The Importance of a Website for a Business

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The Importance of a Website for a Business

The website is generally perceived as being ubiquitous for business in operation. With a well-designed website, a business can improve its brand awareness, create two-way channels to reach potential customers and obtain feedback, generate leads, maximise sales, and even reduce support.

Having an online presence helps a business promote its company to a wider audience in a very cost effective way. Businesses can also reduce support staffing and resource costs by providing support and advice through online information pages, FAQs, online support lines, help desks, or automated databases and online communities where users share their experience.

Of course, in addition to the above, websites can also act as points of sales. Ecommerce is an area undergoing rapid growth and with current trends as they are now, may well be the dominant means of sale for many industries in the future.

A business website means the company has a shop that never closes that also functions as a cross-border, globally available 24/7 marketing tool. Companies in niche markets can gain excellent global exposure for a fraction of the cost they would have incurred prior to the internet era, when they would have had to communicate with suppliers and customers around the world via mail or direct travel, or be limited to competing locally with large companies that may not offer their unique spin on the product. For example, consider an organic producer that sells products from their wholesale warehouse, or the dealer in vintage clothing. Both might have had to settle for competing with local suppliers if they could not reach the select group of “special interest” people who would form their market.

The ability of a website to provide both accessibility, information, establish credibility, and also act as a sales point or store is unrivalled. Regardless of industry or product-type, all companies can benefit enormously from having an online presence.

Consider also the power of the internet to cut retail costs. Many larger clothing retailers and book stores have online stores. This allows these businesses to alter their business models and adapt logistical requirements to make use of changing technology. For example, a book store that now makes half its sales through an online store has halved the costs associated with transporting stock from warehouses, sort and store and display this stock in their retail outlets. Instead, by installing a freight point at their warehouses, the books go directly from the storage facilities to the end user.

Not only does this allow the company to eliminate costs, it also allows them to expand into other markets with minimal risk. The company can leverage its brand name by supplying CDs, DVDs, and other associated entertainment and lifestyle products. This reflects the low entry barriers that Ecommerce presents to newcomers.

Operation costs are minimised. Those businesses that operate only online reduce their staff costs by having no need for sales staff. Offices can be smaller as there is less direct client engagement and remote workplaces are possible. Non-traditional office locations can be made use of. And while retail spaces are limited by what can be displayed and stored onsite, online stores are not.

There may also be management and tracking benefits. Companies with an online presence can integrate their online sites with existing intranet or internal software, and automate these processes to require only minimal human input. For example, systems can be designed to detect low suppliers and automatically contact suppliers with a new order.

Clearly, having an online presence can help companies overcome traditional barriers associated with supply, delivery, retail, and storage of stock. But, as mentioned, it can also enhance the ability for a company to provide ongoing support. A software company will not need to send out update CDs to its two million customers with each software update. By uploading the software update patch to its website, it can then notify customers and have them download it directly from the site. The costs thereby avoided are significant, and the level of service will also tend to be of a higher standard.

In a similar way, having an online presence enhances the ability of a business to engage in direct marketing. By having a point of access online, the company can send out email or postal marketing material to customers and potential customers, providing information on new products or services. Marketing will tend to be much more cost effective. The website can contain video material, print ad campaigns or other interactive marketing materials that generate interest and incentive to purchase. In an environment where marketing material is pervasive through television, newspaper, radio and other traditional media formats, having access to customisable online marketing assists a business gain an edge over competitors.

An online presence facilitates rapid response time to changing trends. Businesses can push beyond the longer time cycles associated with traditional media to update content and respond to new developments much more quickly than before. Websites are easier and most cost effective to update than printed marketing materials. Typically, most of the content on a website can be changed and updated in very little time.

So content can be delivered much more quickly than before but it can also be delivered in volumes and combinations previously unavailable. If a company has more than one website, if it wishes to utilise content from another website, or wants to promote its content on another website, content can be syndicated or reproduced (legally of course) with the result of greater exposure and reach.

Now for the dreaded words: social media. While some companies may consider Facebook or Twitter to be irrelevant to their industry, social media can be of benefit to any type of business. Having an online presence allows you to make use of social media platforms to direct attention to new products, new information or support updates. The pervasiveness of Facebook means additional markets can be tapped into without entry costs. Companies can also receive feedback from customers instantaneously while collecting information about their market. They can also reach more customers easily by, for example, conducting optional surveys to find out the response to each aspect of their service. The website itself may be a networking tool or contain a networking function such as a client-only forum that allows the business itself to build better relationships with clients. It may also allow companies to test new products, give time-sensitive support and information, track customer activity and adapt positively to changing consumption patterns. Businesses can also link their websites to other online marketing strategies without cost.

A company website allows a business owner to list their company in online directories. Think of the number of people who, instead of reaching for the yellow pages, now prefer to access online business directories or simply visit a search engine. Competitors with websites are at an advantage over those who don’t have a website: instantaneously, they are able to pitch their product, provide the customer with product information, build trust, and point them to a call for action – whether it is to purchase the product through the website or contact the business for the next step. Clearly, the marketing potential presented by a website is unlimited – businesses will stand to gain a spectacular advantage over those without a website.

Generating leads is one benefit, another is customer service, which can be provided at the same quality for a tiny percentage of the costs associated with having a physical retail store. Automated systems within one website generate leads, provide customer information and support, and complete sales in the one step. The online market is increasing by billions of dollars every year. While physical stores are limited by capacity and staff, the number of customers a store can connect with is theoretically unlimited in terms of volume and time. You may only provide so many hours of support and information to a single customer at a time, but a website can simultaneously serve thousands of clients, every hour of every day. With a significant proportion of the population choosing the internet as their first port of call for information, a company with a website – provided they receive some guidance from professionals – is guaranteed marketing exposure every day of the week.

Having an online presence helps small and medium businesses compete effectively with large multinational corporations. It levels the playing field because a professionally designed website is not a high entry barrier to small businesses. Access to technology, web design and space is affordable to all budgets.

The internet is rapidly becoming the centre of sales, which used to belong to the shopping centre or mall. The accessibility of a website to all businesses and budgets means a website is an essential tool for any business. An optimised website will generate leads, create trust, expand market reach as well as finalise sales and provide after-sales support where appropriate. While for some companies internet sales form only part of their business, for others it is their single sales channel and allows them to tap into niche markets for a fraction of the usual cost. A website presents one of the most cost-effective marketing and sales solutions for businesses of all sizes.  

Author: Amy Chen
Source: Internal
Posted on: October 6th, 2010
Category: General

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