Five essentials for taking your business online

Five essentials for taking your business online

In this day and age every business needs a website.

More and more of us are spending time online and your business needs to be able to be found at the click of a button.

Having a website isn’t just about making sure people know where to find you, though. Research published in June this year found at least half of consumers who made an online purchase bought an additional product even though it offered no extra value. Selling products on your website offers consumers convenience and increases your potential customer base.

However, getting a website up and running isn’t a walk in the park. Roughly 20% of SMEs who had a website in 2010 abandoned it a few years later.

So what’s going wrong? Here are some things to keep in mind so that your journey into the online sphere isn’t a flop.

1. Don’t rush

Craig Reardon, director of The E Team, told SmartCompany he sees too many business owners rush to get a website and in doing so make mistakes that could otherwise be avoided.

“Typically, their first foray into the digital world is very much a knee-jerk reaction,” he says.

“They get pressured from everyone because they don’t have a website – stakeholders, staff, family. But, really, in an ideal world your marketing plan would happen before your website.”

Reardon says a business owner will see a competitor ahead of them on Google’s search results or stumble across a similar business with a really nice website and think they have to get a website as soon as possible. In doing so, the business risks blowing their budget.

“A really critical thing is small businesses spending 50 times what they need to on their website because they had the wrong platform,” he says.

“It’s really important that the right platform is chosen. You need truly impartial and holistic advice on this stuff. Specialists are great if you know that’s what you want, but most small business don’t know what they want.”

Reardon’s tip is to go to what he calls a “digital generalist” if you don’t know where to begin. This is someone who has a wide range of knowledge and can point you in the right direction if necessary – similar to how you go to a GP first and then a specialist doctor if need be.

2. Have a digital strategy

Reardon’s other key piece of advice is to have a plan – similar to how you would plan ahead for any other aspect of your business.

“It never ceases to amaze that how back of mind [having a website] really is,” he says.

“The digital world is just so complex these days – it gets put on the backburner because it’s just so hard. Most want to get their head around it but by the time they do it changes.”

Reardon says having a digital strategy means your website is more likely to work effectively with your social media channels as well as your bricks-and-mortar store.

“Digital is a result of business and marketing planning – it’s not a stand-alone thing. If you’re doing digital planning without those it will never happen.”

SME operators are often very time-poor, and setting up (let alone maintaining) a website takes a lot of effort. Reardon suggests working on a digital strategy during a business’s down-time or quieter moments.

“Whatever the quiet period in the year is for your business, make that the time to pull out your business plan,” he says.

“The digital world isn’t in isolation, it really is part of the marketing mix. They need to be pulled together so they’re talking to one another.”

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