider setting up an Instagram account to share pictures and attract followers. If you’re an advice service, you might focus on your website and include how-to videos and online enquiry forms.

HOW:

  • Decide on your content streams. Options include instructional YouTube videos embedded in your site, a gallery of your best completed projects, an informative blog, and social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter).
  • Set up a content calendar to help you plan your content production.
  • Define the influencers and leaders in your niche and reach out to them. You might be able to guest blog for their website or encourage them to discuss your product on their blog/social media.
  • Involve yourself in the online discussion in your niche. Don’t use social media to brag and broadcast but retweet/repost others’ content, ask questions and engage in the conversation.

5. Get online reviews to endorse your product or service

According to BrightLocal, 87% of people say they will only use a business with a rating of 3-5 stars, with 72% of customers only taking action when they’ve read a positive review. Crucially, online reviews are thought to contribute 10% to a search engine’s assessment to decide on your search ranking.

Whether you’re selling products or providing a service, getting good reviews is a powerful way to demonstrate your credibility and gain customers.

HOW:

  • Sign up to online review sites such as Trip Advisor, Yelp, Yahoo, Google My Business, and industry-specific review sites.
  • Ask your customers to review you once they’ve used your service or made a purchase.
  • Respond to reviews where possible. Even if you get a bad review, reply to it directly, taking on the feedback and offering a positive solution.
  • Don’t pay for reviews or write reviews yourself as you may be penalised by Google.

6. Be open all hours

Consumers today expect 24/7 availability from shops and services, and being online is a way to achieve this easily.

HOW:

Make sure your website is set up in a way that allows you to be responsive to your customers at all hours.

  • Respond: If your website provides online enquiry forms, ensure you respond to any submissions promptly.
  • Be timely: Research the best times to Tweet, post on Facebook/Instagram, send email marketing campaigns (these vary from platform to platform) and auto schedule using tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and Mailchimp.
  • Automate: If you’re a retail business, set up an eCommerce site with automated order and payment processing so sales can be made even when you’re sound asleep.
  • Publish opening hours: Use Google My Business to publish your opening hours so people know when your physical location is open for business.

7. Be easier to find

Gone are the days when businesses relied solely on footfall and word-of-mouth to get customers through the door.

Today, with 68.6% of the UK population owning a smartphone, people are turning to their phones for everything: banking, booking appointments, shopping, researching products… the list is endless. You don’t want to miss out on their business.

To compete with local businesses, you need to make sure you can be discovered online, both in search results and on Google Maps.

HOW:

8. Get more bang from your marketing buck

Let’s face it, traditional forms of marketing – the posters, the fliers and leaflets, the snail mail shots – are not only wasteful, they are extremely time-consuming and expensive.

You can save yourself a fortune by adopting digital marketing tactics that achieve the same goal, and do your bit for the environment by reducing the amount of printed materials.

You will need to set aside a budget for your online activity (to pay for a decent website and hosting, for example), but there are many things you can do digitally that cost very little but will reap tangible rewards.

HOW:

  • Email marketing: tools like Mailchimp offer free packages that allow you to build up your contact lists and send and schedule tailored email shots. You can also integrate this with your online shop to automate ‘thank you’ messages, shopping trolley reminders and follow-up emails.
  • Social media: Most platforms are free to use (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn), although you can pay for added extras. Scheduling and automation tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer have free basic plans that will help you manage your social media messages.
  • Your website: There are free platforms, such as WordPress.org, which allow you to build on a template and use their hosting at no cost. Having said that, it’s worth investing in a web designer to develop a site that reflects your brand and message.
  • Online directories: Yelp, Bing and Yahoo can all help to direct traffic to your site.
  • YouTube: Free and can be embedded into your website and on social media sites.

The benefits of getting your business online far outweigh any reason to resist.

You’ll gain instant credibility, find more customers and keep pace with your competitors. Being on the web makes your business visible, available and responsive to your customers’ needs, and it lets you control how you’re viewed by your following.

And the good news is that, no matter how non-tech savvy you are, there are plenty of ways of “going digital” without having to become a tech guru. A simple website and some social media is a great place to start and could make all the difference!

Don’t miss out on the party; it’s time to get your business online NOW!

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Charlotte Jenkins is an Oxford-based content marketer. She has several years’ experience in content writing, editing and digital marketing, helping clients communicate their businesses online.

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