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Why a Website Simply Isn’t Enough for Small Businesses Anymore

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A study conducted by Web.Com found that small businesses are missing out on revenue and customer engagement opportunities if they don’t extending their personal interactions with customers into the web and social media networks.

“Small businesses have historically relied on face-to-face relationships to grow and differentiate themselves, but today’s consumers are demanding that these relationships extend into ‘e-Main Street’,” said David Brown, chairman and CEO of Web.com.

“Our survey found a significant disconnect between how small businesses decision-makers think they are delivering on customers’ expectations versus the reality of consumers’ perceptions. The good news is small businesses are starting to realize the web’s untapped potential to reach consumers who are eager for online engagement.”

But simply having a website isn’t enough for your business. Opening up an online store with a plethora of products doesn’t mean people are going to start buying from you just like that. That is where the rest of your website comes into play: it has to work for your business to bring in new customers, build trust, and make sales.

Make communication easier

An infographic published by ReachLocal showed that 66 percent of all small business websites lack a form that customers can fill out to request more information. Simply listing an email address or a phone number on the contact page isn’t enough these days, and it’s an easy way for the email address to be harvested by criminals.

Visitors don’t want to have to copy an email address or click on a link that opens up that annoying version of Outlook. They want to be able simply to ask a question or submit a comment.

Many business sites focus on ecommerce, but that shouldn’t be where all the effort goes. More resources should go into building a website that enables communication between you and your customers. Contact forms are just one way to allow customers to engage with you.

Linking to your social media sites so your customers can connect with you that way is an essential method of staying in touch with them and keeping them engaged.

Building reputation and credibility

There’s a reason that review sites are so popular nowadays, because customers make more educated decisions than ever. Having the lowest price is no longer the only factor when customers make a purchase. Savvy consumers view the quality of the product and the level of service from the merchant to be just as important as price.

A business website can be used to showcase customer testimonials like www.sbcgold.com does for Scottsdale Bullion & Coin. A simple lead-in that states, “Reputation is Everything,” followed by encouraging words from a customer can be enough for most visitors to feel safe doing business with them.

However, for the more speculative customer, SB&C also provides content that helps educate the visitor. Videos that teach how not to be a victim of fraud and e-books that explain the basics of precious metal investments all foster the company’s reputation, and this builds sales.

Closing the deal

Many companies run a battery of tests to see how easy it is for customers to use their websites. In 2012, customers complained that Apple’s website was becoming more difficult to navigate.

Satisfaction with the customer experience, when measured correctly, is the most important predictor of future success, and while Amazon clearly gets it, Apple stumbles from their usual focus on the customer experience,” said Larry Freed, president and chief executive of ForeSee. “Dell and JCPenney seem to be struggling to find their way, which could make them extremely vulnerable to competitors.”

Businesses get so hung up on the bells and whistles they can add to a site that they forget about their customer. When the customer can’t find what he or she is looking for or can’t complete a purchase, that person will go somewhere else.

The holidays are just around the corner, so it may be time for small business owners to review their current site and see how they can make things easier for their customers.

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