As a small business owner, you’re probably aware by this point that you need a website to succeed and build your business. Sure, there are a few businesses out there who can get by without them, like successful independent restaurants that thrive on word-of-mouth, but these tend to be the exceptions, rather than the rule. In 2017, 71% of small businesses have a website, and 92% of those without a website say they will have one before 2019. With numbers like those, small businesses can’t expect that just having a website will give them a competitive edge. Now, small business websites need to accomplish more than just being a placeholder—they need to provide value to customers. If you’re looking to up your website game, here’s what successful small business websites are doing to rise above the competition.
Focus on Design and Speed
A beautiful website that loads quickly will make a good first impression on visitors, and will put you ahead of the business owners who last had their websites designed in the 90s. It’s not difficult to create a modern, beautiful website thanks to pre-designed themes on sites like Squarespace and WordPress, and you can always hire someone to help you if you’re not confident in your own skills. Ensuring every page of your website loads quickly may seem insignificant, but people have very short attention spans, and a few seconds of wait time can turn visitors away. 40% of people will click away from a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load—and 47% expect it to load in 2 seconds or less. Load times matter!
Speak to a Specific Audience
Knowing who your ideal customers are is key in creating an effective website. Your messaging can’t possibly speak to everyone at once, so you need to know who makes up your target audience before you create (or redesign) your site. Major League Baseball, for example, noticed that they weren’t attracting many young fans, so they began to focus on their website, making it more attractive to younger generations. They started to offer streaming, making it easier for fans to watch and engage, and ultimately making mlb.com the second-most viewed sports site in 2015. Knowing and catering to their target audience made the difference for the organization. They may not be a small business, but these principles apply to organizations big and small.
Just as many small businesses are getting used to the idea of having an online presence, many users are shifting from desktops and laptops to mobile devices much of the time. Basekit reports that 91% of small business websites are not optimized for mobile devices, which indicates a huge gap between what users want and what businesses are offering. Small businesses can get a competitive edge by ensuring that they have a responsive design that works just as well on mobile as on a desktop.
Offering New Options
Small businesses can give customers even more convenient options by thinking about the future. Offering mobile wallet options for payment in-store is a great way to make payment convenient, but there are even more digital payment options that customers are interested in. Currently, there are few vendors offering bitcoin payments, but the number of bitcoin users is growing, and is expected to grow to 5 million active users by 2019. Businesses can gain a competitive edge by embracing these emerging technologies early.
Integrated with Marketing Efforts
Sure, the sandwich board is an effective marketing tool for bringing in customers walking by your store. But what about customers who might only find you online? They’re not likely to find your site if you don’t do any digital marketing or local SEO (search engine optimization). If no one can find your site, they’re not going to buy from you—and the only way to lead them to your site is by using marketing techniques like social media, email and content marketing. Most people now use the Internet like a giant phone book, so your visibility online is very important.
An Ever-Changing Landscape
If you’ve only just gotten your first website, it may seem frustrating that it won’t be enough on its own to bring in significant new business. The world of digital marketing is an ever-changing landscape that rewards innovation and early adoption. The good news is that there is a lot of information out there, and if you put in a little effort, you can easily rise above the competition and create a successful digital presence for your business.