Still think that The Internet has nothing to offer your business?

Growing research is showing that even the most local “Bricks & Mortar” businesses can see significant gains by developing an online digital strategy. Nick Brown, member of the Information Technology Faculty of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and partner at Brighton accountants Plummer Parsons takes a look at the benefits it could bring to your business.

Running a small business is a juggling act.

Between managing the responsibilities of your day to day activities, wearing the hats of marketing manager, accountant and HR, whilst simultaneously trying to expand your business further – it’s no surprise that you feel as if you haven’t got enough hands to add another ball in the mix. Especially if your business is already doing well.

According to Ofcom, the average adult in the UK spends nearly nine hours a day online, more time than we spend sleeping.

Technology is ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and with the gradual acclimatisation of smartphones into our daily routines, more of your customers than ever are using their smartphones to search and shop for products and services.

Developing an online presence is becoming increasingly crucial for the success of your business.

Shoppers are predicted to spend £27bn this year purely on mobile devices, and a further £43bn online annually by 2020.

And with large online retailers continually increasing the accessibility of their e-commerce experiences, to great success, Amazon are looking to grow by over 50% by 2021, to compete – it’s imperative you ensure you can be found online.

Stand Out from the Crowd

And it’s not just the large retailers you need to worry about.

Britain is officially one of the most entrepreneur-friendly countries in the world, reaching fourth in an annual ranking of micro-business density, with a combined annual turnover of small to medium-sized enterprises of £1.9 trillion.

Figures show that the number of small businesses in the UK has reached a record 5.7 million.

However, despite the growth in small businesses, consumer spending has actually declined. Forced by a combination of rising inflation, stagnant wage growth and the instability of the pound since the decision to Brexit in 2016; December 2017 rounded off the worst year for consumer spending across the UK since 2012.

The only figure that managed an increase in a dire financial climate was e-commerce spending. Eking out a gain of 2% before the close of the year.

With figures like that, it’s no surprise that 88% of UK SMEs are expected to start trading online in 2018. So it’s more important now than ever, to not get left behind in an increasingly online marketplace.

But if you’re still not sold, here are the other benefits of taking your business online.

Why You Should Establish Your Business Online

Brick and Mortar is Becoming More Expensive

The revaluation of the business rates will have a significant impact on independent shops located in high traffic areas.

Currently, rates are set at roughly half of the rent, and with property prices in larger cities fast outpacing the rate of national growth, smaller businesses in prosperous locations could be crippled by the adjustments. Especially when face-to-face consumer spending has fallen by 2.7% over the last year.

SMEs who establish a digital storefront could save themselves by creating an additional revenue stream. Building an e-commerce website is projected to increase sales by 1.9%, as opposed to 0.6% of those who stick solely to brick-and-mortar.

Encourages a Bigger Spend Per Head

Implementing a payment system makes buying goods far simpler and, for small businesses, gives customers the reassurance and security of a larger outfit. Allowing shoppers the option of buying online encourages them to spend more. Whereas the average value of an individual sale is between £10 and £30 for over a third of businesses, research shows that on digital devices consumers are willing to pay up to three times more: £84 on a smartphone, £103 on a tablet and £147 on a laptop.

Increases Your Reach

In a brick and mortar business, your visits are limited to the capacity of your store. Similarly, unless your store is in a visible, or high traffic location, the amount of people that can find you are limited.

A good website can handle thousands, even millions, of potential customers visiting your store at once. Moreover, thanks to search engines, the customers that do find you are far more likely to convert, as they are already much further along the buying process than your average high street wanderer.

And with digital marketing services such as PPC (pay per click) advertising, and Google Shopping, you can expose your products and services to an unlimited number of interested people.

By opening up a digital storefront, you’re positioning yourself not just in the British marketplace, but ensuring you’re accessible to customers across the globe.

International retail sales currently account for 61% of all sales annually, and with the pound becoming weaker after Brexit, exporting goods to the rest of the world will become cheaper, as it becomes more expensive within the UK.

Builds Your Brand

Creating a strong brand identity, and developing awareness of it, is vital to your business succeeding in a competing market. Your brand is an extension of your business, reflecting your company’s image, story and identifying the type of customer you want to attract. It can be the point of difference between a customer choosing your business over another. In an oversaturated marketplace, people don’t buy what you sell, they buy who you are and who they want to be. Branding offers them that possibility.

But in the hustle of running your business, it’s easy for this to get lost in the mix. A well maintained website takes a lot of the hard work out of branding.

Creating a professional website is a one time investment, that pays out consistent dividends. A website can be used as an endpoint for social media and email marketing, and a hub for exciting and authority building content, as well as an e-commerce platform. Building a brand that existing customers can engage with repeatedly, and can generate new leads digitally.

Low Start-Up and Operational Costs

A good website can be designed and built for very little money. And the good news is it can be done from your laptop, meaning there are no buildings to construct, staff to hire or hardware to buy.

The transition from online to offline selling is smooth, with ecommerce platforms like Shopify built to enable you to sell online with ease.

Dependent on your budget and resources, you can even set everything up from the website to the marketing yourself, although outsourcing can be relatively inexpensive.

Better Customer Support

A website allows you to answer questions, solve customer problems and be available outside of your brick and mortar sales hours. Creating an FAQ section, product videos and a troubleshooting page can last you and your customers for years, enabling you to provide a better service and save yourself time in the process.

Keep the information on your website specific and tailored to the needs of your customer, give them the information they want at the points they will be looking for it.