Are you still on the fence about whether your company actually needs a website yet? Perhaps you’re worried about the costs or thinking that you could use an e-commerce site like eBay or Etsy at the moment, concentrating on social media to build awareness of your brand?
We think having a website is essential in today’s marketplace. Here are just ten of the many reasons why:
Reason 1: An online presence is a must in today’s marketplace
In 2013, UK shoppers spent £91 billion online and this figure is predicted to reach £107 billion in 2014. According to the IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, the Internet retailing market grew by 16% last year and a 17% increase is forecasted for 2014. Meanwhile, footfall on the high street fell in five out the first six months of 2014.
Because of the growing popularity of tablets and smart phones, more and more of us are spending our evenings ‘sofa surfing’ to buy online or even to click and order from high street shops so that we can pick up an item at our own convenience and guarantee it will be in stock.
These days, even if we intend to deal with a company in person, most of us will look online for a website or reviews to get a broad understanding of whether the company offers what we need and whether it seems like buying from them will be a good experience. If you don’t have an online presence, potential customers will want to know why, and may well move on to find a company that’s more accessible.
Reason 2: Your website is your shop window
For many of your potential customers, visiting your website will be their first experience of your business, products or services, especially if they’ve come across you on a search engine results page (SERP).
It’s important to view your website, particularly the Home page, as your virtual shop window. It should be welcoming, well organised and show potential customers what you do at a glance. If people have to search around your site to understand what you’re offering, you may find they navigate away.
Create an enticing, easy to use and well-presented website and, like a welcoming shop, your customers will want to stay and buy.
Reason 3: You can’t rely entirely on social media
It’s tempting, especially when you’re starting out in business and worried about costs, to think that you can manage without a website for the immediate future and concentrate on building your presence on social media because it’s free.
While we think social media is really important for building good customer relationships and search engine optimisation (just two of the many reasons), we’d also caution against relying entirely on social media to build your business.
Because the rules for businesses using social media can change at any moment. Imagine you’ve spent months building a thriving Facebook business page and then Facebook decides to take down your page without warning because it contravenes a new rule. It’s happened. You may have built up a 1000 ‘likes’ but if you don’t have contact details for any of the people behind the likes, the value of those likes would be lost with your page.
When you have a website, you have control of the content and should be thinking about ways to capture contact details for your traffic, e.g. free ebooks or loyalty schemes. Unlike on social media, you make the rules.
Reason 4: Your website works when you’re sleeping
The fantastic thing about having a website is that it works for your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days of the year. People can visit your site to find out more about your products, services and back story at their own convenience. They can log on from the other side of the world and place an order while you’re sleeping. Your website isn’t dependent on you being at the end of the phone, which means that you can still be making money while you’re off work.
Reason 5: You can communicate with your customers
Your website is one of the best vehicles for communicating your brand to potential and existing customers. You can highlight the benefits of using your products or services, make an emotional connection with your customers and show how you can tackle the issues that are troubling them.
This is where tone of voice and defining your brand is so important. It’s also essential to identify who your target customers are and to create content that speaks to them. Get this right and your customers will self-select by reading your copy and thinking, “Wow, it’s like they’re talking to me. They really understand how I feel”.
Reason 6: Your customers can communicate with you
These days, we’re all busy. Yes, you might be open from nine to five every week day but it may not always be convenient for your customers to contact you during those times because of their own working hours.
By adding a contact form to your website and publicising your email address, you can give your customers the chance to communicate with you in their own time.
Reason 7: A cost-effective marketing tool
The great thing about your website is that it doesn’t have to be static. In fact, the best websites grow and evolve to meet their customers’ needs and to reflect the growth of the business.
You can develop landing pages for new campaigns; split test content, designs and headlines; and capture contact details for people who are interested in your products and services. This will enable you to send well researched and well thought out marketing campaigns to warm leads who have already connected with your company. This, in turn, will lead to an increase in sales and profits.
Reason 8: It makes your company visible
By creating a website that talks to ‘you’, the customer, and puts their experience first, instead of using it as a vehicle to talk non-stop about ‘we’ (the business), you will naturally be doing a lot of the things that Google is looking for when it decides how to rank your website. Clear content, good navigation, a single search focus for each page, blogging, social media interaction and great customer reviews will all boost your website’s rankings in the SERPs and make your company more visible.
Many people express a resistance to the Google juggernaut but its position as the largest search engine doesn’t look set to change. It is a free tool and people are more likely to click through to organic listings (results in SERPs that aren’t from paid ads) because they feel the company has worked hard to offer authentic content.
Reason 9: It gives your business credibility
A well designed, professional website will add credibility to your business, giving potential customers a positive first impression. If your website complements your brand and has been clearly thought through, the message to visitors is ‘this is a company that understands you, that wants you to have a good experience and that knows its own identity’.
Reason 10: It lets you add value
There are lots of ways you can add value to the customer experience via your website. If you sell products, this could be by featuring product videos, reviews, manuals, brochures and so on or by answering frequently asked questions.
Adding a blog to your website is also a fantastic way to add value as you can talk about different topics related to your business in more depth, building your reputation and authority, and giving customers the rich content they are seeking.
Blogging is great for SEO too because it is a way of adding fresh content, driving traffic to your website and building conversations on social media.
Website creation doesn’t have to cost the earth and, done properly, will be one of the best investments you can make in your start-up business.