While it’s somewhat in debate, many believe that the first retail sale over the Internet took place twenty years ago next Monday, on August 11th, 1994. According to NetMarket co-founder Daniel Kohn, a college friend purchased Sting’s “Ten Summoner’s Tales” CD with a credit card using the first commercially available data encryption technology.
Ever since then, entrepreneurs have been asking if their small business really needs a website, and while 1994 was a century ago in Internet time, the answer is still very much the same – YES. If you have a business, you should have a website. Period. No question. Without a doubt. Here’s why…
While the Internet has brought many other benefits, online shopping is likely the most prominent way the Internet has changed our lives. More than 80% of the online population has purchased something over the Internet, and 37% use it as their preferred method of shopping. That’s a lot of customers that are no longer walking or driving to your business, and choosing to shop online instead.
Whether you choose to sell products online or not, your business website often becomes the “front door” to your business. More often than not, it’s the first thing your customers see about your business, where they go to learn what you have to offer and what you’re all about before they make a purchase.
We’re often too dismissive about selling products online as well because we may not think our products or services will sell over the Internet. There were 189 million people shopping online in 2013, and that number is expected to grow to 201 million in 2015. With numbers like that, there’s likely someone out there looking to buy whatever it is you have to sell.
That isn’t to say you should put all of your efforts into online sales. Instead, think of your website as an extension of your business. For many businesses it’s just as common, if not more common, to get a phone call or an in-store sale as a result of a visit to your website than it is for someone to actually make a purchase online.
Your customers are still out there, but they want to learn about your products and services before they leave the house and drive to your establishment. Even restaurant customers often want to know if everyone in the family will be able to find something to eat on your menu before driving across town to find out.
When consumers can compare their options at home, they are much more likely to use a business they were able to research online. Having a business website can help keep your business in the minds of your customers and help your business be more successful.