Thanks to remote work and schooling, ordering curbside pickup for groceries and restaurant carryout, virtual medical visits, and more, online interaction has become a staple in our lives. As a result, it’s hard for a small business to thrive without an online presence—as shown in recent surveys, like the QuickBooks® Commerce Small Business Shopping Report, which came out with some eye-opening results for business owners:
- 48% of consumers are more likely to try new businesses than they were pre-pandemic (and if you look strictly at millennials, the largest demographic group in the U.S., that figure jumps to 63%).
- 93% of consumers feel supporting small businesses is more important than ever.
- 61% of consumers use online sources to find local small businesses.
- 48% of consumers stopped shopping at a store they visited before the pandemic because they didn’t have online options, while 53% considered using a business but changed their mind because the business didn’t have a website.
And this evolution in behavior isn’t just affecting retail sales. Whatever product or service they’re searching for, consumers are relying on the internet to find it. Which begs the question: How healthy is your business’s online presence?
The basics of online presence
While most small businesses don’t need to have every online bell and whistle, they should at least have the top three items that customers are most likely to look for:
- A professional website. Your website is the most important resource in your online presence. Think of it as your business’s front door for those who can’t visit you in person. Every bit as much as a brick-and-mortar presence, your website will be their first impression of your business, with a professional look and feel—and, since everything mentioned below will link back to your website, it’s vital that all information be correct and current, including:
- Business hours/days, including holiday hours or special office closings.
- Location(s), with address(es) and Google Maps directions.
- Phone number, contact email or contact form.
- Products/services offered (include menus if your business is food-related).
- Social media icons and links to each platform.
- Current products available and correct prices (if you have an online store).
- A Google Business Profile (GBP). Since Google is the 600-pound gorilla of online search platforms, doesn’t it make sense to have a presence there? Too many businesses don’t bother to claim their free Google Business Profiles—and as a result, they miss out on the boost that comes from potential customers (both local and remote) searching for businesses like theirs. A complete, correct and updated GBP will help drive Google searches to your business. The more information you can provide on your GBP (business hours, contact information, Google Maps address, photos of your business, etc.), the more visits your profile will receive from your target audience—which, in turn, will drive organic traffic to your website and social media platforms. Another valuable function of your GBP? The ability to collect customer reviews—a must-have when 77% of consumers “always” or “regularly” read them when searching for a local business.
- A social media presence. Wherever you have business pages—Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter (or all four)—make sure you’ve developed some eye-catching, consistently designed and professional-looking cover images and profile pictures that feature your logo (hint: it’s definitely worth consulting with a graphic designer). Don’t use different designs for different platforms; you’ll confuse your audience and miss the chance to reinforce your brand, business identity and professionalism. Keep your platform updated by posting at least two to three times per week. And when you post, remember to include links to direct people to more detailed information on your business website. Your social media streams are also a great way to engage with and answer questions from current and prospective customers, introduce people to your team, spotlight your community involvement, and even take advantage of the free advertising opportunities offered by these platforms.
Simply having an online presence won’t do the trick on its own. It’s imperative to dedicate some time and effort toward keeping your website, GBP, and social media active and current. If you’re hesitant to put the work in, keep in mind that these items won’t just benefit your customers. They’ll help your business, too, by building awareness of your brand, reaching more prospective customers and solidifying relationships with your current customers—the trifecta of success that every small business strives for.