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Here are the top reasons your business needs a digital presence:

1. Businesses with a website see results

According to the 2016 Sensis eBusiness Report, of those businesses with a website, six in 10 said the website improved their business effectiveness – with increased exposure the most common benefit. Not only does your business need a website, but it needs to be optimised for mobiles and other devices. This will help your site rank higher on Google and other search engines, which preference sites that are secure and optimised for speed, because that is what consumers want.

2. Consumers now expect information easily, instantly and in their hand

We know that Australia has one of the highest penetrations of smartphone usage in the world. On top of that the Sensis report found eight in 10 Australians now use the internet to search for products or services, with seven in 10 ordering goods or services online in the past 12 months. So if you don’t have an easy to find, relevant, and engaging online presence, then your business isn’t going to make it into the consideration set of many of these consumers.

If you run a small business that primarily communicates with customers over the phone and finds them via word of mouth, think about where your next customers will come from. Because the younger demographics don’t like making phone calls, and they will want to research your business via your website and social media presence before booking an appointment and buying your products online, all without speaking to you. That is the digital future young people already expect.

3. Most of your competitors are online

According to the Sensis research, more than six in 10 businesses now have a website and the number will be closer to two thirds by the end of the year. When we look at medium size businesses specifically that number jumps to more than nine in 10. Small and medium business owners are smart and they value every dollar they spend. So the fact there are so many businesses now online highlights they have invested in their online presence and stuck with it because they are seeing a return on their spend.

The global ecommerce market is also growing rapidly, with consumers preferring to buy goods online from local retailers. So while your physical shop front remains important, your digital shop front is now crucial as well, even when targeting consumers just around the corner. In fact, more than two thirds of businesses who sell online make the majority of those sales locally.  Consumers remain loyal to local businesses but prefer the ease of ordering goods from their phone, while on the couch or on the move.

4. A website provides crucial support to your other marketing efforts

A website will not replace your face to face relationships with clients or word of mouth marketing. They remain as powerful and important as ever. A website will, however, support these efforts by giving you a digital presence where customers can easily find your business online.

Once you have a website you open up your business to a whole range of other marketing tools that can generate new leads and sales. Your website will support your social media activity and you can also begin utilising products such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to further boost your ranking on Google. Then you can look at running digital display advertising on other websites to direct new customers to your site. Marketing is all about finding the best mix of products for the unique features of your business – a website is the core product around which to build the arms and legs of your strategy.

5. It’s cheaper and easier than you think

For a small investment a website can be up and running in a matter of days and the online world makes measuring the return on your investment simple. A simple website now costs less than a $1,000 to build and even less to maintain each year. When you think that a website provides a permanent online presence and compare it to some of your other marketing costs, it really is hard to justify not having a website.

A simple but engaging and authentic website will help build credibility for your business and make it easier for new and existing customers to utilise your services. So while you might have been putting it off, now is the time to establish your business online.

James Ciuffetelli, Executive General Manager, Sensis

The Sensis eBusiness Report for 2016 is available at www.sensis.com.au/ebusinessreport.