How important is an online presence for SMEs?

(Photo credit: NPA Consultant)

Jenkins et al, (2013) outlined that “consumers play an active role in spreading content” through the use of social media. A substantial number of SMEs (Small-to-medium enterprises) often place their digital marketing focus solely on social media; for instance Facebook or Twitter. This is commonly attributed to the simple template that these platforms offer; whereby content just needs to be generated from posts and/or media (such as pictures or video). Resultantly however, businesses are increasingly neglecting defining an online presence (for example through a website domain) as they do not understand the true value of doing so. This blogging post aims to explore and outline why a solid online presence is valuable towards helping an SME to grow their business. An interesting place to start is Forbes’ article on How Much Is Online Presence Helping Small Business.

A study conducted by Verisign in 2013; namely “Benefits And Barriers Of Bringing A Small Business Online: Perspectives From Global Small Businesses“, demonstrated how smaller businesses can leverage their position with relatively minimal effort. If the effort is relatively minimal, the question is; why are some small businesses still falling behind and not maximizing the benefit of having an online presence? Let’s look into the facts. In the UK, for example, Verisign discovered that 28% of SME respondents stated that they were not looking to eventually invest in a website for their company. This is despite the fact that Weebly (the online comprehensive website builder), stated that from research in 2013, 56% of consumers opted not to trust a business which does not have a website. Combined with Google Consumer Surveys, Weebly outlined important reasons as to why websites matter; from both consumer and business perspective:

(Picture source: Weebly)
(Photo credit: Weebly)

So why do some still opt not to define their online presence through a website domain? This could be attributed to a variety of aspects, as outlined by Weebly’s research:

  • 75% of consumers surveyed stated that they believed they could not create a website of high quality on their own; evidently preventing them from setting up a website
  • 50% of consumers stated that they struggled to finish their website, due to not having a plan or structure in place to do so
  • 20% of entrepreneurs who were questioned outlined that their hardest challenge was trying to stay up-to-date with technology

It seems as though businesses which lack a website domain have an incorrect perception of the difficultly in creating one. Even areas which would seem even more daunting to those with little website design experience, for example cross-platform optimisation (PC to Mobile) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), have now been incorporated into new technologies allowing the small business entrepreneur to get up and running without existing constraints; outlined in an article concerning Weebly’s new planner and mobile editor.

Organisations such as Weebly and Wix offer amalgamated platforms for the aforementioned, whereby users can create a functioning website (sometimes for free or at little cost) using an integrated planning tool; including ‘drag and drop’ systems, allowing those with limited website creation knowledge to get started at lightning speeds. Despite the importance of social media, it is also important to note that the website domain is essentially the online foundation of any business. It is important to note also, that domain name registration can cost as little as 99p. Even if one chooses not to add content and simply use it as a redirection tool to their social media pages, the domain still adds credibility and professionalism in pointing potential consumers towards the business; whether that be a service and/or goods. Additionally, a website combines with the use of branded email (for instance admin@brightonbarbers.com), a hallmark of communication decorum which one does not get with Facebook or Twitter.

These aspects mentioned outline the utter importance of having a website or at the very least a website domain for redirection, and with the emergence of affordable and effective solutions which are widely available it can be argued that there are now no excuses for implementation.

The video below highlights the essential benefits a website brings to a business:

 

References and Sources:

Jenkins, H., Ford, S. and Green, J. (2013). Spreadable media. New York: New York University Press.

The Small Business Authority, N. (2013). How Much Is Online Presence Helping Small Business?. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2013/11/25/how-much-is-online-presence-helping-small-business/#336794082278 [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].

BENEFITS AND BARRIERS OF BRINGING A SMALL BUSINESS ONLINE: PERSPECTIVES FROM GLOBAL SMALL BUSINESSES. (2013). 1st ed. [ebook] Verisign, pp.4-9. Available at: https://www.verisign.com/assets/Research-small-business-september2013.pdf [Accessed 29 Jan. 2016].

Weebly.com, (2013). Weebly – The Power of Sites. [online] Available at: http://www.weebly.com/power-of-sites/# [Accessed 30 Jan. 2016].

Empson, R. (2013). With Over 15M Sites Built, Weebly Launches New Planner And Mobile Editor, Brings Website Creation Service To Android. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/03/with-over-15m-sites-built-weebly-launches-new-planner-and-mobile-editor-brings-website-creation-service-to-android/ [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].

 

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