Website design company in Harborne, Birmingham
Most businesses appreciate the importance of having an online presence, i.e. a website, social media, etc. But for many, particularly smaller businesses, the emphasis on their online presence hasn't always been top priority.  
Then along came COVID-19 and nationwide lockdown measures. Suddenly, businesses were having to adjust to a whole new way of connecting with their customers and selling their products or services. The importance of an online presence became the number one priority overnight. 

The impact of the lockdown 

A Trustpilot survey found that 33.6% of customers checked online reviews more than they did before the UK went into lockdown. Here's another stat for you from Edelman: two-thirds of British people have said that a brand's behaviour online during the coronavirus pandemic influenced whether they would continue to buy from them at a later date. 
With the country shut down for six months, people found themselves working from home, schooling their children at home, and socialising with family and friends in a virtual world. The need to move just about everything to do with our lives online generated huge demand for many of the 5.9 million businesses across the UK. 
That isn't to say online shopping wasn't becoming increasingly popular before the lockdown; it was. Indeed, last year's official ecommerce figures show that the UK has the fourth largest ecommerce market in the world. With more than half (53%) of retail sales predicted to be made online by 2028, the coronavirus lockdown has just accelerated its growth. 
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But it's not just retailers that have been impacted by the lockdown. Cafes, restaurants, pubs, brewers, accountants, solicitors… in fact, just about every business has been affected in some way. Many of these businesses hadn't even considered their online presence nor ecommerce options; now they are being forced to in order to survive the pandemic. 

Why have an online presence? 

With the majority of the population having access to the internet via laptops, smartphones, tablets and other devices, people are relying on the online world more and more. Whether it's ordering your groceries, shopping for presents or carrying out research for school homework, we're online far more than ever before. Not to mention the hours we spend sourcing great music, doing a bit of retail therapy, searching for specific products and services, holding a Zoom meeting or socialising with friends. 
To a business, tapping into this demand could be the difference between success and failure. Whilst your business may be closed on the high street, or your staff are no longer office-bound, the internet never sleeps. Your customers are still out there and the demand for your products and services is still strong; the major difference is in the way people shop. 
Let's look at the key benefits to having an online presence. 
It enables existing and potentially new customers to purchase from you. 
You can showcase your products and services. 
It helps build relationships with customers, existing and new. 
You can market your brand and build brand awareness. 
You can build customer engagement and business reputation. 
It’s possible to create an online community. 
It enhances business accessibility. 
It enables you to reach a wider audience. 
You can develop consumer trust through online reviews. 
It can provide cost-effective advertising. 
Communicating with your customer base is more crucial than ever right now. Businesses the world over, and particularly small businesses, have learnt to adapt quickly to an ever-changing situation. 

Building an online presence 

Building an online presence isn't just about having a website and a couple of social media channels. The internet is the first port of call for customers, so making sure your business is prominent on search engines, online directories, and review sites is key to consumers being able to find you. An interactive website that tells people all about you, displays your products or services, where they can book appointments and make purchases puts your business on the map. 
With so many businesses moving online, it's even more important to be competitive and offer something your competitor doesn't, such as live chat. With 81% of people searching online for a service or product, user experience and online customer service must be high on the list of priorities. 
It is well known that consumers trust recommendations from others; just consider the rapid increase in the use of influencers in marketing strategies to improve brand recognition. Collecting testimonials as well as online reviews builds a brand's reputation and improves relationships with customers. Research by BrightLocal showed that 82% of customers trust online reviews for local businesses, and the average customer reads 10 reviews before they feel they can trust the business. 
Sprout Social's research demonstrated the importance of connecting with customers with 76% of people saying they would prefer to buy from a business they felt connected with. COVID-19 lockdowns have created a great opportunity for businesses, particularly SMEs, to develop strong customer relationships online. Using social media channels to connect and interact with customers has encouraged better engagement with brands. 
Without a doubt, the pandemic has certainly highlighted the need for an online presence. The way people shop for products and services, as well as information, has changed significantly. The traditional high street is changing rapidly as people’s confidence in the online, virtual world increased ten-fold. This is partly out of necessity due to lockdown, and partly due to the ease and convenience of shopping online. As we go forward, it's time for businesses to get online or be left behind. 

Is it time to take your business online? 

If COVID-19 has affected your business and the way you work, it could be time to set yourself up with a professional online presence.  
As a trusted Birmingham web design company, we work with local businesses from all industries, and we'd love to help your business grow and develop online with a creatively designed and results-focused website of your own. 
Our friendly team will help you make the most of your online presence by providing ongoing support at no extra cost - this is ideal if this is your first foray into taking your business online, as our expert advice and guidance is available whenever you need it. 
To find out more about our professional and affordable web design services, get in touch with the team at it'seeze Web Design Birmingham today. 
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