If you have a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you may still do most of your business offline. Perhaps you have a physical location and sells either in person, by phone, or mail. If so, you're not alone. A survey of small businesses in 2021 found that 28% still don't have a website, much less do their business online.
To many, creating an online presence may just sound too complicated or too risky. But there are many good reasons to begin selling (and running your business) online.
- Having a website is critical for many businesses today, although more than a quarter of small businesses still don't have one.
- A website allows your customers to find out more about your company, peruse your products, research features, place orders, and get customer service when it's convenient for them.
- The cost of a website ranges from under a hundred dollars for a basic DIY site to several thousand a year for a sophisticated e-commerce site with ongoing maintenance help.
9 Reasons You Should Start Doing Business Online
While in many cases, the steps for setting up an online presence for a brick-and-mortar company are very similar to those if you wanted to start an online business, there are some things that make an online presence for a brick-and-mortar business unique.
Here are the top nine reasons you should establish an online presence for your offline business:
1. Improved Company Image
Your company image alone should be enough reason to start a new website and begin selling online. It's an extremely important factor considering that without a website, prospective clients could begin to wonder how serious you are about business—if they even know you exist at all. Today, the first place many people look when wanting to discover a new business or find out more about one they've heard of is the internet.
If you don't have an online presence (and a professional one to boot) then you can't expect your prospects to take you seriously and you will lose business to competitors who do have an effective online presence. Quite frankly, you need to have an online presence because your prospects and customers expect you to have one.
2. 24/7 Availability
While some fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations manage 24-hour service, it is impossible for most businesses. That is, without the internet. A key benefit to having an e-commerce website is that your clients and prospects can read about your products and place orders at any time, day or night, 365 days a year. Imagine what being open 3-4 times longer could do for your business.
Even if you have a business that offers traditional offline services, you can generate leads and inquiries while you are closed and follow up with those prospects and customers once you open the next day. Many people want to do their research at the end of the day when your business may be closed, but your website can operate as your 24/7 sales person to answer questions and generate leads (or sales).
3. Better Customer Support
The internet allows you to answer questions, give sales webinars, and solve customer problems—all without taking any of your time. Create a video, a product spec sheet or an FAQ (frequently asked question) section once, and you can direct clients to that information for years. Not only does it save you time, but you’ll be providing better service. Your clients and prospects are looking for specific information, such as:
- What to consider before they make a buying decision
- How to solve problems with an existing purchase
- Your hours of operation and when they can get in touch
With an online presence, you can give them just the information that they are looking for, and just when they are looking for it. This means fewer phone calls with technical questions and more sales. You can spend more time working on the revenue generating activities in your business and spend less time handling common customer service issues.
4. Very Low Start-Up Costs
If you are already selling offline then you can start your online presence for less than a few hundred dollars. While you could spend tens of thousands of dollars developing the best website and e-commerce solution, many of your competitors will be doing it on a shoestring.
DIY Site Setup
Using a free platform like a self-hosted WordPress blog and a professional quality premium theme ($10 to $200, but they average around $60) you can build a professional site by yourself. Some web hosting companies offer free site building tools.
With a good WordPress theme, it is possible for you to design your own site and do it with (almost) no coding.
To get started on a shoestring budget, expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The basic expenses include web hosting, WordPress theme, domain name, and email marketing autoresponder service. Once its all set up it can run on virtual autopilot. You can make regular updates yourself or just pay someone to make updates for you as needed.
Hire a Freelancer To Set Up Your Site
One step up from a DIY website is to have someone make it for you for minimal cost. Freelance marketplaces like Fivrr are a good place to look for talented website developers. Fivrr says you can find freelancers who charge $40 an hour or less. You can get a basic business site for about $300, while the cost for an e-commerce site may be a few hundred dollars more than that.
Marketing, search engine optimization (so your site gets discovered by customers through search engines like Google), and ongoing maintenance can add a few thousand dollars a year.
5. The Internet Was Made for Business
The beauty of the internet is that your prospective client(s) can literally be just one click away from your online store. Through the internet, you can now educate, instruct and solve clients problems. You can accept orders and payments and receive them directly to your inbox.
You'll want to learn about new effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website; the more people who find you online, the more leads and sales you'll make. While in the past, many people were hesitant to do business over the internet, today it is as common as swiping a credit card at a physical location.
6. Live / Work from Anywhere
Are the long cold winters starting to get you down? Are you tired of the constant heat and humidity where you live? Taking your business online may give you the ability to have location freedom so you can live and work from anywhere you want. If you're willing to go totally online with your business, you may not need to be tied to one physical location.
As long as you have a solid internet connection you can live virtually anywhere while you conduct your online business. Many people live in one continent, have their hosting on another and their warehouse on yet another. You could even move to the Caribbean or South America, enjoying a low cost of living, while doing business online.
There are some notable exceptions, like landscapers, surgeons, tailors, and home painters who must be in a specific location to perform their work.
7. Reduced Operating Costs
Just one single task can make a significant difference in cost savings. For example, receiving orders online reduces the need for customer service staff. With comprehensive sales and product information online, you’ll simply receive purchase orders and payments via email or into your database. Staff numbers can be reduced, thus so too can office space and related office expenses.
A really good sales video, sales letter, or online webinar presentation can replace a full-time salesperson.
By making use of various online service providers, you can now take all aspects of your business online, such as purchasing, billing, order fulfillment, and shipping. Other functions can include pre-emptive customer service—such as answering client questions via a FAQ section or a customer forum.
8. Much Bigger Market
With your brick and mortar business, you are limited to the number of individuals who can visit you at any given time, let alone find you. With a good website, you can literally have thousands, even tens of thousands (even millions) of people visiting your online store at once. Imagine the potential for your company, if you could expose your products and services to a potentially unlimited number of interested people.
Being able to have thousands of visitors and actually having them are two different things. The success of an online business depends on the same thing as any off-line business: marketing. Learn how to increase blog traffic. Content marketing is a great way to increase traffic to your site. Social media can be a powerful and inexpensive way to drive qualified prospects to your site.
9. Greater Responsiveness
The internet allows you to deliver your proposal, purchase order, or order confirmation quickly—in many cases instantly—to your clients. Online stores will process orders and confirm them to the client. In the olden days, purchase orders were called in, mailed or dropped off. Depending on the workload of the sales staff, it could have taken hours, or even days to process the order.
With a competent online store application, you can automatically track inventory, sales numbers, outstanding orders—everything. Faster response time means happier clients and less administrative work for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the benefits of online business for customers?
Taking your business online has a lot of advantages for customers. They can learn about your business at any time, day or night. If you have e-commerce functionality, they can place orders whenever it's convenient for them, and troubleshoot problems faster, either by reading content about potential problems, or by being able to send an email to your business quickly.
How does having an online business help when COVID-19 is an issue?
The benefits of an online business are even more important when there are market disturbances such as a pandemic. Customers are even more in need of ways to research your company and its offerings when they can't leave their homes. Online shopping becomes the major way people buy things.