Making your small business website a big deal

The website will often be the first point of contact between the brand and customer and it is therefore crucial that small businesses get it right. Here's how they can.

A surprising number of small businesses still don't have an online presence

A surprising number of small businesses still don't have an online presence

For small businesses, brand loyalty is precious; it takes time to earn but can be lost very quickly. While established brands can afford the occasional blip in customer service, smaller brands are often more exposed, leaving little room for error.

Businesses need to therefore rely on the resources available to ensure the customer experience is exceptional and, in many cases, the website is at the heart of this.

With more than 6.4 billion connected devices expected to be in use by the end of this year, it’s safe to say we live in an always-on connected world. But with connectivity comes expectations, and consumers now demand 24/7 access to everything online.

Even the smallest start-up or the most early-stage business understands the importance of an effective website and its role as the initial access point for customers.

A website which expresses your business’ personality, which clearly communicates your products and services, and which scales and develops with your customers, will contribute to creating a loyal customer base.

But many business owners lack insight regarding the type of platform which can help them to achieve these goals. So to help, we’ve put together some tips we believe every small business should consider when looking to create a great website:

Scalability for the good times

The website needs to be reliable. With consumers demanding 24/7 access to websites, they have little time for excuses and won’t tolerate downtime. All businesses face the challenge that incoming traffic to their website may change dramatically at any point.

Maybe an article in a national newspaper becomes highly popular, maybe it’s a seasonal holiday, or maybe discounted products become a hit. The key for small businesses is having a platform which can scale immediately depending on demand.

A good example of a business that needs this scalability is The Handmade Christmas Co. In the lead-up to Christmas, it is essential that it maintains 100 per cent uptime during its busiest period.

This means the site needs to scale to host more visitors, and ultimately be able to process more sales, while maintaining a high level of customer service.

By utilising the WordPress platform to scale up, The Handmade Christmas Co is able to ensure it can provide a great experience for the influx of buyers during the Christmas period.

Scalability is vital to a website’s success, and a platform like WordPress provides this and ensures that no matter the increase in traffic, businesses can adapt quickly and meet demand without the risk of downtime.

Small businesses should therefore follow in the footsteps of The Handmade Christmas Co. to ensure they’re ready for peaks and troughs in their sales cycle, which helps to grow the company as a whole.

Plenty of plugins

When choosing a website, businesses want it to represent everything about their company. It needs to be personalised to portray the brand that they care so deeply about and it must be secure and safe.

One key reason to choose an open source web platform is the vast developer communities which now exist.

These developers have created a host of plugins which allow businesses to customise their site and ensure its security. For example, more than 45,000 plugins are available in the WordPress repository alone.

These plugins made a world of difference to the The Confetti Bar’s website, allowing the business to implement one of its biggest customer feature requests; an interactive customisable order form.

Instead of back and forth email inquiries before invoicing, customers are now able to customise, upload assets, and pay for their custom confetti before The Confetti Bar employees even see the request.

This allows The Confetti Bar to take in more orders, whilst ensuring delivery times are met.

It’s not true that all businesses that use an out-of-the-box platform have the same website structure and no individuality.

The number of plugins which now exists allows companies build a unique website, and add and change functionalities to suit the business as it grows and develops.

Content to create your identity

Today, many small businesses are taking publishing into their own hands and looking to build direct relationships with customers, and promote their brand to an external audience.

They want to become publishers of content themselves, allowing for real time updating of stories, and less reliance on one technical individual with the relevant expertise.

Operating within the crowded digital health space, MyFitnessPal faced this very same challenge. The company needed to find a platform to re-launch its blog, which was formally hosted in an app.

Revising its business strategy, MyFitnessPal had plans for its blog to become a world-class publisher.

With a new team of writers who were responsible for creating engaging content, MyFitnessPal re-launched the blog on WordPress, a platform which the writers were able to easily navigate, and as a result upload content to the blog in real-time.

As a result, the team now post multiple times per day, and attract on average 10 million unique visitors per month.

Easy-to-use content management platforms are really driving this ‘brands to publishers’ revolution, thus it’s never been more important to ensure a website’s back-end system is user friendly.

Enterprise ready

WordPress now powers more than 74 million websites, which equals to 26 per cent of the web. The days of WordPress being thought of as just a blogging platform are truly over. It is now the CMS of choice for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Enterprises such as Quartz, Forbes and General Electric (GE) rely on WordPress for their websites, demonstrating that the platform can be used for businesses of all size.

Although small and medium-sized enterprises face different challenges than bigger organisations, they need to be enterprise-ready and have access to the same tools and mindset that has driven success and growth in their larger counterparts.

For many companies the website acts as the most important extension of the business as a whole, while for others the website actually is the entire business.

By keeping a website personal, reliable, filled with interesting content, whilst being underpinned by a secure platform, businesses have a great access point to customers to develop brand loyalty and increase sales.

Fabio Torlini, is EMEA managing director of WP Engine.

Further reading on websites

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