Should your small business have a website? Yes!
Many small businesses are still not using the internet to conduct business. In fact, 46 percent of U.S. small businesses still don’t have a website for their company, according to a survey by research firm Clutch.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA’s) 2014 Factbook found that only 41% of Canadian small businesses have a website at all while Canadian business’s investment in ecommerce is so dismal that one commentator retitled a government report on the subject “E-Commerce in Canada: Half-Assedly Pursuing the Promise."
The first reason why your company needs a website, even if your business has five employees or less, is because that's where so many of your potential customers are for so much of the time.
For instance, a study by comScore Canada found that Canadians spend an average of 36.3 hours browsing in one month's time, while Americans spend 35.2 hours online every month. (This study also found that Canadians spend more time online each month than anyone else.)
Meanwhile, a Nielsen Company audience report for the first quarter of 2016 found that about 81% of adults in the United States have smartphones which are used about one hour and 39 minutes daily on average to consume media.
In both the U.S. and Canada, 88.5% of people are internet users.
All of which means that there are a whole lot of eyeballs that could be visiting and interacting with your small business's website — if you had one.
If you operate one of those small businesses that doesn’t have a website and that fact alone doesn’t persuade you to develop an online presence for your business, here are six more reasons:
1) People use the internet like they used to use the phone book.
I used to tell small business owners that it didn't matter if they had a website if most of their business was local. But now almost everyone uses theiInternet to get information — even local information. Potential customers are using their Smartphones and tablets to decide where to go and what to buy.
So your small business has to come up in local search or beware; people who are searching will find other local businesses rather than yours.
2) A business website gives your business legitimacy.
People expect businesses to have their own websites, just as they used to expect businesses to have a real physical business address.
Not having a business website raises questions in customers eyes. Are you a technological luddite? Just still haven't gotten around to it? Or such a shoestring startup that you can't even afford to do this? All things you don't want people thinking about your business!
3) A business website gives you another marketing channel.
Having a business website gives you an automatic internet presence. Think of it as an online billboard. Instantly you have another chance to introduce people to your products and services and another way for people to find you. (Of course, how many eyes your billboard attracts will depend on your conscious marketing efforts to get people's attention, such as Search Engine Optimization, blogging, using social media, and online advertising.)
4) A business website gives you another opportunity for data collection/lead generation.
For instance, getting people to write their email addresses on pieces of paper and handing them in at a physical storefront is hard.
But getting people to type their email address into a box on a website is much, much easier — especially if they perceive that they're getting something for it, such as a newsletter, a special report or an ebook. And once you have the email address, you have another way to reach your potential customer.
5) Ecommerce spending is increasing every year.
In the U.S., ecommerce spending was $341.7 billion in 2015 and Forrester Research Inc. predicts that online shoppers will spend $385 billion in 2017. Retail ecommerce sales are forecast to grow at a fast pace in the coming years, going from 396.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to just over 684 billion US dollars in 2020. In Canada, ecommerce spending was $27 billion in 2015 and sales are expected to total nearly $40 billion by 2018. Canadians shop more abroad than they do domestically, with 67% of purchases going to other countries (PFS).
Learn more about ecommerce: 8 Rules for a Successful Ecommerce Website
6) Webrooming can lead customers into your store.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, investing in building an online presence such as an ecommerce website can increase your offline store’s profits thanks to the growing popularity of webrooming, where customers research items online before purchasing them in-store.
Over 90 percent of global purchases are still happening offline, proving that webrooming is still most people's shopping preference.
What’s Your Reason for Not Being Online?
One small business man I spoke to told me that he didn’t have a website because he wasn’t looking for any more business. He’s an electrician and as busy as he wants to be for the foreseeable future.
But if you actually want more business, a business website is now like the business card — a must-have for any business – and don’t think you need to offer ecommerce to have one. A website that serves as a digital business card, providing searchers with information about your business and what you can do for them is still worthwhile.
If you don't already have one, get started with How to Get and Register a Domain Name, the first step to getting your business online.
Then have a look at the different Online Business Models and see what kind of web presence would work best for your small business.