With disruption highlighted as the defining challenge for Singapore's economy, small business owners can no longer rely on traditional brick-and-mortar stores for their survival. As technological change sweeps across many industries, what is key, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is how Singapore chooses to respond – whether to close itself off, or embrace the change and help incumbents adjust.
Similarly, small businesses owners need to embrace technological advancements by looking beyond the traditional practices that accompany brick-and-mortar retail locations, loyalty programs, and gift suggestions. Here are things small businesses may consider, to help them stay relevant and to find success in a changing business environment:
1. Get a website
Think of your website as a platform to showcase your products. Customers are able to view all that your business can offer, and have the information they need at their fingertips. A website provides great customer service that way; it bridges the information gap and streamlines the purchase process.
The fact that it is accessible at all times, from all locations, is also a huge draw for businesses. The extension of business hours and global access can translate to a wider market and larger customer base for the business.
A business' website may also be the first and most reliable touch point for consumers. 82% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase, and in their research, may chance upon your website. First impressions of a business are thus increasingly formed based on their website.
A lack of a website could diminish the presence of a business, while in contrast, a professional design could increase the company's credibility. Overall, having a website can help promote growth and boost business opportunities.
Additional benefits of having a website include the ability to take advantage of data collected through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce. The data collected may comprise of information like customers' spending habits and preferences.
This could improve the company's business plan in the purchase of inventory, or advance customer service excellence by presenting tailored product suggestions based on past purchases to the specific customer. Elsewhere in the organisation, the data could come in handy for email marketing purposes, or for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
2. Make it a responsive design for mobile viewing
Smartphone ownership has surged tremendously in recent years. Singapore boasts a mobile penetration rate of a whopping 149.1%. Furthermore, Netbiscuit's People's Web Report found that 76% of global users admitted to abandoning a website after a bad mobile experience.
This strongly establishes the need for a mobile-friendly website. However, why do we promote having a website with a responsive design instead of a separate mobile website?
That's because a responsive website design that works on a variety of devices helps to reduce complexity. A website that utilises a responsive design is one that is able to adapt to the screen size of the viewer, whether the viewer is using a smartphone or a desktop.
A mobile website could have its own unique domain separate from the desktop version, which would add to the responsibility in having to manage two websites. Conversely, a responsive design automatically re-arranges the elements of a webpage to fit the screen being used, whether mobile or desktop, making it the more flexible and efficient choice.
3. Employ the use of SEO
Now that you have a website, employ the use of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is the process of improving the visibility and organic search engine ranking of your website. This can mean tweaking parts of your website title, description meta tag, URL structure, and so forth.
The reason for this is based on an understanding of how search engines like Google work. Google uses its search algorithm to display links to pages that are found relevant and authoritative. The most relevant and authoritative links will be displayed first.
As a website's relevance and authoritativeness decreases, so does its ranking and consequently page number on which it is displayed. In turn, where a website ranks on search engine results will affect the amount of traffic received. Advanced Web Ranking's data show that the top listing in Google's organic search results nets a click-through-rate of 34%; that number drops to 10% by the 10th position.
This means that if your website isn't on the first few pages of Google's search results, you won't be getting as much web traffic as you might want to. To increase website visibility, it can be helpful to utilise SEO elements such as: keywords, having the right metadata, and optimising website loading time. All of this can help to go a long way in creating more visibility for your small business.
4) Utilise social media channels
Finally, utilise the various social media channels to help market and publicise your website and business. At present, Singapore and the rest of Asia are major users of social media, with 76% of users in Singapore sharing information via social networking platforms.
Social media platforms such as Twitter can be ideal for marketing and promoting brand product awareness. 42 out of the Top 50 global brands as ranked by InterBrand in 2015 are actively advertising with Twitter in the Asia Pacific region today. Promoting your website on these platforms can therefore be an effective way of increasing the visibility and popularity of the business.
Ultimately, it is no longer just about creating a website for your business, but creating business from your website. Investing in the right tools can help you maximise gains and prolong your business' survival. Are you ready to embrace change and step into the future economy?
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
Do you know more about this story? Contact us anonymously through this link.
Roger is Vice President of GoDaddy Asia. Prior to GoDaddy, he spent six years at Yahoo where he last served as the VP of Product Management. Roger has over 20 years of professional experience in Asia and the US, focussed on internet product development, marketing, consumer hardware, and network.