Now more than ever, your local business needs a website. COVID-19 has changed the way people interact with businesses, and the quarantine and lockdown measures that have been put in place to keep us safe have dealt a deadly, financial blow to the retail and hospitality industries.
This is particularly true for small businesses and local restaurants, with a reported 90% of small Canadian businesses claiming that they are at risk of closing. The call to action to buy local has never been clearer.
And given that 93% of product searches begin through Google, the easiest way for your business to showcase its products or services to customers locally is online.
As if this alone weren’t enough of a reason to convince you about the importance of having a website for your local business, here are two very good additional reasons why:
Like we already mentioned, people are choosing to shop and eat locally to support local businesses over the big box stores. In terms of percentages, 46% of users searching for products or services on Google have intentions of finding a company that locally provides them. People who perform searches with local intent are generally more likely to go through with purchases, which leads to higher conversions.
With a virus that is still very much active, most people are choosing to shop and do business from the comfort and safety of their homes, which is why the digital landscape has become increasingly important to connecting with your (potential) customers. What this means is that if your small shop can offer its products online, people are more likely to purchase from you than from a big box store.
One of the objections we hear from small business owners often is that they cannot offer low-cost or free shipping of their products. So is there even a point of having online shopping?
The answer to this is YES!
We know shipping and mailing can be a pain, especially when the big box stores offer it for free or low-cost. And we also know that free shipping isn’t something many local retailers can achieve without eating into their profits, but it’s no secret that added expenses like these are a sure-fire way to deter even the best intentioned customers when they see them in the final bill.
While a website allows customers to shop online, the challenge of getting your product in their hands without using mail or courier services exists. Luckily, there are a couple of ways that your business can do this:
Offer Curbside Pickup
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the big box stores offer curbside and contactless pickup of items. This makes a lot of sense for restaurants since they can offer pick-up and delivery of their meals. One such business, Cavallo Nero in Ancaster, ON has done just that.
This isn’t just limited to restaurants, of course. If you have a storefront with physical products, there is nothing stopping you from doing this too. Setting the rules for this is important, such as pickup times and prepayment options. You will be surprised at how willing people are to visit your location to pick up their purchases.
Offer Local Delivery
Your local business will likely be selling to consumers within the area. If you are capable, a nice touch to bringing products to your customers is to bring them to their homes yourself. Not only is this low-cost, but it can also be interpreted as a nice, personal touch from a business that cares.
Of course, it would be wise to set up limits to this, including a geographical radius for free delivery as well as purchase minimums, but this type of service will ensure that your product is delivered with the convenience your customers want.
We get it. Social media platforms like Facebook have made it easy to create a business page that promotes your business. With a few clicks, you can enter in a description of your business and upload pictures of your physical store and the products, and—voila!— within minutes your business will have an online presence. If this sounds all too easy, that’s because it is.
So what’s the problem?
The problem with this is that all other businesses will be on Facebook too. And, with all Facebook business pages using the same layout, you won’t stand out from your competition in any significant ways.
Another eye-opening fact is that Facebook has reported a decline of 2 million daily active users in Canada and the US, and this trend doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
We’re not saying that there isn’t value in having a Facebook business page. In fact, having one in addition to your website can open up more ways for your customers to communicate with you and capture a wider audience. But while a social media business page is a nice add-on to your digital presence, it cannot be a substitute for a website.
Your customers are out there, but they will never connect with you unless they discover your company. A website that promotes your local business online is the best way to do this. From the comfort of their homes, your potential customers will be able to find you online and learn all about your company before they decide to interact with you. And this could be just what your business needs to reach more customers, generate more cash flow, and weather the storm of the pandemic.