Following the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels with almost nine million Australian households making an online purchase in 2020.
The numbers show that the desire to support local brands and services is growing too, with 70% of recent nbn survey respondents saying they would like to support more local businesses.
As a result, there has never been a better time for small businesses and sole traders to create a digital presence.
However, according to Xero’s Tipping point research — a new report that uncovers what it is that makes sole traders decide to start something of their own – only 37% of sole traders have a website. All of which means the timing really is perfect to get online and gain the edge over your competition.
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Hallmarks of a great website
A website provides your business with a virtual shop front for local, national and international markets 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
All great websites;
- Reflect your business philosophy, promote your brand and showcase your products;
- Are well designed, mobile optimised, easy to navigate and have clear calls to action;
- Make it easy for customers to contact you.
Whether you lead a small team or are going it alone, you’ll find the support you need at Xero’s dedicated resource page – complete with free tools and guides to help everything run smoothly. Xero is online accounting software designed to let you do business beautifully and simply, nab a free 30-day trial today.
Planning and preparation
You don’t need coding or web developing skills to create your own site as most platforms offer simple ‘drag and drop’ building modules in their designs. Do your research to ensure you know how to reach your market and carve out your own digital space.
Domain name: Choose a domain name that reflects your business — it is an important promotional tool. A relevant name will help customers find you easily through a search engine, so go with www.(your business name).com.au
Hosting: Websites are stored on servers, called hosts. There are hundreds of hosting services, so choose a plan that supports the functions you’ll need, can guarantee a high percentage of ‘uptime’ (when the site is fully available), has an easy-to-use backend and offers enough bandwidth and storage space. Look into different types of web hosting; shared, dedicated or cloud-hosted.
What your site needs
An online sitemap planning tool will help you decide where your content will go. Most basic websites have four page categories;
Home: This includes your business name and logo and a short description of what you sell and/or services you offer.
Services and/or products: Showcase what customers can buy from your site. Keep it simple and clean, and take great product shots using your phone camera or write short, up-to-date descriptions.
About us: This is your chance to tell people all about you, and your business. Include some background, your expertise and don’t be shy about tooting your own horn; confidence is key. Include customer testimonials to build credibility and trust.
Contact: It’s important to provide up-to-date email, postal address and contact details. With the shift to online shopping, making sure you have current information listed will ensure you don’t miss any opportunities for sales. Also include links to your social media and list your business hours, if applicable.
Which platform to use
There are dozens of providers to choose from and most allow you to sync your online data with your accounting software to cut down on admin and save valuable time. Xero’s Tipping point research revealed that 74% of sole traders who use cloud accounting software connected it with other apps to help with everything from managing their e-commerce site, to customer relationship management and time tracking.
Some great platforms for sole traders are:
WordPress: WordPress is perfect for small business or sole traders and offers hundreds of modifiable templates. A variety of apps can integrate with your site to allow you to sell online and sync your data with Xero.
Top tips for building your site
- Make your site easy to navigate and use headings; they’re not only good for SEO, but help people who are scanning the page find what they’re after.
- Keep it simple — you can add more pages or modify when you have analytics on how your customers are interacting with your site.
- Be concise — people only read about 30% of the content on web pages so make it count.
So if you’re a sole trader and don’t have a website, now is the perfect time to take the next step! It’s never been easier or more affordable to build your own site to promote your brand, improve efficiency and productivity — and grow your business.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 3 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners.