Looking back on the past year, the importance of maintaining your business in the digital realm is readily apparent. Gone are the days of thumbing through a phone book, reorganizing your Rolodex, and coupon-clipping apart your local paper. Real-time information, mapping, and customer reviews are ubiquitous in local search. A wealth of information is at the click of a button - at least it’s expected to be -- if you’re a consumer.
Consider some of this data. According to a Cisco update, global mobile data traffic grew an overall 81 percent last year. To help put that in perspective, consider that mobile data traffic this year was almost 18 times the size of the entire global internet data traffic in 2000, and more than 500 million new mobile device connections were accounted for in the last year. The growth is exponential. At the end of 2013, a Business Insider report claimed smartphones were owned by 22% of the global population, 2% greater than PCs!
It’s more than just having a website though, small business owners need to be preparing their online storefront for mobile compatibility and the the changing preferences of the consumer.
Stats aside, it should be clear to every business owner that getting your business digitally up to par is a priority; especially to capitalize on the local market.
Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer and consider this comparison.
You are a potential customer driving through town looking to get an oil change and you see signs for a local mechanic pointing down the road. You drive a bit more until you come across a similar sign for the same business pointing in the opposite direction. How long does it take for you to become frustrated and abandon your search or look elsewhere?
But lets say you tough it out. After several wrong turns, you manage to find the automotive shop and pull up to the garage. You’re welcomed by broken glass windows, flickering lights, and a rickety old sign swinging on one hinge. Posted to the knobless front door is a sign that reads “Renovations coming soon! January 1998.” You check the date on your phone to make sure you haven’t stumbled into the past.
This scenario is not much different from a potential customer finding (or not finding) your poorly maintained website (last update 2005).
People are looking for you and the representation of you and your company on the Internet can be a deal breaker for customers. Every day there are consumers looking online to purchase products or services in their local area. According to 2013 US search market share data, there are over 2.6 billion local searches performed monthly on Google and that number could grow by 50% this year.
Failing to maintain your image online by investing the time, effort, and resources into your website (and mobile site) is just as damaging as refusing maintain your storefront. Consumers, above all else, are looking for a positive online interaction with their potential suitors, and when they get turned off there is no turning back. Google reports that 40 percent of mobile consumers turned to a competitor's site after a bad mobile web experience, and 57 percent wouldn't recommend a business with a bad mobile site.
Getting a handle on your digital presence and staying up to date may seem like a daunting task, but it’s also too important to ignore. Your website and various digital representations should demand similar attention as you storefront. And if you’re a service-area type business working from home, your online presence IS your storefront.
"Visual Networking Index (VNI)."Cisco. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/white_paper_c11-520862.html>.
Heggestuen, John. "One In Every 5 People In The World Own A Smartphone, One In Every 17 Own A Tablet [CHART]." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 15 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/smartphone-and-tablet-penetration-2013-10>.
"Small Business Statistics - Marketing Stats For Small Businesses." LocalVox. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <http://localvox.com/resources/small-business-marketing-statistics>.
"ComScore Releases July 2013 U.S. Search Engine Rankings - ComScore, Inc." ComScore, Inc. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2013/8/comScore_Releases_July_2013_US_Search_Engine_Rankings>