While many small business owners relish the idea of opening their own storefronts or offices and having the kind of real-world presence these locations can afford, it's important for these people to also not ignore the large and growing importance of having a significant digital presence as well.
In most cases these days, the way in which companies present themselves on the Internet is the first thing consumers learn about them, as the vast majority of consumers are now spending more time online, or otherwise connected to smartphones that give them access to all kinds of apps and other information on the go. As such, it's vital for even the smallest businesses to have engaging websites, and think hard about the ways in which these sites will present their goods or services to the world, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Perhaps the most important question companies should ask with regard to their websites is what, exactly, it does to bring those products to the online viewer, who may have come across the site through an advertisement, Web search, or in the course of their daily browsing, the report said. Moreover, will those that sell products make it so that they are available for purchase through such a site? That kind of decision can be a very important one for businesses, as online sales accounted for more than $250 billion in 2011 alone, and that number was almost 50 percent higher than the one seen in 2010.
The reason this type of consideration may be particularly important for small businesses is that despite their size, they can appear to be just like the Web giants if they handle their websites correctly, the report said. For example, giving visitors the chance to buy a product through the site means that it's not just open to those in the company's immediate area, but rather the entire world.
Implementing online stores isn't always easy
Of course, the step between choosing to set up an online store, or otherwise revamping a company website so that it is more engaging, and actually doing so, is a big one, and one that many owners might not always get exactly right, the report said. The important thing is to ensure that companies are doing as much as possible to make sure everything goes smoothly, and, where online stores are concerned, is in compliance with various state and federal laws.
There is also the matter of small businesses taking what their customers want and need into consideration, and for this reason it might be wise for companies to also start their own social media account. Through these sites, including Twitter and Facebook, small businesses may be able to best determine which strategies for connecting with consumers are and aren't working by receiving critical feedback. Doing so will also give businesses the added benefit of being more engaged with their customers and better able to react to questions or suggestions they may have, which in turn may help their firms to grow more successful over time.
Another thing small businesses may benefit from keeping in mind is that when setting up clean, professional websites that are designed to attract customers, the price tag isn't always low. As such, figuring out how much a site will cost, versus how much it could potentially bring in, and then weighing that versus other expenses including liability insurance or workers' compensation insurance is likely vital to making sure a firm is financially healthy going forward.