Many small businesses think they don’t need a website or social media profiles because they serve a small, localised geographic area. But these days, most of us won’t try a new business until we’ve looked them up online. That means having some kind of digital presence really is a must for all businesses. And at a time when physical shops are becoming increasingly obsolete (e.g. in the beauty industry, the closure of 30% of cosmetic shops during the COVID-19 pandemic opened the floor for direct-to-consumer cosmetic brands to thrive), it’s only going to get harder to compete if you don’t have some kind of digital presence.
Thankfully, a digital presence offers plenty of other benefits too, as Noah Tran explains in this guest post.
A digital presence is no longer an option; it’s become a necessity since the COVID-19 pandemic struck earlier this year. According to data from IBM Industries, the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping by five years. If you have a small to medium business that still relies on bricks-and-mortar ways, it’s worth looking into this data:
1. It Increases Brand Visibility in Ways That Traditional Marketing Can’t
As of June 2020, retail websites have already earned 22 billion visits, which is 30% higher than January 2020 global visits. Small to medium businesses can have better chances in competing against larger enterprises if they are also accessible in the digital world. A website allows customers to browse and avail products and services smoothly, particularly now that many consumers are hesitant to visit physical stores.
Digital platforms also provide opportunities to display various branding elements. For example, a store for eco-friendly kitchenware can include photos, videos, and social media posts relevant to environmental conservation. You may also customise the colour scheme to fit your branding.
2. It Allows Business to Reach Global Audience Without Putting Too Much Weight on Expenses
There are 4.13 billion internet users across the globe, and some of them might be interested in your business — if only they’ve heard of it.
Shane Perry, an investment advisor at Max Funding, encourages small businesses to start their digital transformation, “Before the dawn of the internet, businesses attract audiences through radio and TV commercials, print media, and promotional events. While these can be effective, they are not the most practical options for all small to medium businesses. This is particularly in this time of wide-scale economic slump.”
Digital platforms allow businesses to reach customers in various parts of the world without spending too much. A modest bag maker from a small town can market their products to a significant city on the other side of the world with just one social media post!
Those who are more determined to strengthen their digital presence also invest in search engine optimisation (SEO).
3. It Allows Businesses to Conduct Round-the-Clock Lead Generation
Regardless of the size and nature of a business, being accessible 24/7 is an advantage. Consider your website or social media account as a showroom. What if your target market tends to shop after 5 pm? It means you could lose a lot of leads by sticking to an 8-5 daily schedule.
Digital platforms allow businesses to operate 24/7 to accommodate customers with more unpredictable shopping schedule. This is incredibly helpful for small to medium businesses that can’t afford to pay multiple employees to run the place all day and all night.
Installing bots that make automated responses is the most popular way to engage customers, even if the staff is out.
4. It Increases Efficiency Which Can Improve Overall Customer Experience
These days, digital presence is key to giving the best customer experience. Small to medium business can integrate solutions into their websites for increased efficiency. For example, inventory software can automatically inform the seller and customers that what they’re looking for is currently out of stock. This saves time as the customer does not have to contact the seller, and the seller doesn’t have to visit the warehouse anymore.
Integrating payment gateway into a website also speeds things up and minimises any risk of theft. By accepting payments through PayPal, Skrill, Transferwise, and Stripe, businesses are offering secure and convenient channel for customers.
5. It Allows More Accurate and More Convenient Data Collection
Data is probably the most valuable resource in these modern times. Small to medium businesses may find it impractical to conduct an extensive survey. Analytics software can be integrated into their digital platforms to collect essential data, which can be used by businesses for decision-making. These data may include:
- Who visits the site/page
- What time of the day has the heaviest traffic
- What day has the most and least visits
- Where are most of the audience located
- Which products or service get the most click
- The average time each customer spends viewing a product
Have you visited an online marketplace before to purchase a specific product and on your next visit advertisements of the same product welcome you? It’s because the website has detected your interests and it’s trying to make your shopping experience easier.
6. It Provides Free Marketing
One of the most significant benefits of digital presence is free marketing. With just a link to a website or social page, customers can find small businesses.
Customers can serve as unintentional marketers by sharing any exciting content. You probably have heard of several new businesses that gained global popularity overnight because of an intriguing, thought-provoking, emotionally-stirring tweet.
While business owners are ultimately free to put anything on their digital accounts, this should be approached with extreme caution. What may sound humorous to them, could strike others differently.
Understanding the target audience is critical when planning for content. Every element of a brand’s digital presence must align with the needs and desires of its target audience. Once a brand finds its way to the depths of a consumer’s heart, they’ll be hard to forget. This is brands that strongly identify with a specific set of ideas have numerous followers.
7. It Builds Credibility and Trust Between the Businesses and Customers
Customers see businesses as they would a political figure. They want to see it speaking, debating, taking a stance, participating in community activities, and shaking hands. A business with more presence tends to look more credible and trustworthy. In the minds of the customers, it means you’re not hiding anything, and you’re confident of the quality of your products and services.
Of course, the way a business is presented in the digital world should align with its message. A well-built and well-designed website will signal the customers that it is legitimate and reliable.
Digital Presence Should Be Included in Every Business’ Survival Kit
Regardless of business size, a digital presence is essential to survive and thrive in this age. It increases brand awareness, connects you with the target market, increases efficiency, reduces marketing expenses, and builds credibility.
Noah Tran is an aspiring writer and content creator. He is driven to create content that increases website traffic, clicks and conversions. And hopes to one day launch his own business with the skills he’s learned.