From retail stores and restaurants to medical practices and construction companies, all businesses can benefit from a strong online presence. Nearly half of all U.S. small businesses — about 14 million — don’t have a website. Without a website, these businesses often struggle to stay ahead of their competitors and connect with their target audience. Here are a few ways that a strong online presence can help businesses succeed.

E-Commerce Is Quickly Growing

Ninety-percent of retail purchases still occur at local brick-and-mortar business. E-commerce sales are expected to account for 17 percent of all U.S. sales by 2022. This signals a new era of retail in which fewer consumers are shopping at brick-and-mortar stores and more are shopping online. Retailers that fail to transition their business online will experience fewer sales as a result of this trend.

Targeted Marketing

Businesses with a strong online presence can take advantage of targeted marketing to reach high-quality prospects. Using advertising platforms like Google AdWords, for example, businesses can target users in a specific area who search for a specific keyword. This is a huge benefit for niche businesses as it allows them to create effective advertising campaigns that target relevant prospects. The e-commerce grocery store Thrive Market, for instance, specializes in organic and natural foods, so it frequently targets health-conscious users with ads. Rather than displaying ads for the entire world to see, it targets a narrow audience to achieve a stronger response. This type of targeted advertising isn’t available with offline tactics, making the internet an essential tool from which all businesses can benefit.

Educate Customers

The internet allows businesses to educate its customers about relevant topics and, in turn, establish itself as an authority. Businesses can publish how-to articles, guides, tutorials and other types of educational content online. When a customer searches for a relevant topic, he or she may find the business’s content. Assuming the content is informative and not just fluff, the customer will view the business as being an authority in its industry.

Reduced Overhead

As most retailers know, overhead can quickly cut into their earnings, turning an otherwise profitable month into a financial loss. Overhead consists of all ongoing expenses related to a business’s operations. For retailers, leasing a brick-and-mortar store is one of their biggest overhead expenses. Businesses that sell their products online, however, don’t need to lease a store. They can store and process inventory in a small office space to save money on overhead.

Increased Brand Recognition

A strong online presence also increases brand recognition for businesses. When a business maintains a website and social media accounts, it can reinforce its brand by displaying key elements like its slogan, logo and color scheme.

Internet Access Is Expanding

Not long ago, internet access was considered a luxury owned by just a small number of consumers. But this is no longer the case as statistics show that 40 percent of the world’s population is online. With internet service providers (ISPs) launching new technologies and expanding their service into rural areas, this number is expected to grow even higher in the years to come. About 4.1 billion people will have internet access by 2020. For businesses, this means a larger platform on which to reach their audience and generate sales. With internet access expanding, more consumers will be shopping for products and services online.

The bottom line is that all businesses need a strong online presence. Regardless of what they sell, it will help them reach new customers and increase their profits.

 

by: Jeremy Sutter