With over 2.2 billion people online, the internet has revolutionized how we find and share information. The online world is moving at a rapid pace and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. For businesses, a web presence has become a fundamental part of success. But why is a presence on the web so important? How significant is the impact of being online? We’re glad you asked.
After several years with Fidelity Investments, in 1996 Richard Sexton decided to step away from the corporate world and follow his passion by opening Himal Home Gallery, a local home furnishings store in his hometown of North Carolina.
“I didn’t have any experience in running a retail operation. [The] learning curve had its fair share of mistakes,” Sexton said. “Going online early and choosing to use Google products were some of the better moves.”
During the ‘90s, no one knew for certain if there was a place for small businesses online or if they could find success there. But Sexton took the chance and launched a website for Himal Home Gallery. The online presence gave Sexton’s small business a great deal of attention and the small shop took off. In 2000, Sexton relaunched the furniture store as Carolina Rustica, focusing primarily on wrought-iron furniture, their best selling item.
“We started with a small 500 square-foot booth in an antique mall and now our gallery is almost 20,000 square feet,” Sexton said. “Through the web, we could reach a much larger audience, and we began to invest in marketing activities that could connect us with us potential customers. I am very happy with the results. Our sales have increased 50% year on year.”
Carolina Rustica is just one of the many small businesses that found great success establishing an online presence. But can their model apply to other business types? Can business that don’t sell products online still find a success with a website? Is having a business website really that important?
Never before has the world been able to connect across the globe and interact so easily. Think about the last time you needed to know something, anything — chances are you went to look it up online. The Internet has completely changed the way we live and how we gather information. Not only is it now our primary source of information, but it has revolutionized the way businesses operate and communicate with customers.
Websites and the online tools that promote them should be the focal point of all advertising and marketing for all businesses, big or small. Here’s why:
Because people are online. If you’re looking for an audience, more customers, or people to influence, the web is where your business needs to be. With over 78% of adult Americans using the Internet and an astounding 2.2 billion people online worldwide, it’s no surprise that small businesses with websites experience an average of 39% greater revenue per year than those without websites, according to the Small Business Administration.
But what if my consumers aren’t online? At Bluehost, we get asked this question all the time. For example, sometimes our clients refer to their consumers from an older demographic. We always tell them that they would be surprised at the amount of adults over 50 using the Internet.
When Roy Williams (business guru and New York Times bestselling author of “Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads”) was giving the keynote at a trades conference in Las Vegas, the chairman of the organization asked him to avoid mentioning the Internet because nearly all their 1,600 members were over the age of 55. Surprised by his request, Williams decided to start the talk by asking the crowd, “How many of you have used a search engine within the past seven days to research a product or service you were considering purchasing?” Almost instantly, over 95 percent of the members raised their hands.
A personal example: My gramps is an old-fashioned man who frankly didn’t care for computers until after he retired in 2002. But now at 70, he can’t get enough of his iPad or sharing vacation pictures with his friends on Facebook. (Yes, that’s right, my gramps is on Facebook with his friends). When I asked him why he changed his mind about the Internet, he simply said, “It’s convenient. That’s where everybody and everything is. It’s the fastest way to do or find or share anything.”
Your consumers are online, trust us.
Because it establishes credibility. When consumers can’t find a company online it raises a red flag. Does this company really exist? Can I trust them? Are they trying to scam me? People are more skeptical than ever. Even when consumers don’t purchase online, they research and look online before they buy. In fact, 58 percent of global online consumers said they more likely to trust a company with “owned media,” such as a company with a website, versus one who doesn’t (Nielsen Advertising Survey, 2012).
When you have a good website, it gives people a peace of mind about your business. Whether you’re selling a product or service, or simply providing information, it’s important for your business to have a web presence in order to establish credibility.
Because it’s a great way to build your brand. A website lets you brand your business like never before. Websites give you unlimited freedom to determine how your business looks to your customers. Websites are flexible and can grow as yours business evolves, and they also allow your business to be available around the clock, even during off business hours. Add to this that websites are one of the most cost-effective tools available and it’s obvious why so many businesses now leverage a website.
Business branding through the web will help you develop a stronger reputation to millions around the world. Potential customers will be able to research your business and find good reviews about the product or service you provide. In fact, consumers say they trust online consumer reviews second from personal recommendations (Nielsen Advertising Survey, 2012). Think of your website as an extension of your sales staff, helping you nurture and generate leads by educating people on your products or services.
Because it is the best way to engage with prospective customers. Word of mouth has and always will be the most trusted form of advertisement. 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising (Nielsen Advertising Survey 2012).
With a website, you make it easy for consumers to share your business. With a simple link, they can instantly access all your business information. And with social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s now even easier for people the to share things they love or recommend. When you have a website, you give these recommendations a place to go. Websites serves as central place for potential customers to learn more about why your business is so great.
We’re here to help you be successful. A website is the foundation for a web presence, which is the first step to making your business successful. The task may seem a bit daunting, but we’re here to help guide you through the entire process. At Bluehost, we want you to be successful, so we work hard to give you all the tools you need. Throughout the next couple months, we’ll be going over, step-by-step, the entire process of building a website and establishing a strong web presence for your business. From layout to design, creating content, measuring analytics, to learning about different promotional tools, etc., we’re here to help you every step of the way!