In today’s marketplace, it’s becoming more and more important for small businesses to create a digital footprint. Yet, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that many minority-owned businesses, especially those owned by solopreneurs, have little time to devote to these efforts.
There’s no rule that you have to make major updates and upgrades all at once, and there are more resources available than you might think.
Here’s why it’s worth making online upgrades part of your business plan this year — and how to find help easing into it.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering why you should bother building an online presence. It’s simple: Customers and prospects today are increasingly searching for businesses online.
More than half of consumers today (64%) have been using a mix of online and in-person shopping for the past 6 months, per the Bazaarvoice 2022 Shopper Experience Index. And that trend is likely to continue. PwC predicts that e-commerce is expected to make up 95% of sales by 2040.
Also consider this: In recent years, nearly one-third of global consumers have begun prioritizing purchases from minority-owned businesses — especially younger generations that are also known for being digital-savvy.
You can start to build an online presence without investing time and money into building a website (though you may want to do that later).
Many people use crowd-sourced reviews on various websites to find information about businesses, so these third-party platforms are a great way to start building a digital footprint for your company.
You can register your business with review sites like Yelp and search engines like Google. (Creating a Google Business profile only takes a few minutes, though you’ll be asked to verify by mail that you’re the business owner. This helps protect your business but can take a few weeks.) These and other online shopping and review sites are also giving businesses a way to identify as minority-owned. For example, Google Merchant Center provides an option to identify your business as Black-owned, Latino-owned, veteran-owned, or women-owned. Google Digital Coaches also provide free training and coaching to help Black and Latinx small businesses create a thriving online presence.
It may be worth your while to research what your favorite shopping sites are offering to help minority-owned businesses.
Not only do consumers use these sites to discover companies, the sites themselves often provide metrics about how many people searched for your business and what percentage engaged to find out more.
Boost your relevance once you’ve registered your business or created a profile by asking customers to post reviews. Monitor these comments since they can help you better understand your customers, and good feedback can convince prospects to pick you.
According to a recent survey, more than half of consumers (60%) say they are prioritizing or want to prioritize buying from Black-owned businesses — and nearly half of the people surveyed said they’re learning about these businesses from social media. This is just one type of small business that shoppers are seeking on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
Creating social media pages lets you share information without creating a full-fledged website. You can instantly communicate a product launch, for example. It also makes it easier to have two-way conversations with customers, which can be helpful if you’re not sure what products or services to keep or phase out. A number of social media sites also have e-commerce options, so customers can make purchases from your business via the social platform.
Get a website
If you’re seeing a lot of traction on social media, consider creating your own website. It’s much easier today than it was even a decade ago. A number of companies offer “templates” for websites, many based on the type of business you run.
- Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly offer a range of templates for any type of business.
- Shopify and BigCommerce focus on e-commerce.
- WordPress and others allow more custom coding.
In most cases, you’ll just need to follow the prompts to select your website address and domain, enter text, and upload photos. If you’re worried the web-version of your business name is taken, consider adding your city or state to it, and explore “.org” or “.net” in addition to “.com.”
To make your site different from your social media or third-party pages, fill it with unique content, like a blog or descriptions of your products or services. Don’t be afraid to get into the details and talk about what sets you apart. If you decide it’s time for some professional help with website setup, you can support diversity by seeking out a minority-owned web design firm.
Our worksheet — “Create the best website for your business(link opens in a new tab)” — walks you through the process.
Link your Google business profile, Yelp profile, and social media accounts to your website — and vice versa.
Sources: PwC, Bazaarvoice, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Inc., KPMG, Yelp, Google