Small, local, neighborhood retailers and service providers have long struggled to effectively leverage the web. Week after week, they are chased by one group deal company or another that want businesses to trade in profits for the promise of new, repeat customers. Of course, this usually provides little to no real positive value and, instead, these cost real money and time—things small business owners have little of to spare.
Despite all this attention from various companies, why are small businesses still unable to effectively leverage the web? We have some theories.
Common small business pitfalls:
- Deal sites are value destructive, generally speaking: of course there are exceptions to any claim, but the mounting evidence seems clear—most businesses aren’t able to generate an appreciable increase of repeat, regular customers, despite the sacrifice of profits required to create these flash coupon mobs via these deal companies
- Decentralizing the online business presence: this happens when businesses don’t have a proper online strategy and, instead, choose to spread their business information across innumerable sites (Yelp, Groupon, CitySearch, etc.) in the hopes that low-quality content volume is a satisfactory substitute for having a proper business website of their own; it’s not.
- Implementing a custom website: we all like to have our own personalized things, but, unfortunately, a lot of businesses end up with potentially confusing and inconsistently designed websites that end up looking unfinished/unpolished. In addition, this is often a very costly route and may not return on investments.
- Implementing a custom software e-commerce platform: needless to say, these solutions are far too complex for small businesses and require fulltime staff of developers and designers to fully exploit such solutions.
- Paying for low-value websites: paying repeating subscription fees for trivial “one-page” “business profile” sites is money wasted. If you have a real business, these sorts of sites are decidedly unprofessional and lack the most basic commerce and business capabilities. Furthermore, the value these sites claim to provide can easily be replicated on a free service at no additional cost or effort.
- Lack of online reputation control: due to sites like Yelp (and various other review sites), businesses have started to lose control, often unfairly due to malicious competitors, of their online reputations. In the absence of an official business website, these 3rd-party services become the de-facto consumer-facing facade for businesses.
At the end of all that, small businesses still don’t have their products/services online for search and, therefore, remain outsiders to the exploding world of e-commerce. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, isn’t it important to not only let people find your business, but to also let them transact business with you online? Why only settle for half the equation when you can have both?
“How did we end up in this mess?” you may ask. The sad reality is that companies have not attempted to build products that actually provide small businesses tangible value, instead, they’ve focused on questionable/unsustainable business models (pyramid schemes, group coupons, etc.) that provide value to their own companies, but not to the small businesses they claim to serve.
What steps can small businesses undertake to take control online?
- Consolidate your online presence: in other words, stop spreading yourself thin; eliminate, delete and consolidate the myriad of ineffective online accounts that have provided little to no measurable value and concentrate on the handful of platforms/services that actually help. No potential customer wants to digest fragmented business information across multiple sites.
- Be professional online: in the context of e-commerce, it’s infinitely more important to convey a sense of professionalism and trust rather than demanding a totally unique site that’s unable to engender trust from potential customers.
- Be professional offline: in order to compete with low-cost online competitors, small businesses must make the additional effort of engaging and cultivating their customers so that they return, even if they’re paying a slightly higher cost with your physical business than they’d be charged with an online competitor. Act quickly to service customer needs, mitigate complaints and incorporate good suggestions.
- Understand the motivations of those purveying internet services to your small business: let’s be honest—most internet companies don’t have your best interests in mind, and never will. Such companies try to push their idea of products onto small businesses without regard for whether they actually provide value. Make sure that your service provider wants to help small businesses and that they are structurally aligned with your goals.
- Be prepared to pay for value: we all know nothing worth having in life is ever free. This is also true for small business e-commerce. As a business owner, this fact shouldn’t come as any surprise especially if the value is real and greater than the value invested.
Feel free to contact us at info [at] mohchi.com to find out how mohchi can help solve these problems for your small business.