2.5 billion people connect with each other daily via the Internet for everything from socializing to purchasing. Businesses without websites are missing an incredible opportunity to reach new customers. They also lose revenue from existing customers who are lured away by the convenience, special offers, and digital branding that keep tech-savvy businesses top of mind.
While statistics about the number of U.S. companies with websites vary, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 75% of all business owners have businesses without websites. Simply put, these businesses are invisible to the nearly 300 million North American internet users who search over a trillion times per year on Google alone. Further, according to the Boston Consulting Group, “The $ 1.1 trillion global e-commerce market is expected to grow each year at a rate of 15%.” Considering online sales accounted for only $0.5 trillion in 2002, the trend is clear: get online or get passed by.
Consumers with laptops, tablets, and iPhones are causing businesses to innovate their marketing messages. Those businesses will reap the dual rewards of brand loyalty and increased revenue, while tech-averse personal injury lawyers and plumbers may become the last holdouts for trumpeting the value of Yellow Pages print ads. So why are so many business owners reluctant to embrace the Web? Four issues inhibit decision makers: return on investment (ROI), content, technology, and competition.
ROI. Owners of businesses without websites are still unsure of the direct benefits associated with websites. Despite the deluge of website builders that entered the low-price, DIY market over the last half decade, owners are reluctant to commit investment no matter how insignificant without fully understanding the returns. Traditional business owners understand the tangible need for employee salaries, office space, and the purchase of raw materials. For decades, these items made up the basis for creating and sustaining businesses. But today, owners are still struggling to understand the intangible notion of improved online visibility, ranking, and access to local search traffic.
Content. In an increasingly competitive business environment, owners are nervous about what they should say to different audiences that view their websites. If they publish prices, will competitors undercut them? As products and services change, who will be responsible for keeping marketing copy and photos up-to-date? Having a website with old information is a legitimate worry, as it can send customers who are ready to purchase directly into the open arms of other businesses. In fact, incorrect and missing listing information like name and address, accounts for some $10 billion in lost revenue alone.
Technology. Business owners see technology as an impediment. The perception alone makes it easier to claim that creating and maintaining a website is too tall a task for the company to tackle. Despite the availability of relatively low-cost websites, rapid technology changes mean doubling (and tripling!) down on initial investments. The most effective websites use video, databases, social tools, and eCommerce, all of which are products of the last decade. Business owners are already occupied with all the other requirements of running a business. It’s easy to shy away from perceived complex technology enhancements, regardless of how easy they may actually be.
Competition. Business owners fool themselves into believing that only large companies can compete online. They assert that “the big guys” can throw superior financial, marketing, and technical resources into their websites. Further, they may even claim that the Internet is not a significant factor for business in their particular industry. With ⅓ of all searches being local in nature, that’s simply not true. Every business can benefit from the hundreds of millions of local searches performed on the internet annually. The 24/7 presence that the Internet affords is critical, regardless of competition. Websites can collect and disseminate information while serving as a broadcast beacon of the company’s brand. No business owner can truthfully claim, any longer, that the digital age has not caught up to them
As older demographics age out of the market, younger demographics type requests into search engines like Google, social networks like Facebook, and review sites like Yelp!. The internet is the number one referrer of traffic for local businesses, ahead of even recommendations from friends. Businesses without websites don’t come up in searches and thus might as well be invisible. Not having a website is like not having your address on your storefront. So businesses without websites, if you made it this far, cut the crap and do yourselves a favor… launch a website. It’s probably the best investment you’ve ever made.
Image: Betsy Lerner on WordPress