With more and more shoppers using digital channels to discover, interact with and rate real-world businesses, the value of a strong online presence is unquestioned. It’s even more vital for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A recent survey by Vistaprint Digital Services spotlights just how important it is for SMBs to not only have an online presence, but to have a good looking one as well.
The Digital Impact Report On Online Identity surveyed more than 2,000 people in the U.S. “We set out primarily to go one step beyond what we’ve historically done,” said Scott Bowen, VP and GM of Digital Services at VistaPrint. “This time we reached out to our customer’s customers, and tried to understand how they would view a small business’ online presence, to help inform how consumers are ultimately evaluating the SMBs as it relates to online marketing.”
One of the key findings from the survey showed that having an online presence/web site, or some way to have people find the SMB on the web (for example via social media), is critical. More than one third (36.7%) of respondents said they discover small businesses for the first time online. This is “virtually the same” as the percentage of respondents who reported that word of mouth was the most common discovery channel, according to Bowen.
Other key findings include:
- 75% of respondents shop at a SMB at least once per month;
- 45% say they are unlikely to shop at a SMB with a poorly designed web site; and
- 60% say it is important for a SMB to have a social media presence.
A Poor Online Presence Is Worse Than No Presence At All
Not surprisingly, one third of respondents said if they found out about a business and it didn’t have a web site, they might not actually frequent the business. What’s interesting is that the survey found that even if the business has a web site, a poorly designed one is worse than not having one at all.
Nearly half (45%) of respondents said they would be unlikely to shop at a SMB with a poorly designed or unprofessional web site. Among the 28% of survey respondents who are Millennials, only 5% said they would be very likely to visit a SMB with a poorly designed web site.
SMBs’ profile on review sites such as Yelp is also an important factor, according to Bowen. The survey showed that three quarters of respondents said reviews are either somewhat or extremely important in consumers’ decision-making about frequenting a location. About half said that a bad or negative review will likely prevent them from visiting a SMB.
“The small business owner should monitor reviews and be proactive when it comes to their online presence in this category,” said Bowen. “Reputation management is important.”
Younger Audiences Use Social Media To Find SMBs
An online presence doesn’t only mean having a web site. Engaging with customers on social media also falls under this category, and it’s a key factor for SMBs targeting a younger audience. One in four respondents said social media is very important for SMBs, and approximately 25% of the Millennial respondents said they would use social media to find a small business.
“Social in particular is going to be increasingly important for an SMB’s online presence,” said Bowen. “Going beyond just the basic web site, having a social profile and social presence on the right platforms, and engaging your audience in that regard is important. We look at the Millennials as the indicator or the future of SMBs.”