Imagine this scenario. You’re spending time with some friends, and they suggest that you all go to a restaurant that you have never heard of. What do you do next?
Now try this one. You notice that there is a blueberry stain on your tablecloth. You wonder if there is a product that removes such stains and if so, which one is best.
What do you do next?
I could go on, but I am sure that you get the point. In each of these scenarios—and in many, many more—the vast majority of people would do the same thing. They would use their phones, tablets, laptops, or other internet-connected devices to see what information they could find. Even if the consumer ultimately goes to a brick-and-mortar location, they likely have looked at the website to learn more about the business first.
According to Google data from 2018, at that point 63% of shopping journeys began online. Current estimates range from 83% to 91% of purchases beginning with online research.
For local businesses, the stakes are even higher. Over 60% of consumers say that they use the internet at least once a month to find a local business.
Despite all of this research about the importance of a website in business, 28% of small businesses still do not have one. And of those that do, many are unprofessional, non-functional, slow to load or not mobile-friendly. And to be honest, if your website design is done poorly, it is almost as bad as not having a website at all.
Perhaps you are a business owner who does not understand the importance of a website or does not want to put forth the effort to create a high-quality one. If so, check out some of the reasons why good website design is absolutely essential to your business.
It establishes credibility and industry authority
By the 1970s, every American business was expected to have a telephone number that a customer could call. If a business did not have a phone number listed (in a brochure, a phone book, etc.), it risked losing a lot of money. The customer would not know if the business was legitimate; he or she could not call to verify information.
A website is seen in the same way today. It is simply an expectation of customers to prove that a business is legitimate. This value of a website is pretty basic, but it is the foundation upon which much of your business is built in today’s society.
A website is also, in many cases, the first impression that a customer will have about a business. You can have the most beautiful store interior, but if your website looks outdated, chances are that customers will believe that your business is similarly dilapidated — or worse: out of business.
Your business website further establishes your credibility when you show your industry expertise.
Think of two different pages for heating and cooling companies, for example. Pretend that one simply showed a picture of a new HVAC unit, a truck, and a picture of the owner. The other spoke to customer pain points, laid out the pros and cons of different solutions they offered, and even had blog posts regarding frequently asked questions and simple maintenance tips, like how to replace the filter.
Which one would come off as more of an expert? Which one would generate more new business?
Almost for sure, the answers to both questions are the same, thus showing the importance of a website.
It creates organic traffic to your business
Another value of a website is that it is, in essence, permanent advertising. You pay for the website design once, and it remains. Compare that to, say, a radio advertisement where you pay once to receive exactly one 30-second clip of air time.
And if you have a good website design, following some basic SEO principles, you will be picked up by search engines — Google, of course, remains the most popular by far. In that case, when someone types in a search such as “Great bakeries near me” or “Best paint for aluminum siding” or “How to care for a potted orchid,” your website could be the one that pops up in the search results. Suddenly, a new potential customer is on your site and seeing you as an authority in your field.
In this sense, your website is consistently making sales for you, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is generating these sales passively. You are not spending time or money making cold calls or running advertisements. If you have a good business website design, some of these leads simply come to you naturally. And depending on the nature of your business, they could come from all over the world.
Blogging is an excellent example of how this process can really help a small business. As mentioned above, answering key questions through your blog shows your expertise. However, it also helps your website show up when someone types that question into a search engine. And of course, more clicks to your website means more leads.
In fact, businesses who blog receive 67% more leads per month than those who don’t.
It is part of your brand
Certainly, part of your brand is your credibility and expertise already mentioned. However, a website creates many more branding opportunities than even that.
It is your chance to tell your customers who you are and what you stand for.
You can let them know what your priorities are and what truly sets you apart from the competition. Are you committed to being the best value in your region? Is your customer service what separates you from other companies? Do you specialize in a certain type of product that is rare? Your website gives you a chance to emphasize all of this to your clients.
Even better, customers do not have to take your word for it. Your website is also an excellent place to display reviews, testimonials, and/or case studies. Testimonials can come from customer emails, other review sites, or even stories from newspapers or magazines. Of course, if they are on your website, you can keep the best reviews prominently displayed, rather than buried on page 3 of a 3rd party review site.
For many businesses (depending on the industry), a website is also a chance for an even more powerful way to tell potential customers about your business: showing them. A portfolio or pictures of your product/work is a way for customers to see for themselves who you are and what you bring to the table.
It saves you and your customers time with constant customer service/support
A robust website has all the information that a customer needs. If they need to know your hours of operation, your address, a map of your location, your phone number, etc., the best website design will ensure that you have all these questions answered. This saves you time because you or your employees are spending fewer minutes having to field phone calls on any of these topics. More than this, however, it increases your business. Let’s be honest, if a customer must call to get basic information, they are likely to simply move on to your competitors.
You can also answer FAQs on your website. That way, a customer already knows about your service and how it works. They may already have a sense of the cost. You might even tell them the information you will need from them to schedule your service. This way, when you do receive calls or emails, you are much more likely to receive them from interested prospects. You do not need to waste time answering questions from people who will never become your customer anyway.
Similarly, if you have a section of your website that is devoted to support, you have fewer questions or complaints from customers for relatively minor issues (plus, you can gain new customers when they do a web search on these topics).
The importance of a website is even greater if your business sells products. Customers want to see the product, read a description, know if it will meet their needs and have a price. And most want to know these things before they ever set foot in a store—if they set foot in a store at all.
It lets you make announcements to your customers all the time
One key value of a website is that you have the ability to speak directly to a customer, rather than relying on other marketing services, like running an ad campaign or partnering with a media station to host a large event.
If you have a large sale, you get a chance to promote it yourself. If you are hiring, you can attract the best talent through your description of your company’s culture. Before you introduce the new gluten-free section of your menu, you can introduce the news to local diners. When you are hosting the huge local tailgate party in your parking lot, you can spread the word online.
With modern technology, you can make announcements to your customers in real time.
If you have a hot item, you can let your customers know when it is back in stock. That big tailgate mentioned above? You can post live updates. Need to adjust your hours due to inclement weather? You guessed it: updating hours right away is yet another benefit of a website for your business.
With all these advantages, the value of a website is clear. However, you may be thinking that there is no way that you have the time, money, or expertise to create and maintain a website for your business. Afterall, a professional website for your business is not something that should be made once and never updated again.
Luckily, though, modern tools make small business website design pretty straightforward.
Alternatively, there are agencies that offer expert web design services and help with branding. And since good website design will lead to more customers and more sales for existing customers, the ROI is virtually guaranteed to be in the positive (meaning “value of a website” is actually a phrase that can be taken literally).
That way, the next time someone is doing a quick search for a great business near them, yours will pop up—and win them over with all the information they need instantly at their disposal.