Does your small business really need a website?

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Business websites are now a common feature in South Africa and elsewhere.

 

In a world where ever-growing numbers of people have access to computers, mobile phones and other devices which facilitate access to the internet, it seems obvious that small business owners can only benefit from having a website. Not only can customers quickly find the information they need about the product/service or company by visiting the website, but websites can also be configured for e-commerce (online purchases), or to allow users to send e-mail messages to company representatives.

Despite these benefits, do small businesses in South Africa really need to have dedicated websites as an enabler for success? This is a valid question given the time, money and effort required to design a well-constructed website that boosts sales and is a valuable marketing tool.

As a starting point, where the business is located and who it serves plays a role. In a small town where everyone knows each other and the business’ customers are all locals, one could argue that a website is unnecessary as it is easy for community members to keep track of who provides what.

Also, in small town people are far more likely to physically visit a store even if only to browse, as there are limited opportunity costs for wasted trips (e.g. most service providers are likely to be located close to each other, allowing the customer to attend to other matters of interest). In this kind of setting, why would a small business need a website? Other factors to consider are the type of industry the small business operates in (some are more technologically-oriented than others, and a website signals that you are a serious player), and whether the business intends to service customers outside its immediate physical vicinity. The size of the small business (i.e. whether it employs one person or twenty) is irrelevant as the main purpose of the website is to let people know who you are and what you do. For those small businesses who want to test the waters where websites are concerned, Google acting in conjunction with local partners has recently launched a new offering called (Woza Online). This allows South African small business owners to create their own websites, free of charge, in just a few hours.

Post By: Fadzai Munyaradzi 

 

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29 comments
    Just designing a website and putting it online does not mean that you will get more clients. Yes you will have an online presence but you also need people to go to your website Traffic. Let’s take a shop for example you can build the largest shop with every product inside and make it look amazing But if that shop is in the middle of the forest and nowhere close to any roads or homes then all your efforts will be for nothing. That is the same thing a website a great looking website with no visitors is like a beautiful shop in the middle of nowhere
    A common question that I get asked after meetings and presentations is do you have a website it's become almost an automatic question. When we started it was quite basic but we had to make continuos changes to it as we learned more about our clients and also our market. The guy that designed our site kept speaking about user experience and it's only when you visit someone else's website that his comment makes sense. Your website is sometimes the first interaction that a customer has with you. If it's not well designed and difficult to navigate then their experience could be a bad one. He also asked me if the design spoke to our brand and again it's only through experience that you can see how important the question is. These are all things new businesses owners need to think about when thinking about getting a website. I suppose the last point I would like to make is you should consider your website a work in progress also test it to see if the content and function is achieving the goals you need it to.
    Replying to myself feels weird but hey I just thought about something. Many clients will be accessing your website via their cell phones there could be some merit in making sure that your website is mobile friendly. If you're a bit cash strapped then I agree with the author definitely consider self-build options initially like Woza online as things change you can always upgrade/update it as things change within your business.
    Agreed most consumers and potential customers do their initial research online now days and having a web presence is imperative in this age of fierce competition. Not only do you have to have a website but it needs to be better than your competition! What I would like to know is what makes it better? What will wow clients into making a call to you and engage them enough to choose you over the others?
    Your website is your first digital impression and you want to make sure it’s a great one. It should reflect everything you want potential customers to know and remember about your business. To marketers and other business owners who have been around for a while this is nothing new. Successful businesses are always trying to improve the quality of their websites to meet the needs of their users.Often times people are visiting your website because they are seeking out something. You want to ensure that they are finding what they are looking for quickly and with ease. You may have the most amazing business model and offer extraordinary customer service but with a poorly functioning website you could miss out on a significant amount of business and ultimimately make a bad impression.
    Very good point Arctic1 Usability has always been of key importance in a successful website. Websites with an intuitive design and with images and aspects that are pleasing to the eye are going to attract more customers than those without these features. A simple intuitive and functional navigation is another important feature to focus on for 2016. If customers can’t easily make their way around your site they aren’t likely to stay long. The speed at which your pages load also have a strong impact on users in the coming year. Quickly loading pages and simple ways to get to specific information will be critical in setting your website apart from the competition.
    I'm going to cheat a little @tastychef and give you a link rather: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/01/10-principles-of-effective-web-design/
    I also found this link which tied in with my mobile friendly post: http://groovedigitalmarketing.com/3-reasons-must-mobile-friendly-website/
    I know this may seem simple but I really feel that simple done well trumps everything! In the past bright and bold colors on websites was sometimes perceived as childish or unprofessional depending of course upon the industry of the business. However websites with vibrant colors have become more popular and more acceptable in recent years. I have just redone my website with a bright pink and charcoal pallete and it seems to be attracting people! It's also simpleto navigate and easy to read with a call to action at the end being a mail to me with their specific request I must tell you that I am impressed at how effective it has been so far in converting leads to customers...what are your views on this?
    I like your first digital impression take Shaun. I was chatting about this with a FB pal and her point is that it's your website yes but also your full online presence of which you website could be your baby step?
    Thanks for that site Arctic1 I totally agree with the sentiment of that article mostly being the same fundamentals of business: keep it simple consider what your customer wants and deliver it in a way that makes it easy to buy your product! Funny how these same themes run through most of what we do it seems like common sense however the need to make thing more complex whether needed or not seems to be the human condition.
    I find this quite interesting as I am researching how to best launch my website and what I have found is that sites with video content instead of reams of writing are more interesting to me and therefore would be more interesting for my customers surely? I tend to spend more time on those sights - so is this not the way to go?
    I'm a massive fan of calls to action - for me it's the digital version of taking the horse to the water and then making them drink. I'm a firm believer in achieving something tangible from your marketing and advertising spend. By making someone interact with your brand (and you indirectly) you create an initial link between them and you and that for me can lead to future engagement.
    Mobile is changing the world. In my research I have found that94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. 65% of email gets opened on a mobile device before a desktop computer. Surprisingly 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work places where desktop computers are likely to be present. So from this I take that it is absolutely essential to have a mobile friendly site!
    93% of online experiences start with a search engine. Search Engine Optimizasion is key to getting found online today. People make billions of unique searches each month and unlike Facebook flittering those people are in focus mode. In other words compared with most Internet traffic searchers are the most motivated people to hit your site. Do yoursef a favour and research this or if you have the budget hire an SEO expert to do this for you it will save you in the long term!
    My worst mistake on websites was to try and do it on the cheap at the beginning of my business. It was also because I was a novice at online behaviours of not just clients but criminals as well and the near fatal mistake was to ignore the maintenance rules of websitemanagement not updating softwares and plugins and other similar maintenance demands. Before long my website was crawling with hackers... not a great search result when it has been taggedby the following this site has been hacked . So I got blacklisted by google for what hackers managed to do on my site. I did recover fairly quickly but It was an expensive and crucial lesson: To always pay a little and get someone who is an expert to create and maintain your site for you. They will spot problems long before you do and they will regularly do the checks you and Iwould not be clued up to do on our own. I am still a die hard DIY kind of person but in some respects and especially when it comes to online presence it helps to lock the backdoor of online disasters.
    To Clint's point... It is so true because I can say something in a 40 Sec video that would be a whole two thirds of a page in written format and so yes I think people are more time concsious these days and would ratrher view than read.
    I don't think its a matter of if small businesses need a website I think the correct question would be which businesses need a website and why? The reason behind is that how you choose to engage with you clients is what determines the touch points you decide to create for your brand.(obviously based on their behaviour and industry standard practise). Take a food tuckshop that sells KOTA'sin a township that is a locally focused and driven business in most cases decisions to buy from thereare driven by distance and conveience however another brand such as Debonairs which focuses on high brand reach to promote their delivery solution has to have a website and other digital solutoins to promote their businesses. Both businesses are in the fast food space but how they engage with their clientelle is different. I agree with most of the comments made here having JUSTa website is not enough you have to go fulll 360 design the website and drive as much marketing back to it to increase traffic which is turned into leads.
    Great insights! T
    There is great freeware available for SEO too!
    A website is important for a small bussiness but it is not beneficiary in some cases. It really depends on your target market and the interest of your customers. We do need to have things that define the company and speaks for the company even if theres no one there to be selling the idea especially for new customers. When you tell people about your business you can refer them to your website for more information.
    I agree with you it depends on what kind of a business it is. Usually a website is driven by the power of customers you have and what kind of products or services you provide. Thefore a website is based on what you as an Enterprenur need the website for not only depending on the benefits of the peoople as in you want to advertise your products or you want customers to be able to order the products. Actually a website does not necessarily create a profit maximasation in the company.
    As a quality Enterprenur it is also important to be a pride person and tell yourself that cheap stuff have never being the best and just invest in yourself by doing things legally and luxury things are indeed expensive. Therefore if you are running a legitmite business all your operates should be legit. Even the way you start your business make sure is legit.
    Ohh wow.....i didnt know about SEO ....I have being trying to create a website by myself but at the end they always tell me to pay in dollars so can you please tell me more on how to create one on the SEO.
    I had a business advisor who told me that i should create the website by myself and that what exactly what i have done. So in your conversation i can see that you aying your website has been created by someone else. Do you think getting someone to create one for me would be a better idea or not and instead what are the risks of someone doing it for you?
    You have made a good example hey.i like it
    I have been trying to create a website by myself at the beginning it says that it is free but at the end it says i should pay in dollars. And i can not find it on google Therefore i would like to know from you how do you pay for your website or do you even pay every month? How should i know that the people that i must pay for my website are trustworthy.
    I recently visited the Woza online website wow...is soo amazing and easy ....i will use this one for creating myself an website...atleast now i know where to go when things go wrong unlike when i used to try creating and i was told to pay in dollars and paying people that i do not know but with this one i know where it is located and the service fee is cheap..jhoo simplyBiz is really helping me !!!!!!