Over the course of the past year, COVID-19 shutdowns and the rapid transition to online business has brought about many challenges for entrepreneurs. Despite the hardship, entrepreneurs with an online presence persevered—in fact, a recent survey found that websites were vital to business success, particularly during the first couple months of lockdown.
Small businesses owners and entrepreneurs are resilient when faced with hardship, however, there was a clear difference in overall success between businesses with websites and those with physical locations only.
According to that same survey, 54% of SMB owners reported a boost in website traffic since the beginning of the pandemic and 49% reported an increase in online sales.
Even as many lockdown restrictions have loosened, websites are still likely to play a bigger role in business success. Entrepreneurs around the country must balance reopening safely and appealing to a customer base with varying levels of comfort returning to in-person business.
Here’s why a website will continue to be vital to your startup’s success in the COVID-19 era:
The reality is that most customers will continue working from home for the foreseeable future, and many businesses are struggling to maintain pre-COVID normal business hours, closing between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily. However, a website is like having a virtual storefront that is open 24/7 – even when away, customers can visit the virtual store to make purchases.
Your website is where visitors learn more about your business and convert into paying customers. This year is predicted to continue the heavy e-commerce trajectory that the remote world of 2020 initiated, so any entrepreneurs that aren’t online are behind.
Sense of community
It’s no secret that strong communities are the backbone of business success. When the world went virtual due to COVID-19, people began seeking out a sense of community through online platforms, and startups are no different. Online communities help build brand credibility, customer loyalty and enable one-on-one engagement with customers.
Learning to cultivate these relationships through an online platform is vital to keeping up momentum in a remote world. Entrepreneurs who struggle to maintain customer engagement without in-person interactions should increase their online presence, focusing on being present when engaging with customers, posting consistently on the website and social channels and leading all interactions with empathy.
Real-time customer insights
Consumer behaviors and comfort levels are changing daily with the persistence of COVID-related uncertainty. It’s always important for entrepreneurs and small business owners to understand their target audience, but it could make or break success if they are not paying attention these days.
Website analytics tools like Google Analytics give website owners essential information about who visits the site, what they interact with, the duration of their visit and how they landed on the site. Entrepreneurs can use these insights to improve their website and build a marketing strategy tailored specifically for their target audience.
In the changing world, these insights are extremely valuable for web-based entrepreneurs.
For example, a startup restaurant might learn there is an ongoing spike in web traffic from medical professionals in the area. This information could be leveraged to launch a sales campaign, such as “nurses eat half price on Wednesday.” This ultimately encourages more web traffic from this demographic throughout the week.
Digital elevator pitch
Entrepreneurs are used to meeting people and making connections at conventions and in-person events. As we all know, comfortable in-person interactions with strangers have been few and far between over the last year.
An “About” page on a website can serve as a replacement for an in-person introduction. Entrepreneurs can use this space to describe their mission, record a video of their elevator pitch or let their personality shine through with an interactive timeline of the company’s history. About pages are more than likely the first place visitors will go if they are unfamiliar with the brand, so entrepreneurs need to spend time developing the content on this page.
Furthermore, websites give entrepreneurs creative freedom when it comes to storytelling and branding. When entrepreneurs create websites that match their brand and their audience, they help ensure that first impressions are always positive.
It is no surprise that successful startups have a website; websites catapult business success and create more growth opportunities. Indeed, recent research found that SMBs without websites are less optimistic about the future of their company than those with websites.
Starting a business during an economic downturn can be tough, but with the right tools, growth and momentum are on the horizon.