Why it’s important for your business to have a strong online presence.
In 2015, e-commerce giants Shopify released a video in which they recounted the early development of internet shopping as they tried to track down the first ever online transaction. The video follows a timeline starting in 1971 with a conversation between students at MIT and the University of Stanford, who were using an early network of computer science labs called ARPANET to arrange a meeting place for an ‘extra-curricular’ transaction. (Yes, they were buying weed!) West coast rap legend Snoop Dogg might like to believe that this was the first ever online sale! In reality, the first e-commerce transaction wasn’t until 1994, when Dan Kohn sold a copy of Sting’s Ten Summer’s Tales CD to his friend in Philadelphia. In a New York Times interview the following day, Kohn described it as “a new venture that is the equivalent of a shopping mall in cyberspace.”
I find it ironic that internet shopping all started with the sale of a CD; a format that e-commerce would later make redundant.
Now, a quarter of a century later, the Internet is the first port of call for anyone looking to spend money. From B2B businesses to restaurants, fashion boutiques and even local tradesmen, everyone in the business world is branching out to the ever-expanding online market; or as I like to call it, the ‘iStreet’. Here are five reasons why YOUR business’s online presence can make a BIG difference to your bottom line:
- Image is everything – your company’s online image is a bit like a CV. All applicants for a specific job will probably have the same qualifications, but the applicants whose CVs are the most impressive, well worded and professionally put together will get an interview. Likewise, when a potential customer searches for a product or service online, the result will always be the same; lots of businesses offering exactly what they’re looking for. That customer will always choose the business whose website is the most impressive, well worded and professionally put together. Whether you’re a B2B, B2C service or product-based business, potential consumers need to trust you before they give you their money. If you don’t have a strong, professional online presence, you’ll lose custom to competitors who do.
- Reach – back in the days before internet shopping, if a business wanted to sell Sting’s albums, they’d have to rely on the customers who walked past their shopfront, saw the album and walked in. Today, nine Sting albums since that first e-commerce sale, reaching potential customers is no longer restricted to foot traffic. A business with a strong online presence can access a huge customer base, reaching people who may not even know they exist. The first place consumers go when they want something is Google. Strong SEO on your business website means that when they search for what you offer, you’re on page one. The development of smart phones and social media created a shift in the way people spend their time. The average person now spends two hours a day on social media. Throughout that 2-hour window, modern businesses are marketing their products and services in the form of social media adverts. Driving traffic to their websites and blogs. Traffic to your website through strong SEO or an effective social media presence is the equivalent of foot traffic for your business. The more traffic you get, the more potential customers you have the chance to convert.
- Your website is always open – this is what separates the iStreet from the High Street; the iStreet never closes. Potential customers can browse the web 24/7, all year round. Your website is your showroom, your social media pages and adverts are your shop window. But online, potential customers are free to look around long after closing time. Imagine what being open 3 times longer would do for your bottom line. If you offer online sales or bookings, customers can place orders from home, anytime of the day. Even if you’re a service-based company, potential consumers can read about what you offer and contact you via your website or social media. Your business’ online presence can generate leads after you’ve gone home, ready for you to convert into paying customers the following day.
- Reviews – it’s a well-known marketing fact that people love to buy, but they don’t like to be sold. People like to make their own decisions. A 5-star review by a previous customer can do more for your business than a pushy sales pitch. Some business owners think online reviews are a bit of a minefield. They’re unregulated by the business and there’s always the chance of someone posting an awful review. While this isn’t ideal publicity, if you operate to the best of your ability, take pride in the work you do and the products you sell, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Encouraging your existing customers to leave online reviews is an effective marketing tool. It’s a great way to attract new customers without actively trying to sell to them. Not only does this satisfy the customers need to feel like the decision maker; it also makes your business more trustworthy. Giving money to a business with a heap of 5-star reviews is a hell of a lot easier.
- Social = sales – Having a strong online presence isn’t just about having a website. It’s also about bringing you closer to potential customers. One of the best ways to do this is making it easy for people to talk to you. Engagement is key!
As a customer, if I have a question about your products or services and can’t get an answer, the chances are I’m not going to buy. If you make it easy for customers to contact you, they’re more likely to buy. A study by Sproutsocial looked at social media activity by businesses. They found that the number one brand action on social media, that prompted customers to buy, was responsiveness. If your business has an online message function on your website and responsive pages on social media, it’s easier for you to engage with potential customers. That responsiveness is what makes it easier for you to convert those leads into sales.
Your online presence is just as important as your physical shopfront or office premises. In fact, the potential customer reach is probably much higher online. Find out how iStreet from TChee can help you increase your online footprint and convert more visitors into paying customers. Contact us via our online contact form or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.