Why Do I Need a Website? Because You're Losing Business!
When Roberta Intrater, owner of chunky snack granola Bert’s Bites, launched her business, her focus was on providing customers with the best product. Her to-do list included working with food labs to refine her process and ingredients, researching packaging, designing and printing labels, securing commercial kitchen space, and then, much further down the list was getting a website up. Roberta is not alone. In fact, 50 percent of small business owners have not set up a website.
Browsing the internet is the new window shopping. Whether a customer is stumbling on your business for the first time or checking to see if you seem legit, they’re using what they find online to make decisions about whether or not they want to spend money with you. In fact, according to data from RetailNext, three out of four customers are more likely to visit your store if what you share online about your business is useful.
That’s a lot of weight riding on what you’re throwing out there in the digital ether—but the good news is that consumers don’t expect the moon when it comes to your website. A study lead by Google showing how digital connects shoppers to local stores found 63 percent of consumers were satisfied with basic information—location, hours, and phone number.
There are many reasons small businesses say they have no online presence, but the top two reasons are because they believe it’s not relevant to their business, and it’s too costly. It’s probably safe to say exhaustion from wearing dozens of hats per day falls in there somewhere, too. But, when you hear that businesses who make an average of $3.6 million per year could make about $1.5 million more with a website the case for creating one suddenly gets a lot stronger.
Roberta says she always knew how important it was for her business to get a website up, but once she had a place to send people to, she relied on it even more. She referenced her site in emails for wholesale opportunities, revamped her labels and businesses cards to include her site, and even sent out an email campaign announcing the unveiling of her new .com. “If you don’t have a website,” she notes, “you’re missing out on a major opportunity to share information about your company.” More important, “You’re missing out on potential customers who aren’t going to call you but would rather look at a website.”
Some articles mention over 50 different elements to include on your website, which just sounds exhausting. If you’re running an ecommerce business, creating a robust, high functioning website is good advice. But for a business like a neighborhood coffee shop, say, a much simpler website can provide customers with enough information to help get them in the door and spend money.
Here’s what you should prioritize:
The domain is part of the URL—the “address” of your site. For example, in the URL http://www.example.com/, the domain is “example.” Sounds obvious, right? Isn’t that where every website starts?
More important than just having a domain name, however, is creating one that’s memorable and effective.
- Make it easy to type: That means keeping it short and distinct. If your business has your last name in it, but your last name is 15 letters long and includes a complicated mix of letters, stick with a domain name that describes your product but leaves your name out.
- Determine what customers will naturally search for: If you own a candy store that specializes in vintage brands and styles, mention that in your domain – PopsVintageCandy.com. It’s a huge differentiator between you and the other candy stores.
- Do your research: Make sure no one else has already claimed the domain or brand you’re thinking of, and that it’s not already dominated by a larger brand. For example, if you research “Pop’s Vintage Candy” and find out Hershey has a line of lollipops called Pop’s Vintage Candy, you’re better off going a different route. Between SEO and confusing your customers, just let the bigger guy have that one.
The most vital information
You don’t need 10 pages of information and 3D animations on your website to help customers find what they need to make a purchase decision. You just need the basics. Remember how 63 percent of consumers are happy with location, hours, and phone number? Start there, then add a few more details about what makes your business unique. Are you a farm-to-table restaurant? Are you a shoe repair shop that’s mastered re-soling leather boots?
If your business is service-based, be sure to include clear pricing and instructions on how to book appointments.
Mobile responsiveness refers to how your website looks when viewed on a phone, or screen smaller than your computer. Before you go looking for an expensive website developer, know that most reputable template website builders (more on that later) automatically create responsive sites.
According to web analytics company StatCounter, mobile and tablet use is now higher than desktop, so chances are your customers are clicking on your website from their phone or iPad. You want to make sure it looks good—and works.
Bonus components: SEO, social integration
Once your website is up and running, you can experiment with building it out a little more. Optimizing your site for what people are typing into search engines, search engine optimization (SEO), and launching social media pages are nice places to start. Both topics are industries in and of themselves so we won’t go into detail here. Just know that while both are good to have, you should focus on creating a simple website that meets your customer’s basic needs first.
Now that you know what should be on your site, let’s turn to the how.
Get it live!
It used to be that you’d need to find and pay a designer, a developer, and possibly even a copywriter. From there, you’d have to deal with complicated web hosting, and even then, your website was probably just okay.
These days, thanks to companies like Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy, you can do the work yourself, know exactly how much it’s going to cost, and have a website up in an afternoon. Each of these companies is a WYSIWYG platform, meaning “what you see is what you get.” They provide templates that allow you to easily plug in text, photos, links, and other information, and see how the finished site will look, all without knowing a thing about website coding.
They’ll also guide you in securing your domain name and provide transparent pricing for the total cost.
Roberta says she feels her website validates her business, “I know when customers visit my site they can see that I’m legit. I ship nationally, I’m cooking in a professional kitchen. I’m the real deal, and my website helps show that.”