It is a well-known fact that starting or maintaining a business is not easy. It is a constant battle to keep ahead of competitors and to retain existing and attract new customers. In this day an age, the Internet is a crucial tool for all types of ventures. Why should an organisation bother to have a website? Read on…
To varying degrees, many of us think of ourselves as being technology savvy. We are aware of key developments that are occurring in telecoms and ICT, and we might even own a few of the new-fangled devices that are on the market. However, for those of us who are business owners, for example as sole traders or companies, we can be reluctant to fully use the Internet to improve our businesses’ prospects. We tend to take that position because we are not sure whether having a website would benefit our business, or whether the cost of going online is really worth it. Discussed below are six key reasons why establishing an online presence should be an important consideration in your overall business strategy.
1. Customers expect it. The Internet has become a key resource for answering any questions we have. As it relates to our service or product needs, the Internet has replaced the Yellow Pages: people often start their search online. This option allows them to quickly and impersonally investigate and compare products and services before setting foot in a store or visiting an office. Having a presence online allows a business to be included in those searches. It is able to market itself, as people tend not have the time nor inclination to call or visit in person only to find out what products/services a business has to offer.
2. Gives the business legitimacy. In keeping with customer expectations, businesses that do not have a website might not be taken as seriously as those that do. Having an online presence suggests professionalism, but also a larger business vision that might not necessarily be limited to the local market.
3. Provides additional avenues for sales. Thanks to e-commerce, the Internet provides an excellent avenue to secure sales, without customers having to visit a store or office. Depending on the offering and target market, the Internet can offer the most cost effective means of securing that business, thus augmenting local sales.
However, even without the capability to complete electronic transactions online, prospective customers can research products and services prior to contacting an establishment to complete the sale. When models such as Amazon are considered, a business’ entire inventory does not need to pass through a store in order to be sold. Shop/office space is expensive, but developing more avenues through which sales can occur will give a business more options with regard to the emphasis it gives to its physical presence.
4. Broadens marketing scope. Having a website offers a cost effective way of advertising and marketing a business. Flyers and advertisements on short-term promotions can be expensive to produce, and for printed materials, they must be prepared days or weeks in advance and produced in large volumes, which also contribute to marketing costs. Advertisements published online can be changed frequently and at a relatively minimal cost when compared to other media.
Additionally, via the Internet, businesses have a number of options to establish links with persons interested in their offerings. A key method that is frequently employed is getting users to register on the site and using emails to inform them of news and special promotions. However, these site visitors can also provide vital market research, for example through the web pages they visit, the goods they purchase, and the comments and feedback provided.
Finally, an online presence potentially gives a business a global market – its market is not necessarily limited to local customers only. That context significantly widens the horizons of operations that are prepared to take advantage of that opportunity.
5. Strengthens client relations. Together with the broader range of marketing options available to a business, an online presence allows it to develop and strengthen its relationship with both current and prospective customers. For example, if the business maintains a directory of the contact details for its customers and registered visitors to its website, it can establish a continual line of communication with them. The organisation can proactively target its marketing efforts at specific/identifiable persons, as opposed to just hoping that people visit its website.
6. Makes business available 24/7. Unlike most businesses, websites generally operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hence information about the business is readily available, or even the ability to make purchases online can occur at the customer’s convenience – the opportunity to make a sale is not missed.
Coupled with the growing expectation for businesses to maintain an online presence, people visit websites at all hours, and especially outside of working hours. Again, having a web presence will allow a business to be included and considered by prospective customers.
These six points are some of the key reasons why organisations should establish their own websites. However, in doing so, the site ought to be done well. Businesses are judged on the professionalism, relevance and quality of information provided on their websites. It therefore requires an on-going commitment to maintain them and to keep them up to date.