More and more businesses are establishing an online presence. This is because customers are increasingly going online to access the goods and services they need. Also online business-to-business transactions have become a common trend. Going online brings your business to more people that you would expect a brick-and-mortar store to. When you strategically launch your online business, you will not only gain greater visibility but also improve your return on investment. Here are 10 reasons why your local business should establish an online presence:
1. Customer Accessibility
Consider this: a survey conducted by WebVisible & Nielsen showed that 3 out of 4 people use the major search engines to find local businesses. This means that if someone is looking for a local restaurant, a shoe repair shop, a specialty bookshop or any local service, 75% of the time they will use a search engine such as Google to find this business. As such if you are not online, it means that up to 75 percent of your potential customers are not finding you. However, what if they could find you and see the range of products and services you are offering? This can go a long way in boosting your customer base and your business profits too.
Unlike the brick-and-mortar shops that have to close at some point in the day, the Internet opens 24/7. By having an online presence, your business will go on regardless of the time of day. Customers will still be able to look around your online shop and your product offering and make purchases. This essentially maximizes the business hours so that you are operating a 24-hour business without the need to be physically present. By being open for longer you will be surprised at just how much you will be able to improve on the sales numbers and overall business revenues.
2. Wider Audience
Over 2 billion people have access to the Internet today. This global audience presents a lucrative opportunity as prospective customers. If you have the capacity or the long-term plans, you can sell your goods and services to people in other countries. Instead of setting up a brick-and-mortar shop in every country or geographical location that you want to reach, you simply need to set up a virtual shop that anyone can access.
Gaining an online presence for your local business is made easier by free online tools and mobile & web applications that your customers can use to find out what you are offering. Because people are looking online first before they can make purchasing decisions, it means that those local businesses that have an online presence are attracting more customer inquiries. Any business knows that inquiries, even though they do not lead to an immediate sale, are not necessarily a bad thing. It is through answers to inquiries that you are able to pitch to your local customers. But without an online presence you just might not have as many prospects to pitch to as you would like.
3. Customer Reviews
Both online and offline businesses rely on ‘word of mouth’ as one of the most significant channels of their marketing. But as an offline business, ‘word of mouth’ reviews by customers can only reach so many people, usually a customer’s close friends and family. Yet an online presence allows customers to post reviews about your business and thousands of potential customers will access the reviews and your product offering. Of course, reviews can make or break your business; you need to offer the best services and customer support for your business to receive great reviews. Having an online presence offers your customers a viable platform to undertake ‘word of mouth’ marketing on your behalf. Many studies have shown that potential clients often look through reviews before they can purchase a product or service offering from you.
4. Brand Building And Visibility
Brand visibility means making your brand known to potential customers. As a brick-and-mortar business, you might be surprised to find out that just a few people know about your business brand. But by bringing your business online you become more visible to the people that matter the most: potential customers and the media. The media, whether social or mainstream can play an important role in promoting and marketing your business, but you have to let them know that your business exists in the first place.
Brand building means building trust between your business and these potential customers. Bringing your business online serves as an effective way for prospects to see what you have to offer and what your business is all about. An online existence allows your prospects to realize whether you are the right business to purchase a product or service from. It enable potential clients to compare your offering with that of the competition and it also offers you ample opportunities to tell the client why you are better than the competition.
5. Marketing And Selling Made Easy
It is a known fact that people do not like to be sold to and businesses do not usually like to come off as being too pushy. However, the Internet provides an ideal platform for businesses to effectively market and sell their products without having to apply too much pressure on the customers. By creating great informational and marketing copy for your product offering, you allow the customer to make an informed and relaxed decision. When done strategically, online marketing can be effective in building rapport between you and your customers and establishing long-term partnerships.
Online marketing also allows you to present your offer in a way that is appealing to your target audience. You not only sell them your product offering but you can easily give your audience incentives that they can access easily. For example as part of your marketing campaign, you can give out free digital products such as ebooks and white papers at almost no cost at all. Compare this to offline marketing where you would have to print out these incentives or give incentives that cost you so much.
6. Reduced Cost Of Operation
Having your business online will greatly reduce your cost of doing business. Admittedly, the initial cost of setting up will cost you a significant amount, but the long-term benefits far outweigh these initial costs. The best thing about setting up online is that once you set up, the costs begin to reduce as you enjoy an improved business bottom line. With an online presence, you may eliminate costs such as customer support, office space, marketing research and advertisement as various online tools can help you automate most of these.
7. Affordable Infrastructure
One of the apprehensions that businesses have when going online is related to payment and delivery, however there are plenty platforms and solutions available to you to make business transactions much easier. First, your e-commerce website will be protected by Secure Socket Layer encoding that secures the transactions between you and your customers and will warn you in the event of any security threats to your e-commerce site. Additionally, you will have access to a large number of online merchant payment options such as PayPal and others through which customers can make easy payments just from your own e-commerce website.
8. Connecting With Customers
More and more businesses are looking for innovative ways of connecting with their customers, without breaking the bank. The Internet offers the perfect opportunity for businesses to find where their target audience is and to engage them.
Once you bring your business online, you can connect with your target audience in many ways. You can send them personalized emails about product offerings, offer them informative articles on your site, or create entertaining and educational videos. Additionally, you can develop interactive applications to engage your customers with your business or provide value on forums and social networking platforms.
9. Effective Tracking Of Progress
Sometimes offline businesses do not have a cost effective and reliable method of tracking progress. Yet with an online business, you can track, monitor and measure just about any metric that is important to your business. There are both free tools such as Google Analytics and commercial ones that will allow you to measure your online e-commerce business progress at any time and receive instant results.
10. No Inventory Required
There are companies that do drop-shipping for you so that you, unlike an offline business, do not have to keep any inventory. Drop-shipping companies are suppliers of the products that customers buy from your site. These companies simply ship the product ordered to your customers without you needing to source for the availability of that product and to go through shipping logistics. This can eliminate a significant amount of operational costs that you would have otherwise incurred if you kept inventory.