Getting familiar with modern technology is one of the most important actions a small-business owner needs to take. There are real ways to make money online and you’re missing out on a big digital payday if you don’t have a small-business website.
However, Income.com warns entrepreneurs that’s it’s not enough to have a bare-bones website. Technology moves at such a rapid pace that what was futuristic one moment becomes trash the next.
Here’s an example: Apple released its first generation of the iPad in April 2010 and by November 2012, had already rolled out its fourth generation of the wildly popular personal device plus a smaller tablet, the iPad mini.
The world of small business is ever-competitive and if you want to stay on top you’ve got to know when it’s time to upgrade your tech capabilities. Selling products online, being ready for the mobile revolution and social media integration are all necessary functions a small-business website must have nowadays, and if yours is unprepared, it’s time for a makeover.
Ecommerce an immediate website element to add
You want to make money online? No problem, start up a small-business website. Don’t currently sell your products and services online? Well, then we might have a problem.
Too many entrepreneurs ignore one of the most important features to modern websites – the ability to act as a digital shopfront for your business. It’s increasingly important, if not completely necessary, that you fit your website to double as an ecommerce platform. According to data analytics firm comScore, Americans spent $186.2 billion online during 2012. U.S. online sales for the fourth quarter 2012 surpassed $50 billion for the first time ever; it was the 13th straight quarter of year-over-year growth and the ninth consecutive quarter to experience double-digit gains.
The first step to profiting off the rise of the digital consumer is selecting what you want to sell online. You can include your entire inventory and have your website mirror your brick-and-mortar, or you can withhold certain items in order to generate foot traffic.
Decide on your prices – in the event you want to offer a special online-only discount – and consult with a software provider with the tech knowledge to turn your website into a webstore. Some of the most popular options small-business owners turn to include Volusion, which has monthly packages that start at $15, and Shopify, which starts out free for the first 14 days and costs $60 for a pro account.
Smartphones and tablets rule the day
The rise of the machines is in full swing. But before the Terminator takes control, smartphones and tablets will hold court. Mobile personal devices have become as much a part of ourselves as arms and legs. As such, if your small-business website is optimized for desktop use only, you’re well behind the competition.
Now, entrepreneurs must have website strategies that deal with desktop and mobile use. Websites need to have a distinct mobile appearance and functionality to them, or else you’re driving away customers who would browse through your offerings on their smartphones or tablets, but are not able to because your website only accommodates desktop use.
It’s not a labor-intensive task either. There are slight adjustments you’ll need to make – simplifying navigation, including click to call, getting rid of large images that drag on load time – and a bevy of resources can help you do that. Take for instance, Google Sites, which helps small businesses optimize their site for mobile use.
No social media? Good luck
It’s been well established that social media is not the online time suck for teenagers it was once thought to be. Now, the biggest and most influential companies are on social media, as are a large majority of your customers.
But it’s not enough to have a social media presence, you need to integrate those elements into your website, and vice-versa. First, add social media icons to your website that upon being clicked, will redirect the user to your social media account. However, be sure to only add those you have an active presence on. If you’ve got a Pinterest account but don’t use it, don’t bother adding it, it will only confuse and disappoint consumers that click on it.
Once you have the icons in place, you need to refer back to your website as often as possible in your social media posts. Have a new product coming out? Tweet about it and link to it. Unveiling a new website design? Take a screenshot, post it to Flickr, and link back so users can experience it in full.
Income.com urges entrepreneurs to take a quick diagnostic of their small-business website to find any areas of improvement. Specifically, if you’re not currently selling your wares online, it’s high time you did so. If one-quarter of your website takes up the whole screen on a smartphone, better wise up and optimize for mobile. And if your website has no indication you are on social media, it needs to; your online success depends on it.