If someone had tried to explain websites to you 30 years ago, you would’ve said it was impossible – or at least that worldwide access to information about your business and the ability to get hold of you 24 hours a day was incredible.
Yet browsing a business’s website now feels completely normal – it’s just another part of people’s daily lives. But many local businesses still don’t have a website where people can find vital information.
Local businesses are missing out
A study shows that 60 per cent of small businesses in the UK still don’t have their own website (Huffingtonpost, 2015). A lot of local businesses think they don’t need a website, especially if most of their current customers have been with them for a long time, or they rely on word-of-mouth or traditional advertising.
But future customers and the way they shop are already changing, which means having a website for your business is more important than ever. For starters, decades ago a word-of-mouth recommendation might have meant an immediate sale, but what do you think people do now when a business is recommended to them? They Google it, of course. So that word-of-mouth recommendation might be for nothing if you don’t have an online presence. People search online to find your website to check it’s a credible and reputable business. If you don’t have a website then people will assume you’re not serious and are more likely to pick a competitor who does.
Potential customers want to know more before buying
Increasingly, people are searching online for information about products and services from businesses they perhaps already know before they choose where they’ll buy something. In 2015, a company specialising in local business search found that nearly 20% of customers look online for business information every week (BrightLocal).
If your business doesn’t have a website, even if it’s only a simple page with opening hours and a contact number, you won’t be getting in front of these people searching for your product or service.
Potential customers look online for local businesses
It’s not just information and big companies that people are searching for. Searching for information about local businesses is very common: over 90% of customers surveyed by BrightLocal said they’d searched online for a local business in the last year (2015).
Similarly, Google’s research into how customers looked online for information about local businesses found that:
89% of people search for a local business on their smartphone once a week or more, with 58% searching at least daily
1 in 3 searches on a smartphone occur right before a consumer visits a store
18% of searches lead to a purchase within a day (Liberty, 2016)
By having a business website, you can make sure that your business is the one people see when they’re looking online – rather than your competitor’s website.
Websites aren’t just for selling online
Even if you don’t sell online, a business website is still very useful. The statistics above show just how many customers are looking for information online, and research by Google also found that searching online can have a big impact in ‘real life’ too.
A study found that 88% of consumers go on to contact a local business within 24 hours of finding their website online (Supersonic Playground, 2016). Another study also found that UK consumers spend an average of 4 hours a day consuming media online which is a lot of time each day that online users are actively seeking information (Supersonic Playground, 2016).
A business website is essential
Without a business website, you won’t be able to get your products and services in front of people who are searching online – and we’ve seen that most people ARE looking online for information.
Having a business website not only increases your credibility, but it also increases the likelihood of future customers finding you. Even if your business has been going for many years, not having a website can make you look unprofessional. That’s not because your service or products aren’t good, but because today’s consumers just assume every credible and trustworthy business will have a website.
Your website is another way to tell the story of your business and explain why you’re the best option for your customers. It’s a great way to talk about services and products in a concise way, and can provide your customer with lots of information (like price, location and opening hours) to help them make the decision to buy from you.
More people than ever expect to be able to find out information about you online, whether that’s as simple as your opening hours or detailed photographs of your products. So for local businesses, having a good business website which explains what you offer to customers is no longer optional; it’s essential.
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