An online presence is not strictly a necessity for every business. Many mom-and-pop shops, local restaurants and small-town florists run just fine on local customers happening by and positive word of mouth. Although having a website isn’t a business commandment, developing an online presence provides three major opportunities in which businesses can influence and be influenced by customers. These opportunities lead to one of the greatest business commandments of all, no matter the size of the operation: Know thy customer.
Finding Customers (or letting them find you)
Even a mom-and-pop shop in a small city won’t be known to all the locals. The people who live in the neighborhood might happen by every day, but those people who live across town may not even know the shop exists.
Yet the way to increase exposure is through a website. According to Internet World Stats, run by Internet research firm Miniwatts Marketing Group, nearly 79 percent of the U.S. population uses the Internet. Companies can be sure many of those users will go online to look up business information, even for local stores or restaurants.
Once a user arrives at a website, a business has to make its best pitch to that person. With a well-designed, easy-to-navigate site that provides substantial information, a company provides visitors with upfront data that helps potential customers decide if the business has what they need. Using images, persuasive copy and even videos, a business owner has the power to influence a consumer to give her company a try. Additionally, a site should be designed to encourage action by providing clear, concise information and the tools that consumers need to act.
Also, a decent-looking website doesn’t need to be complex. User-friendly WordPress provides a simple interface that many business owners can handle on their own. With the right WordPress hosting provider, a website will have low downtime, quick load times and plenty of available plug-ins to track consumer behavior.
Local stores may use their websites as a secondary retail front as well. By turning a business website into another sales channel, retail companies have the potential to increase sales substantially.
Physical business locations have invented a means of collecting customer data over the years through customer loyalty programs. These programs offer discounts to attract sales, but they also can be used to gather intel.
A website provides automatic information on consumers. Since website hosts collect data, a business has the ability to see where visitors come from, both virtually (how they ended up on the website) and physically (where their IP addresses say they’re located). Website analytics also allow a business to see which products different consumers are interested in, making it easier to bundle products together into popular packages.
With the slew of potential customers and the massive amounts of data online, the Internet is the place to be for businesses who truly want to know their customers. Though it’s not a requirement, most companies will benefit from the exposure and analytics an online presence provides.