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What Do Customers Want From Your Business Online? #SMBsurvey

Is your small business website and online presence giving customers what they want? According to the 2014 Consumer and Small Business Perception Survey, (#SMBsurvey) the answer may be no. The survey uncovered a widening gap between how well small business owners think they are doing with their business website and other technology and how well their customers think the businesses’ use of technology serves their needs.

Overall, small business owners realize it’s vital to have a business website to make their businesses appear more professional and to enhance their personal relationships with consumers. Half of respondents say their business has a website, up 8 percent from last year. But that’s still a shockingly low number in this day and age.

What’s holding entrepreneurs back from starting websites? Of those without a business website, 59 percent say cost is the reason; however 30 percent of simply don’t believe it’s necessary for their businesses. In fact, however, the survey found that whether you have a business website is one of the biggest influencers in whether consumers decide to buy from you or not. Smart small business owners are focusing not on the cost of developing a business website, but on the ROI they can get from it.

Nearly two-thirds of entrepreneurs in the survey say the Web and digital capabilities are highly important to their businesses. Specifically, they know a business website can help them:

  • 62 percent: Stay in touch/communicate with customers and prospects
  • 61 percent: Provide customer service, support, help, advice
  • 59 percent: Customer acquisition, building awareness, consideration
  • 59 percent: Build customer loyalty, satisfaction, frequency, retention
  • 58 percent: Take the business to the next level, positioning it for the future
  • 57 percent: Market, advertise, PR

What digital capabilities do consumers think are most important for small businesses to have? The top 5 are:

  • 56 percent: Special offers, promotions, discounts
  • 54 percent: Basic information (e.g. business hours, contacts, etc.)
  • 47 percent: Their own website
  • 42 percent: Customer reviews, ratings, recommendations
  • 34 percent: Incentivizing, rewarding loyal, frequent customers

In the future, small business owners believe Web-based capabilities, technologies and services will be even more valuable at improving communication and driving growth. The digital capabilities entrepreneurs believe will have the biggest increase in importance for the future are:

  • 19 percent: Having a mobile-optimized website, mobile apps or services
  • 17 percent: Product demonstrations, customization, trials, test drives
  • 16 percent: Recruiting employees, employee communication
  • 15 percent: Participating in social media networks, communities
  • 15 percent: Business development, new revenue streams, new markets

Currently, the vast majority (75 percent:) of small businesses with websites develop and manage their websites in-house (about 50 percent: of the small business owners actually do it themselves; about 25 percent have staff do it). But as Web needs become increasingly sophisticated, nearly two-thirds of small business owners are considering outsourcing and working with a Web services company in the next 12 months. That’s smart, because working with an expert can leave you with more time to do what you’re an expert at—run your business.