With more people opting to shop online, small business owners need to create a website with a clearly defined message, an engaging user experience and mobile capabilities. Building a solid, user-friendly website for your small business can be a great way to boost customer engagement and increase your available working capital. In addition, a small business’s website collects a lot of great data including the ability to track and collect customer information and sales data that can then be used to further grow the enterprise.
No small business marketing campaign will be complete without a well-built website that aligns with the company’s short- and long-term goals.
Still don’t think you need a website?
At some point 20 years ago, there were no doubt a good portion of individuals who thought the internet was merely a fad that was likely to fall to the wayside. Aside from a few anomalies, no one in this day and age can deny the importance of the internet.
There are always small business owners who tend to want to stick to their tried-and-true methods of gathering and converting sales leads. Many might not think creating a website will improve their current strategies.
However, there are many indicators that this will simply not be enough. For example, for the first time ever, consumers reported in a recent UPS survey that they made more of their purchases online than in brick-and-mortar shops, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although online shopping barely tipped the scales at 51 percent, this trend is only likely to continue, with more customers using their computers and mobile devices to make the majority of their purchases.
Further, with a properly-constructed website, you can track shopping and spending habits for all your customers. In addition, you can use metrics to measure your marketing campaign’s effectiveness by analyzing native traffic, click-through rates and lead conversions. This crucial data at your disposal lets you customize your marketing techniques to more fully engage customers. You can also consider exploring ecommerce platforms customized to your small business’s needs based on features, pricing, ease of use, scalability, SEO, and support.
Must-have features for a small business website
If your small business currently doesn’t have an online presence, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options and features you can incorporate into your website. From banner images to product listings and from blog content to client testimonials, the choices for website add-ons are virtually limitless. Without a clear list of priorities, small business owners can find themselves throwing thousands of dollars at special features that will do little to boost sales or spread brand awareness.
Even if you already built a website, the constantly evolving and maturing state of online shopping means trends and styles change rapidly. Because of this, a year-old website can look and feel as outdated as one from the 1990s. With so many options to pick from, consider these three must-have features for your business website:
- Solid UX
The user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) will be one of the most important features of your website. These are two different aspects, as the former refers to how a customer travels across every point of the web portal – from initial visit through to the post-purchase process – while the latter consists of how the features are laid out on the webpage. Although they’re separate, they’re still two sides of the same coin, since good user interface creates a more pleasant and engaging user experience.
- Clear messaging
According to The 2015 B2B Web Usability Report conducted by KoMarketing Associates, more than 50 percent of respondents said they left a website immediately due to a lack of message. That was higher than the 44 percent who said they left due to lack of contact information. Your company should have its message front and center and clearly articulated for your customers. If online shoppers don’t know what you’re selling or offering, they’ll go somewhere else. It’s like walking into a store and not knowing if it’s selling retail goods, fresh food or furniture.
- Mobile capabilities
Just because you have a website up and running, unless it has been optimized for mobile devices, there’s a good chance your target market will never use the site. Smart Insights noted that people used a smartphone 80 percent of the time to search the internet in 2015. Further, as far back as the Thanksgiving holidays in 2014, online shopping conducted on mobile devices outpaced transactions made on a personal computer, according to data compiled by Building a Smarter Planet, a thought-leadership forum sponsored by IBM.
Secure the website
No matter how stylish and interactive and intuitive your website might be, if it doesn’t have a robust cybersecurity system in place to protect both yours and your customers’ sensitive financial and personal information, all your efforts will be for naught since no one will trust your company with their data. Although 75 percent of consumers said hacks are probably or definitely normal and an expected aspect of online shopping, 66 percent of respondents said a cyberbreach would make them at least somewhat likely to stop doing business with the company.
Instead of using the standard HTTP design, use an HTTPS website, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocal Secure. This adds greater protection for sensitive financial and personal data sent between your website and a potential customer.
If you prefer to reduce your stress levels and boost your security, consider outsourcing the final transaction process. Speaking CIO Magazine, Onlinestorehelp.com Principal Christopher Flemming recommended using a hosted shopping cart, such as Shopify or 3dcart. These companies have gone through extensive PCI compliance audits and employ full-time workers who constantly patch vulnerabilities in their systems.
If you do choose to build and use your own shopping cart, be sure its security is optimized. PCI Compliance best practices require ecommerce sites that accept credit cards either have the website reviewed annually or utilize a web application firewall.
Establishing and maintaining a robust cybersecurity isn’t a quaint suggestion, it’s an absolute priority for any small business that wants to retain its customers and succeed. Be sure to speak with your web designer to ensure you have the proper cybersecurity-compliance measures in place to protect your data and provide the peace of mind your customers demand when they shop online with your small business.