Is Your Online Presence up to Standard For 2013?
This week the UK’s biggest department store chain, John Lewis, announced their incredible December sales figures: growth of 13%. This was despite poor performance in the retail sector in general and partly due to Internet sales growth of 44% on last year.
John Lewis’s managing director, Andy Street said, “That hour when we opened our clearance website, at 5 o’clock on Christmas Eve, was our single busiest day online, ever.”
It isn’t just John Lewis who have noticed a huge increase in online customers either. Information service Experian announced record numbers of people visited UK retailers’ websites over the festive period. UK internet users made 84 million visits to retail websites on Christmas Eve and 107 million visits on Christmas Day, up 86% and 71% respectively compared to the same days in December 2011, according to Experian. The Boxing Day level – 113 million visits – was 17% up on the same day in 2011.
The growth of the internet means that shoppers are using digital devices such as tablets and smartphones to search for bargains – then only travel to those specific shops to buy those items if they need to.
So what does this mean for non-retail businesses?
With consumers becoming more and more accustomed to being able to check online for what they want, when they want it, the online trend is only set to get bigger and bigger. People no longer need to rely on information they get from friends and family – they have the whole world at their fingertips via the internet.
It means that whatever service someone requires, whether it’s a builder, solicitor, Dentist, Accountant or Beauty Salon, they can find the information online, research several companies, get reviews from other customers and potentially have made up their minds on which one they will use before they even pick up the phone to enquire in person.
Whatever line of business you are in, you need to ensure that your business can be found immediately that people search for you online. Whether or not they know your business name, if they search for your type of business, in your local area you need to be found. Even if your business demands that sales are made offline (like a Dentist, or Beauty Salon) people still need to be able to look for and research you online.
The internet means that even small businesses tucked away on quiet roads can compete with much bigger high street premises. With all the potential competitors out there, once someone has done a search on the internet they are presented with what can fit on to one page of the screen. Suddenly, your competition isn’t every business in the area, it’s those 7 or 8 businesses whose online presence is good enough to put them on the front page.
For any business, reputation has always been important, but now that so much business and research is done online with less human involvement from the business in question, online reputation management has suddenly become even more important. Unless your business’s internet presence is top notch, you could be losing business hand over fist and not even know about it.
John Lewis has managed to do what an awful lot of businesses haven’t: they’ve kept their department store business strong and also built up an excellent Internet business that leverages the brands great reputation. If they hadn’t built up their internet business, things could have been very different – there is already a long list of now closed down high street names who failed to capitalise online.
Don’t let your lack of an online presence make 2013 an unlucky year for your business!