Why now is the time for all businesses to invest in digital

Business Gateway adviser Rene Looper shares why investing in online and digital platforms continues to be an important element that will help businesses survive the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19.

An online presence has been a vital tool for businesses during COVID-19, and some have taken the opportunity to evaluate how they operate, reach their customers, make sales, and increase brand awareness.

Why invest in a website?

With the popularity of social media, some business owners might wonder why they should invest in a website. However, this approach could become challenging further down the line, as while it is easy to set up a Facebook channel, if the site shuts down in the future, all content is lost. In contrast, businesses own their website, and, in this sense, it provides greater ownership and longevity for a brand.

A website is also a vital tool that ensures the success of a business, helping build trust with a potential customer. However, to be effective, it must be kept up to date as a business grows and evolves. For older websites, it is also crucial it is mobile-friendly, as we know from the businesses we work with, about 90% of online sales are made through a mobile device, which means businesses are at risk of losing sales if they have something that is not equipped for the customer.

While business owners may fear that a website is a big investment, either in time or money, we know that customer behaviours have shifted, potentially forever. People are used to buying online and the ease by which they can get products and service and it is unlikely we will see this change back when the pandemic is over. This means that investing in your website is not a question of ‘if’ but must if your products and services are to be as successful as possible.

Finally, when everything is set up and ready to be launched, don’t forget that digital platforms, including websites, can give you vital data which tells you how your website is working, and give business owners ideas about how to adapt and respond to how your customers are shopping in order to grow.

Optimise the customer journey

Whether on social media, an online shop, or a website, think about every stage of the customer journey and how you can simplify and improve it. This is the secret to success, particularly when evaluating how effective your online platforms are.

Make sure there are no barriers for people who want to purchase your product or services online. For better or worse, people are used to buying from online retail giants, so they already expect a level of convenience. While customers want to support local, they also want to shop with ease.

Ultimately, small improvements at every stage can result in increased sales and bigger turnover.

Tailoring your social media strategy

Social media is an undeniable asset for businesses, offering a low-cost way to directly communicate with your target customers. It can provide customers with an idea of the team or owner behind a business, helping them connect with a business.

This is an advantage that smaller businesses have over the bigger brands, as often, the owner is the one managing their social media accounts, rather than a marketing team or department. After all, nobody connects with a website or social media page but they do connect with people. We can facilitate this through content shared on social media.

However, it is important to do research and understand who your target market is. This will help inform which platforms you might want to invest in and direct your efforts and attention to the one which will deliver the most return for your business and services. The free Business Gateway Information Service can help you find the information you need about your market, including market intelligence and statistics. You can also download any of their existing market reports for free.

Social media is also about securing soft sales, making connections and sharing content from your community, whereas a website is the door to your brand, and helps build trust and legitimacy. In this sense, while it can be a great sales platform, it is different from a website and should be approached separately.

Essentially, it can all be condensed into the following: on your website, you say your business is great and on social, you show why you are great.

For any businesses who want to seize the opportunity and invest in their digital capabilities, DigitalBoost, Scotland’s national digital training programme for businesses, delivered by Business Gateway, provides a variety of resources to help. This includes webinars, a free digital health check, 1:1 support from a digital expert, online tutorials, and practical guides on topics including social media, cyber resilience, data analytics, digital marketing strategy and e-commerce.

Our Online Resources section has guides, articles, videos and templates covering key aspects of starting up and running a business.