Take control of your business online

2nd August 2017

Helen Tomes headshot

Helen Tomes
Director of Marketing and Service Delivery

Is there anything more annoying than arriving at a shop only to find it closed? Or trying to call a local hairdresser on an incorrect number? Would you, when finding your customer journey hampered by misinformation, give the business a second chance? Our research says no: 63% of shoppers would never return if they arrived to find a business shut after opening times found online suggested the contrary.

For independent high street businesses, misinformation online is responsible for a loss of up to £6.1bn revenue per year – the high figure justified by the fact that 67% of consumers search online before heading to a physical shop. Inaccurate information is not merely an annoyance for a customer, it also causes a loss of trust in the business, which results in 71% of people resorting instead to a national high street chain.

If you run an independent high street business, you need to take note of these trends and statistics. Are you aware of how and where your business is represented online? Are you doing all you can to attract customers and retain their trust?

You may not have a website of your own yet (although we highly recommend it), but that doesn’t mean your business hasn’t got an online footprint. A third-party directory will likely have listed your business on a site for consumers, and may not have done their research carefully. In this case, your online presence is not on your terms nor within your control, and is likely to contain inaccurate information. Research shows that 61% of independent businesses have inaccurate opening hours listed – or none at all.

The best and most effective way to remedy this is to take control of your business online. Register a domain name and create a website for your business; it doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or time-consuming. At the very least, your website will clamp down on misinformation and communicate the most important details of your business to interested parties, but it can also unlock further benefits in terms of consumer engagement, discoverability and marketing opportunities that will help to grow your business.

If you operate within the UK, register a .UK domain name to help customers identify your location and build trust. Our research has shown that 73% of UK customers will click on a website ending in .UK ahead of a site with a different domain ending. As the majority of consumers are searching online before they leave the house, make sure they can find you so you don’t miss out on business.

What should your website contain? Research has shown that the key information consumers seek are opening hours and days, product information, address and contact information, and some background on your business. These are all details that you already know and can list on a simple site very easily and quickly, so don’t be intimidated by the thought of getting online.

Crucially, the long-term gains from having a website could be huge in terms of protecting your reputation, building trust and awareness, and attracting the many customers who no longer stroll the high street speculatively. In a competitive market, with independent retailers often losing out to the large chains and some experts predicting the ‘death of the high street’, you need to do everything you can to safeguard your survival by optimising your place in the digital world.