Do Small Businesses Really Need Online Presence?
By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke
Although having an online presence is quite affordable today, some small and medium scale businesses still struggle with the question of whether they should have an online presence or not.
Plainly and expectedly, you would think that this question should not come up at all due to the huge exposure that the internet gives many businesses today. Regardless, as a small business that does not have huge capital, every penny spent must return reasonable or significant value. Hence, do not be surprised that this question pops up once in a while.
Jumia as a startup/business that runs online
Jumia arrived in Nigeria in 2012 when internet usage was slowly picking up. Seven years later, it is the market leader when it comes to eCommerce in Africa. Now, it has opened up its platform to other businesses to sell and access new customers.
The secret here is starting small. In today’s internet and mobile world, your business cannot afford to contemplate on whether to have an online presence or not, It should be part of your plan from the very beginning.
Therefore, let us look at some of the benefits of having an online presence
The Internet never sleeps, and every online platform you use gives your business a virtual 24-hour showroom. This allows potential customers to research your product or service after business hours, and in the privacy of their own homes. If you sell products, an online store allows for 24-hour order placement to capture a sale as soon as a customer is interested, as opposed to waiting for your brick-and-mortar store to open, by which time the urge to buy may have passed.
Brand building means building a potential customer’s trust in your company or product. Providing an online presence not only gives customers access to your product or service, but it also provides a way for the customer to “check out” your company. Online reviews, your interactions with other customers and the frequency and quality of your posts help to form a positive impression of your company in the potential customer’s mind, making a future sale more likely.
The Internet encompasses a much larger area than the few miles to your business’ office or store. Your Web presence reaches out to everyone who passes by your virtual doorstep, which could include people from right next door or in another country. Depending on your specific industry and offerings, this could open up a much wider customer base than relying on face-to-face interactions would.
Easier selling and marketing
It’s a well-known marketing fact that people like to buy but don’t like to be sold. A well-written piece of copy for your products or services on your website allow buyers to make a more relaxed, informed decision to purchase, as opposed to feeling pressured by a pushy salesperson. Marketing your business is also easier and more far-reaching, as the electronic format allows for a wider, more cost-effective distribution as opposed to traditional marketing, which usually includes printing and mailing costs.
How to create an online presence for your small business
Be present on all digital channels
It should go without saying that to develop an online presence, you have to be present on digital channels. However, a large number of small businesses still rely entirely on traditional means of marketing. These businesses lack a website, social media profiles, a mobile app and so on. These digitally deprived companies cite a number of reasons for their slow adoption of a branded website or social media accounts. The most common one by far is that business is going well enough without it. If you are into this type of business, you are simply limiting the potential reach of your business because this new approach (of having digital channels) has proved to be a good model for having a very successful business, with Jumia as a good case study.
Being solid starts with your website. It should be the central place where your audience can learn more about your brand and what you have to offer and how people can contact you for your services. However, this won’t have any impact if your webpage is hidden amidst a sea of content on the web. And this is where SEO comes in. You’re not an SEO expert? That’s okay. Ask for help from experts or others around you with enough expertise to keep you ahead. Excellent application of SEO techniques can literally take your website from zero to ranking on the front page of Google. Beyond hiring an expert, it’s also important to understand basic SEO practices so that you can channel your efforts towards creating sellable content.
No matter which industry your business belongs to, there will be few online communities related to that industry. It will be worth finding out the communities where individuals or thought leaders from similar industry share their views. By participating in the relevant discussions and being an active member, you can start building relationships. Why is this so important? Well, chances are these people are better connected than you are and they might be able to help introduce you to others who are in your industry. New connections can be customers or partners who can help you grow your business.