Canadian small businesses are way behind other countries when it comes to using the Internet to conduct business.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA’s) 2014 Factbook found that only 41% of Canadian small businesses have a website at all while Canadian business’s investment in ecommerce is so dismal that one commentator retitled a government report on the subject “E-Commerce in Canada: Half-Assedly Pursuing the Promise."
The ironic thing about all these sad statistics is that Canadians are the second heaviest users of the Internet globally, averaging 41.3 hours/month online.
If you operate one of those small businesses that doesn’t have a website and that fact alone doesn’t persuade you to develop an online presence for your business, here are five more reasons:
1) People use the Internet like they used to use the phone book.
I used to tell small business owners that it didn't matter if they had a website if most of their business was local. But now almost everyone uses the Internet to get information - even local information. Potential customers are using their Smartphones and tablets to decide where to go and what to buy. So be there or beware; people who are searching will find other local businesses rather than yours.
2) A business website gives your business legitimacy.
People expect businesses to have their own websites, just as they used to expect businesses to have a real physical business address.
Not having a business website raises questions in customers eyes. Are you a technological naïf? A stick-in-the-mud? Or such a shoestring startup that you can't even afford to do this? All things you don't want people thinking about your business!
3) A business website gives you another marketing channel.
Having a business website gives you an automatic Internet presence. Think of it as a billboard on the 'Net. Instantly you have another chance to introduce people to your products and services and another way for people to find you. (Of course, how many eyes your billboard attracts will depend on your conscious marketing efforts to get people's attention, such as Search Engine Optimization, blogging, using social media, and online advertising.)
4) A business website gives you another opportunity for data collection/lead generation.
For instance, getting people to write their email addresses on pieces of paper and handing them in at a physical storefront is hard. But getting people to type their email address into a box on a website is much, much easier - especially if they perceive that they're getting something for it, such as a newsletter, a special report or an ebook. And once you have the email address, you have another way to reach your potential customer.
5) Ecommerce spending is increasing every year.
ComScore reported that in 2012, ecommerce spending in Canada rose by 10 percent to $22.3 million (CIRA 2014 Factbook). In the U.S., ecommerce spending was $226 billion in 2012 and Forrester Research Inc. predicts that online shoppers will spend $327 billion in 2016.
Right now Canadians are contributors to American online profits. Statistics Canada reported that more than 50% of online Canadians had used the Internet to order a good or service in 2012 (compared to 33% of Americans).
6) Webrooming can lead customers into your store.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, investing in building an online presence such as an ecommerce website can increase your offline store’s profits thanks to the growing popularity of webrooming, where customers research items online before purchasing them in-store.
In a survey conducted by Accenture in September 2013, 74 percent of Canadians surveyed engaged in webrooming, and the trend is growing.
What’s Your Reason for Not Being Online?
One small business man I spoke to told me that he didn’t have a website because he wasn’t looking for any more business. But he’s an electrician and as busy as he wants to be for the foreseeable future.
If you actually want more business, a business website is now like the business card - a must-have for any business – and don’t think you need to offer ecommerce to have one. A website that serves as a digital business card, providing searchers with information about your business and what you can do for them is still worthwhile.
If you don't already have one, get started with How to Get and Register a Domain Name, the first step to getting your business online.
Then have a look at the different Online Business Models and see what kind of web presence would would best for your small business.