It's official: the internet has taken over. Yes, a real-life high-street presence is important, but a real-life presence goes hand-in-hand with a digital presence. Here's a few reasons why…
1. Availability & Communication
Cheating a little, as 'availability' and 'communication' are two reasons, but the two are interrelated in many ways. We live in a 24/7 world where potential clients from all sorts of time zones could well be interested in your product or service. Who knows what a person is reading online and when?
The internet provides a platform for customers and clients to not only view your products, but also get in touch with you, make enquiries and place orders. This, in turn, enhances the level of customer support and responsiveness to clients and customers.
2. Location is Not so Much of an Issue
Buskers know it, corner shops know it and the best restaurants know it (as well as many others besides): there is great value in being located in the right place. Unfortunately for many small- and medium-sized businesses, this means that the best locations for trading come at a premium with regards to rent.
Rent is perhaps one of the most prohibitive costs in doing business, but the internet can help abolish this cost in an instant. Moreover, being online means that work can be done from anywhere there is an internet connection. For many startups, it may well be better to develop a virtual store front before setting up a real-life one; and even for medium-sized businesses with high-street or considerable business-to-business presence, online could offer a more cost-effective way of trading.
3. Reduced Operation Costs
Alongside rent, there are many other costs that working online can help reduce. Processing, managing and confirming orders are much simpler, as they are done in an instant. An online presence can also help reduce the need for huge amounts of filing and paperwork, and online automation systems mean that huge amounts of staff are not necessary for mundane tasks.
4. Digital Marketing – It's Important
Keeping afloat of all the new social media platforms can be a difficult and somewhat endless task. However, utilising digital marketing strategies (see infographic below) and these platforms has one huge benefit: the advertising is much cheaper. Huge billboards and clever television adverts may still have their place, but so do blogs, Youtube videos and having a distinctive presence on a variety of social media channels like Pinterest and Facebook.
Analytics software, Google Adwords & keyword search techniques, and link-building, among many other things, has meant that it is easier to know what sorts of products and services clients and customers are looking for. Specific demographic data on who your main customers are can easily be captured, and this means that your advertising, products and services can be more effectively targeted.
It is vitally important to remember that, on the internet, word can spread round quickly. Clients and customers are more likely to trust fans and followers than any number of marketing materials. Having an online presence facilitates feedback and allows you to 'keep your ear on the ground' with regards to what customers and clients are saying about your business.
5. The Little Guys Have a Chance Online
Though we are living in a globalised world with many huge enterprises to take on, small- and medium-sized businesses have fewer barriers to access the market when working online (covered in points 1-4). Being online and effectively capturing data will also allow you to see niche markets and provide a product or service faster than the big names can manage. Smaller businesses can now be trendsetters.
6. Opportunities and Success
What this all boils down to is this: being online makes it easier to see how successful you are in terms of real numbers. Measuring your market (who and what size) is easier than ever before, as is identifying new opportunities. Having an online presence also means that connections – and clients – can be made with some of the biggest movers and shakers in any given industry. The world is getting smaller, and who knows where you might find the next big thing?