Have you ever searched for a specific local business online, to find only listings of other people’s sites? It’s hard to believe, but there are still quite a few brick-and-mortar businesses that haven’t created their own website yet.
Without a website, businesses have no presence online. But it’s not just about keeping up with all the other local businesses. There are huge profit and customer relationship benefits as well.
Even though local businesses are offline, their customers are online. By only being visible when customers walk down the street or drive by, these businesses are invisible the rest of the time. However, people spend a huge amount of time online, whether it is on their computer, smart phone, laptop or tablet. They search for information online, not by driving down the street.
Communicating with Customers Regularly
A website gives the business owner a venue for collecting email addresses, which in turn is a vehicle for communication. Most people still check their email regularly. Instead of spending money on print advertising, it’s much cheaper to send customers special offers and discounts via email. At the same time, email can be used to build a relationship with customers by offering other tips and advice.
Build Your Online Brand Awareness
Your website is completely under your control, so businesses can use them to create and promote their brand image. Everything from the design of the site, to the content and interaction that occurs there, builds the image that you want the world to see. You can use it as a kind of dynamic billboard which the whole world can see and interact with.
Demonstrate Social Proof
People make purchasing decisions based on recommendations more than any other factor. By including testimonials from customers, businesses can offer the proof that prospective buyers need. Ratings and reviews are another way to help people make purchasing decisions, though they are more difficult to control.
As a local business, you have a very limited prospect and customer base. However, once a business goes online, the potential for more sales is only limited by the logistics of shipping. And international delivery rates are cheaper than ever, so that’s not an excuse! In fact, some websites, like Etsy, have made it feasible for even the smallest individual business owner to give the whole world access to their products.
While it’s certainly possible to survive purely as a local business, the potential to grow and prosper is far greater when you have a website also. It’s just a matter of being visible to customers and prospects in the place they spend much of their time, while opening up your business to a whole new market.