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Establishing your online presence before the holidays

Establishing your online presence before the holidays

In 2015, there were more online shoppers on Black Friday than at stores, an event that Fortune referred to as a "seminal moment in American culture." While the difference was fairly small, (103 million to 102 million), 2015 was presumably the first year in which this had ever happened, and by all accounts, it wasn't a fluke.

In fact, research firm eMarketer estimated that e-commerce sales will amount to $94.71 billion this year, which is 17.2 percent more than 2015, and 10 percent more than the expected revenues for brick-and-mortar sales. The rate at which shoppers are turning their sights on e-commerce is clearly increasing, and at a rapid pace. 

Now more than ever, it's vital that small businesses have a means for competing against the online retailing giants. 

Start by streamlining your website
A smart area to begin focusing on is website redesign. According to Time, the average web user will spend about 15 seconds on a page before going elsewhere. That's 15 seconds that an e-commerce site has to make an impression on a potential customer. 

Creating a streamlined e-commerce site should therefore be a top priority. From the very first landing page to checkout confirmation, users need plenty of incentive to shop with you rather than the competition. Easy navigation is certainly a start, but outside-the-box thinking such as virtual try-on will go a long way to giving your small business an edge over its competitors.

Make its presence known
Having a polished, engaging and easy-to-use website is a good start, but your small business needs to find a way to get the word out. One of the most effective means to this end is to create a strong social media presence. There are more than 2 billion social networking users worldwide, and while you probably don't need to reach every one of them, you do need to establish lines of communication with your market. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest can all be used as platforms for spreading the word about special holiday offers, sharing interesting material from the web that is related to products and services, just as a way to start conversations with clients or all of the above. Most importantly, these channels can amplify a small business's e-commerce presence.

Social is important, but is it enough? According to Entrepreneur contributor Samuel Edwards, the more crowded the e-commerce market becomes, the harder it is to make your brand voice known, warranting the use of web marketing strategies such as search engine optimization. 

"As the ecommerce economy experiences rapid growth … it will be more important than ever to stay on top of SEO in order to stand out from the competition,"  Edwards wrote. "Connecting with a skilled SEO [firm] will help you stay competitive in the long run."

The sooner you get started, the better. As the old song holiday carol, "Christmas time is coming."

Become a master of m-commerce
Mobile commerce has exploded in the past few years thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile technology. In 2016, m-commerce revenue is expected to increase by more than 43 percent, reaching $116 billion in value, according to eMarketer. Based on trends, it's safe to say that mobile devices won't be going away any time soon. If anything, their popularity will most likely continue along it's upward trajectory. In fact, some experts such as Wired's Christina Bonnington predict that smartphones may ultimately replace laptops and desktops as the primary computing device.

To succeed at e-commerce in this increasingly mobile-first world, small businesses will have to first master m-commerce. This means building a mobile shopping experience that is just as user friendly as the website experience. At the end of the day, the more available you make your business, and the easier it is to buy what you're selling, the more profit opportunity your business will have. 

Start investing in your online presence today
The holiday seasons are a great time to really stretch out your profit margins with the help of e-commerce platforms. So whether you need to revamp your website's layout and design, improve your SEO, strengthen your presence on social media or optimize your online store for mobile, make sure you have the business capital necessary to enhance your small business's online presence. If you don't, then contact an alternative lender who can supply you with a small business loan that will get you on the road to success this holiday season. 

WE'RE IN A LEAGUE OF OUR OWN

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