A website is essentially an online shop window for your business, whether that be for a service or products. The pandemic forced many customers to shop online, and businesses that adapted and responded to this demand fared well. But to what extent can a well-maintained online presence really influence sales and revenue in the long run?
As part of its latest study - Can’t See The Web For The Trees - the team at Yell has analyzed over one million SMEs’ websites, and surveyed over 1,000 consumers to understand the impact Covid-19 had on the services and tools they provided, as well as how they communicated with their customers.
How important a website is for marketing a business: the stats
The research identified an effective online presence as a key driver for sales and inquiries for SMEs. 80 percent of businesses stated that their website and social media presence were the most important aspects for generating leads and sales, closely followed by digital marketing and branding (both 79 percent).
34 percent of businesses stated they thought their website was unimportant before the pandemic, but now think that it is important, with over one in three SMEs (35 percent) thinking their business would not survive without a website.
Consumers are increasingly visiting businesses’ websites very early on in their purchase journey. On average, 69 percent of consumers are either likely or very likely to seek out a business online before making a purchase or booking in a service. This isn’t just a pandemic trend; 36 percent of those surveyed plan to make most purchases online even when a “new normal” returns.
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Content is king
For the one million websites analyzed, on average, 15 months ago was the last time an update or change had been made, showing that SMEs are neglecting to update them, with the trades and transport sector websites being the least frequently updated (both 20 months ago on average).
Yell’s research shows this could have a direct impact on revenue from online sales, with the study finding consumers spend 54 percent less per month on average on websites that have not been updated regularly versus those that have. In addition, when consumers were asked what element of a business website would most likely increase their chances of making a purchase or booking a service with that business, 42 percent stated that it was a website having up-to-date information.
The most common reason amongst SMEs for not updating or amending their website was a lack of expertise (34 percent of respondents). 31 percent of SMEs noted lack of time as a major factor, 30 percent were afraid of something going wrong that could break their current site and 26 percent believed they simply don’t have the money to make changes to their website. Interestingly, 51 percent agreed that it was costly to update their website.
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Speed is of the essence
Site speed is another incredibly important factor for SMEs. The online world can be very demanding. Customers expect instant responses and quick deliveries. But more importantly, they want quick access to information. Websites need to be kept updated and optimized for speed performance regularly, with 36 percent of consumers stating they would be less likely to give a company their business if their website was slow, with 9 percent also stating they would post a negative comment about their experience on social media. This kind of reaction can snowball quickly and deter further customers.
The analysis of the one million UK SME websites found that on average, it took 6.7 seconds for a business website’s page to go from a blank screen to a visually complete state. The industries with the slowest websites were travel (7.7 seconds), family entertainment (7.7 seconds) and sports and leisure (7.5 seconds). The fastest loading websites identified in the research were pet companies (5.8 seconds), waste businesses (6 seconds) and workshop trades (6.1 seconds).
Designed for success
According to SME owners, design is the most important part of their website (48 percent of respondents). This is reflected in consumer behavior too, with half of the consumers surveyed stating that they would be less likely to give a website their business if it was badly designed and 41 percent saying they would not use that business again.
However, the analysis of websites showed that 13 percent of websites contained text too small to be read on a mobile device. Plus, 34 percent of businesses had a website with horizontal scrolling on mobile devices, which is a common complaint amongst mobile users. Alarmingly, nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) were not optimized for mobile at all.
Stay up to date, or face losses
It’s been an incredibly tough time for businesses across the country. The pandemic has forced them to adapt quickly and has led to widespread adoption of digital services at speed. Whilst these digital services have been crucial for businesses to survive the past 16 months, our insights show this trend towards digital is set to continue long past the pandemic. Therefore, it is crucial for SMEs to be getting their digital strategy right and an effective website will always be at the heart of that.
Our research highlights just how important an effective website is in helping to drive sales and leads, which is why Yell is delighted to have enhanced its website product by teaming up with Wix, combining our digital expertise and customer service with one of the world's leading web development platforms to create websites that are easy to update, secure and professionally designed.
There are many fixes that IT professionals can make to avoid these potentially high revenue losses; ensure your website is quick to load, is mobile optimized, and has up-to-date content and info for your visitors. These relatively quick solutions all contribute to improved customer experience and service.
In uncertain times as a small business, why miss out on the online sales market, by simply not having an up-to-date and good quality website? With so many digital marketing experts available in-house, or agencies and platforms to support where internal skills lack, the solutions are out there to ensure your website is a 24/7 shop window for your company and not driving sales or your customers away.
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Claire Miles, Chief Executive Officer, Yell