Web only businesses are popping up everywhere these days, of that there is no doubt. But what do you lose and what do you gain from erasing your presence from the physical world? Are there really perks to being exclusively online with no storefront?
There are some businesses that are exclusively online and can’t really have a counter for sales. If you think about it, a small publishing house can operate exclusively online. Very rarely are there many meetings with clients that can’t be done via Skype or some other fairly new technology.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are businesses that are better off having a store or an office such as a real estate agent or grocery store. This is where the face to face end of business is the most beneficial. Although Amazon and eBay are great at selling anything using the web, they can’t replace the store for impromptu purchases. You can’t just instantly have something you need by buying it online. The store benefits more from the face to face interaction than they do from an online perspective. It is true that giants like Walmart make sales both ways, but they began with the public name before they moved to cater to anyone online.
A Successful Online Business has:
- Appealing presence or theme
- Easy to navigate pages
- A well thought out logo
- A shopping cart
- eCommerce capability
- Contact information
- A blog
- Social media accounts
- Attendance at tradeshows
A Successful Brick and Mortar Business has:
- Curb appeal
- Adequate sized building for customers
- Engaging customer service
- Some have daily repeat customers
- Properly functioning equipment
- Word of mouth advertising
- No shipping charges
- A supplemental online presence
- Participation in local events and tradeshows
- A brand
There are people out there that prefer to shop online; sometimes the shipping costing less than gasoline. However, it is very hard to build a loyal customer base as a strictly online business. People cannot get to know you very well, emails can get misconstrued, and it is harder to bond with people creating that loyalty and friendship through a keyboard. However, in businesses where there doesn’t need to be that sort of relationship, if your transactions go smoothly, there will be people who return to you on a regular basis.
The belief is that most online businesses will never be able to compete with the personalized service of a person at the counter waiting to help you, to ask you how your day is going, to help carry your bags to your car, to lend you a bathroom, and to sell you things you don’t really need. The online world just cannot exist in that same realm. The closest they could really come would be to attend tradeshows and introduce themselves to their potential customers, to flash their logo at them all over their backdrop, their business cards and pamphlets. It might be possible that they will have to work harder at gaining the customer’s trust than someone who hangs the “open” sign in their window and has people flock to them to satisfy their needs.
Another difficult area is getting noticed. Every new business starts somewhere. For online companies one important challenge will be getting visitors to frequent your site or to have outsiders contribute to your site to broaden your exposure. Never discredit the clout others may have! Spam is a real problem in the internet world, but not everyone online is guilty of that. You may miss the connection of a lifetime by throwing everyone to the side. Share the love and take some pressure off of yourself. If your goal is to grow online, you need to get out there and make a name for yourself!
Simple Strategies for Online Businesses to Thrive:
- Redesign your website to become current. WordPress offers countless options to cater to customers
- Look at how your logo functions. If your connections are not that deep yet, redesign it! Customers should identify your business and what you do for them in one look.
- Identify your “target audience.” It really may not be who you thought it was when you started out
- If you can’t take necessary payment online, get on board! There are many ways for small businesses to take plastic besides good old PayPal!
- There are many sites out there with no way to contact anyone besides a 1-800 number. Make a “contact us” page and leave every option for any customer to reach you. This includes a phone number (if you take calls), email, and a mailing address. If you don’t use an office, rent a PO Box. It is a small investment to instill a sense of security and professionalism with your clients.
- Fashion a blog. You have no idea how your ring will grow by sharing experiences and ideas that are relevant to yourself and your customers. Allow people to supplement your content by posting. You need to realize that they are helping you out, giving you a nice article in exchange for a little exposure. Often times, guest bloggers can save you a lot of time and effort by doing the writing so you don’t have to.
- Believe it or not, Twitter can be your best friend. If you are make an effort to interact in a somewhat social setting with your potential customers or people who might spread the word for you, it could help you many more times over than some expensive traditional marketing techniques. All of the social media venues maximize your reach to people you would never meet otherwise. It is worth the little bit of time invested to reap a whole new crowd of loyal customers
- Getting out and about is important as well. It can show the local public that you are serious and you care about where you live. It lends a personal approach, showing the mastermind behind your mission. Contributing your time and resources at charitable events or even tradeshows will give you and your company an image in the community. Whether that image is positive or negative is up to you. Looking sharp and up to date is important in how people view you. You can use custom wallpaper to create a reusable display that will be consistent and professional whenever you’re out representing your business.
If you are in the process of starting a new business or reworking your current business plan, really think about what it takes to compete out there in today’s world. A simple website slapped up without promotion or proper maintenance won’t be appreciated and probably won’t be seen without some of the other factors that go along with that responsibility.
Chris Garrett is a large format printing expert and freelance writer for the custom printed wallpaper expert Megaprint.com. He frequently blogs on the topics of design and printing.