Consumer discovery and marketing play a key role in attracting consumers. Research shows that consumers prefer using digital channels such as a business website, social media, and email when determining where to shop.
The importance of websites
While close to 90 percent of consumers surveyed think it’s important to support small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), they are also heavily reliant on digital channels when considering where to dine and shop. More than half (52 percent) of survey participants often search online and/or check a new business’s website before visiting in person. In fact, over 80 percent of consumers surveyed by Visa Digital Transformation Research (2018 Maru/Matchbox survey), said an easy to use website was a huge motivator in shopping with business.
Consumers are increasingly making purchases online. Per the 2018 Maru/Matchbox survey, 38 percent of consumers’ retail purchases are currently made online. This number is expected to grow as 61 percent of consumers surveyed are planning to increase their online purchases in the next 5 years.
These ﬁndings present an opportunity for SMBs to increase their online presence. Currently, 46 percent of SMBs surveyed have an online presence, such as through a business website or online marketplace. SMBs estimated that 15% of sales come from these channels, with the higher proportion of sales coming from medium size ﬁrms (27 percent) versus 11 percent for micro and 21 percent for small. (Annual sale criteria by SMB size – Micro <$500K, Small $500K-$5MM, Medium $5MM-$10MM.)
1. Create and register a domain name
Set up your business online by getting a website address, also called a domain name or URL. Domain names should be easy to say, spell, and remember. If your ﬁrst choice of domain name is already taken, choose another that’s diﬀerent enough to avoid any confusion with similar businesses. There are many domain registration websites that can help you get you started.
2. Select a host and platform
- A “host” connects your website to the wider internet, sets you up on a server, and oﬀers services like e-mail management. Important things to look for are reliability (your host doesn’t crash) and ﬂexibility (you can make changes to your website easily and quickly).
- Most hosting providers oﬀer numerous service plans depending on the size of your website and the amount of traﬃc your website is likely to receive. If considering free Web hosting services, do note that these sites typically deliver advertising like banners and pop-ups on your website.
- Selecting the right “platform” is important if you’re taking the “DIY” approach. A platform is a tool that helps you design and build your website, oﬀering templates and tips on the ways to craft the look and feel of your website.
- PRO TIP: Some hosting companies will offer you a deal if you register a domain name and host with their services. With this option, do note that if you decide to change your hosting company later on, you may have to pull down your domain name and could encounter unexpected hurdles.
3. Build your website
When people visit your website, you want them to instantly understand your business, easily navigate the site, ﬁnd pricing, know how to buy and ask questions. Be sure that your website has a clear navigation (search) bar and a call to action button, like “buy now,” “make an appointment/reservation,” or “contact us.”
- Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think about what else they’d like to see on your website. When developing content, create copy that is not only catchy but also SEO (search engine optimization) friendly.
- Business websites usually include the following pages: Homepage, Products/services, Online ordering, About Us, and Contact us. Other considerations include cross-promoting your social media or review sites, along with business policies such as any terms or conditions you may have.
- make your website mobile-friendly. In October 2016, mobile internet use passed desktop internet use for the ﬁrst time ever.
- PRO TIP: Does your website have a blog section? Within your field, you have unique knowledge that your customers may lack. By sharing knowledge, you can attract traffic from people who are seeking information, strengthen your brand and establish yourself as an expert within your field
4. Accept online payments
If you have products or services, it is vital to be able to sell them online to boost your sales. Authorize.net can easily integrate with many ecommerce platforms and offers payment options for your customers like credit cards, ApplePay, etc. Learn more about our certified ecommerce partners.
Excerpt from Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce, presented by Visa.