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Why you should consider building a web site

By: Gary Wheeler at G2B Solutions, Inc.

Submitted on Wed, Oct 11th, 2006 12:00 am

So, you are a business that has had thoughts about getting a website. You have researched the type of website products that are currently on the market, brushed up on Internet based terminology such as e-Commerce, Hosting, B2B and looked into the various pricing models that exist for building a website. Perhaps you have even spent time doing research on the benefits of establishing a presence on the Internet and talked with colleagues that have websites to obtain feedback about the benefits they have derived from establishing a web presence. On the other hand, you may be a business that has never considered the establishment of an online presence to be of benefit to your business or have never given any thought to it. Your business may be well entrenched in the industry in which it competes, and you have more work than you can possibly handle so why bother to establish an online presence?

There are a whole host of reasons why establishing an online presence is not only of benefit to your business, but it is rapidly becoming essential that you do so. We identify below the most important and commonly overlooked benefits why establishing an online presence will benefit your business. This information will help to assist you in assessing the need for a website.

Online sales of goods and services is growing at a torrid pace. Statistics show that businesses which establish a web presence have a definitive edge in the ability to substantially grow their business at a pace much faster than those that have not. The following statistics demonstrate the significant amount of growth that is occurring worldwide due to commerce performed over the Internet:

2004 online retail sales rose 23.8% to $89 billion, representing 4.6% of total retail sales.
Including travel, online sales also rose 23.8% to $141.4 billion.

Online retail sales will reach $109.6 billion this year. Online sales including travel will rise to $172.4 billion this year.

Experts forecasted that the worldwide business-to-business (B2B) internet commerce market would total $919 billion in 2001, $1.9 trillion in 2002 and $8.5 trillion in 2005. Reports showed that in 2000, the value of global B2B sales transactions was over $433 billion, a 189% increase over 1999 figures.

850,000 small businesses--having fewer than 100 employees--were engaged in e-commerce transactions in 1999. A U.S. Small Business Survey projects that figure to almost quadruple to 3.2 million by the end of 2005.

e-Commerce allows a business to market it's goods and services online to a broad audience. There is no boundary to which a business can market to consumers other than those which the business decides to impose. This presents your business with a limitless amount of growth. With so many small businesses establishing an online presence, consumers look more towards finding their goods and services through the Internet. The internet provides a quick and powerful means of locating information about those products and/or services a consumer is looking for. Click here to learn more about e-Commerce.

Customer Service
Provide personalized support for your customers by providing answers to "commonly asked" questions and integrate a "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) page into your website. This will help assist customers in answering questions they may have about your business while preventing your business from losing valuable time answering the same question(s) multiple times. In addition, you can provide assistance to customers via tools such as BLOGS (weblogs) and online chat. These sets of tools will allow you to communicate "real time" with your customers so that you can immediately assist them. This method of customer service offers a high rate of satisfaction as customers can communicate with your business instantly when the need arises. Establish a variety of ways in which you can be contacted by integrating into your website, information about how customers can get a hold of your business. A popular way of performing this is to include a "Contact Us" page as part of the website. The "Contact Us" page can be used to display different methods of contacting your business such as the company address, a contact telephone number, contact company email account, etc. In addition, you can use Contact form fields to require the customer to submit certain pieces of information that are necessary in order for your business to respond to the inquiry. Validating an inquiry being submitted to your business is an effective means of filtering out those inquiries that are not serious ones. Use of a Contact form will also help your business become more efficient as you can respond to inquiries when time permits and it allows you the opportunity to "craft" your responses as opposed to creating them "on the fly". By implementing a website, your business can provide high levels of customer service without answering phone calls or hiring additional staff to handle an influx of customer inquiries.

Low Cost / High ROI
Utilizing the Internet for your business is an effective and low cost means of marketing and growing your business. When you compare the cost of establishing a website and maintaining it against traditional advertising mediums (newspaper, radio, television, etc.), it costs significantly less. Unlike traditional advertising mediums, the fee you pay to build and maintain a website is not based upon the amount of characters or the length of time your ad will run. A website affords you the luxury of communicating a "complete picture" of what your business is about for a flat fee (the cost to build the website) as opposed to flyers, brochures, mailers, advertisements, etc. where you have to identify the key messages you are trying to convey to your target customer base. In addition, unlike traditional advertising mediums, where the fee you pay is based upon the size of the subscriber base (ie: so many listeners in a given area, so many viewers in a given area, so many readers in a given area), a website provides you with the ability to market to the entire world at no additional cost. When you couple these benefits with the number of efficiencies that can be gained by implementing a website as part of your business, it makes for a compelling argument. ROI (Return on Investment) should not only be measured in terms of the number of $$ your business brings in at the end of the day as a result of advertising, it should also take into account the amount of $$ your business saved because it was able to run more efficiently and effectively. This is part of what a website can do for your business.

Communicate anywhere in the world with customers and employees and pay NO long distance telephone charges. Attach other documents or communication to your e-mail that is of importance to your target audience. For example, you can send an updated proposal to your representative across the country - quickly and at no cost. E-Mail is also an effective means of marketing your business. You can use "mass mailers" to reach your target audience with a single marketing message or an informative bulletin (ie: Monthly Newsletter).

Open For Business 24 hours a day / 7 days a week
This sounds bad but in reality, it is one of the largest contributors towards the growth of your business. With e-mail, customers can contact you anytime it is convenient for them and the response you send will be at a time which is convenient for you (Of course, a "timely-response" is recommended, just as if someone had called your place of business). When you have a website, potential customers can find out about your products and services 24 hours a day. In addition, they have an opportunity to educate themselves about your business without having to consume a lot of time from your business. Isn't this much better than getting a phone call at 5:00 AM from a customer in a time zone that's 3, 6, maybe even 8 hours ahead of yours? Regardless of the proximal location of the visitor to your website, your business is "Open For Business".

Global Reach
The Internet is being used daily by hundreds of millions worldwide with more "becoming connected" every day. The greatest influx of new Internet users come from countries around the world, outside of the US. China is a great example of this. Many of these Internet users are seeking to purchase the "latest and greatest" in those products and services which are offered on the Internet. With use of the Internet, you can target and market to many of these customers. If you chose to do so, how much do you think it would cost you to advertise in the Times of London, the Tokyo Daily, or Moscow Today in order to target these consumers? Compare that to the cost of building a website. The information you provide on your website is instantly available to any Internet user that connects to the world wide web, there are no boundaries.

Market to consumers abroad
Why restrict your target market to only the "English-speaking" world? Translate your website into a number of different languages and offer a choice to visitors when they come to your home page to help further increase the exposure of your business.

Gain Efficiencies within your business
Today your long-distance phone bill can run into the hundreds of dollars. Use of e-mail, online chat, instant messaging and BLOG's to communicate with your customers, suppliers, partners, etc., can save you a large portion, if not eliminate, this current expense. Provide "Customer Portals" via your website that allow customers to log in and gain access to documents, reports and other valuable information that would normally have been provided via other traditional means (postal service, delivery service such as UPS). How many of these costs can you eliminate if you simply provide your Customers with access to this information as opposed to you having to send this sort of information to them?

Update or Change your products and services easily and at low cost
If you have ever produced "paper" catalogs, brochures or sales collateral's, you know how difficult and expensive it can be to change them. An example of this would be the phone company changing your area code. What a pain with paper. With your Internet site, adding a new item or changing an existing item is a simple and inexpensive process.

Advertise Specials on Products / Services
Say you just received a new product or created a new service and you want to advertise a "Special" on that product or service. Communicating to customers via the telephone, sending a letter, Fax or advertising via advertising mediums would be time-consuming and expensive to notify them of the new product or service. With the Internet you can send out an single e-mail to 500 of your best customers with the click of your mouse. In addition, you can add advertisements to your website like static and dynamic banners that indicate a "SPECIAL" notice on your website advertising the new product or service.

Provide Newsletters / Register customers
Keep your customers - both current and potential, informed of changes within your business. Provide visitors to the website with the ability to register as a member of your website so they can receive notification of new products and/or services, specials, discounts or other important notices your business may be offering. This does a couple of things for your business:

1. Allows your business to collect a list of contact information for both current and potential customers.

2. Provides your business with the ability to potentially "up-sell" products and/or services that the registrant may not be aware you offer. Collecting information from visitors to your website that are interested in learning about changes within your business is also an effective way of determining which locales to market to using other advertising mediums. By using the demographic information provided by registrants, you may be able to uncover areas you may have overlooked marketing to when choosing a marketing and advertising strategy.

About the Author

Gary Wheeler
G2B Solutions, Inc.

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