Julianna Carlson-van Kleef | 15/02/2022
A business website is often the cornerstone of many small businesses’ online presence.
The importance of the business website should not be overlooked, as visitors can quickly determine from the site whether they will continue to look around for more information or choose to look elsewhere. It is important in this day and age that a small business is not weakened by its digital presence but supported by it.
Yet, despite the reported push towards digitalization due to the pandemic, Top Design Firm’s 2021 survey found that “about one in four small businesses have no website” in the United States. On the other hand, Adobe’s 2022 Digital Report - which surveyed 10,000 marketers, consultants, and practitioners - notes that “72% of practitioners have observed a surge in new customers using digital channels” along with 75% noting the same amongst existing customers.
This then can lead us to wonder: Will digital laggards fall behind their SME counterparts with a greater online presence? And are SMEs looking at digital avenues other than the business website to create their online presence?
Let’s examine this latter question. An interesting development in marketing channels used was reported in HubSpot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report: “In 2020, (the) website was the #1 channel used in marketing — this year social media pulled ahead,” with 80% using a website and about 82% using social media. One hypothesis for this change could be due to the need for businesses to go digital from one day to the next during the pandemic, turning towards social media to quickly create an online presence and at less cost.
That some SMEs choose social media for their first foray into an online presence is not unprecedented. Visual Objects' pre-pandemic 2019 Small Business Web Design Survey reported that of the small businesses that did not have a website, 23% attributed the reason to cost while 13% chose to use social media for their web presence.
That social media can be a free tool for small businesses to use is included as one of its rewards in 9 Risks and Rewards of Using Social Media Instead of a Website, along with social media fostering engagement, catering to visual content and being easy to use; while the risks include having a marketing channel not fully in your control, providing less credibility than a website, limiting lead generation, and diminishing branding.
For small businesses, it is all about measuring the risk versus the rewards and if a free tool can outweigh the cost of missed opportunities. As reported in HubSpot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report: More than half of marketing professionals listed lead generation (almost 35%) and increasing brand awareness (almost 20%) as a top priority for the year. With lead generation and branding as top concerns for companies, it is no surprise that many small businesses without a small business website are planning to create one.
Top Design Firm’s 2021 survey found that “Almost half of small businesses without a website (44%) plan to create one in 2021” and “almost half of small businesses (43%) plan to invest in improving their website page speed and performance.”
With this maintained emphasis on the business website, we wanted to investigate the areas in which small business websites and marketing could be improved, and whether small businesses relied on inside or DIY methods to create and update website content or if they looked towards outside (DIFM/ DIWM) help.
We at Mono were interested in delving deeper into exploring the digital presence of small businesses, so we teamed up with Localogy to take a closer look at two broad small business sectors: The Home and Professional Services.
To take a closer look at the digital presence of small businesses in the Home and Professional Services sectors, Localogy and Mono Solutions commissioned a survey in October 2021 of more than 700 small businesses across Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The report, A Closer look at Europe’s Home and Professional Service Sectors, was published in November 2021.
The importance of a business website as a lead generator was seen in our research, as the website was the most important digital touchpoint for SMEs in the Home and Professional sectors, following only word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing as the most used method to bring in potential new business. Only 42% of those surveyed relied on organic social media to attract new customers compared to 75% who used a business website, with even fewer (35%) having used paid media advertising.
With the preference for the business website over social media to generate leads amongst those surveyed, we were also curious to see which methods of lead generation SMEs were utilizing on their small business website.
Nearly all respondents reported that their business websites include information about the company (97%), as well as information about the products and services provided (96%). However, room for improvement for small business websites to convert on leads can already be spotted at contact details. Only 77% reported that their business website included contact details, meaning that nearly 1 in 4 small business websites added an unnecessary hurdle for potential leads or customers to convert.
On the positive side, about two thirds of respondents reported including a contact form (68%) and an appointment booking form (64%) on their website, while nearly a third use a chatbot/chat feature (31%), indicating that some small businesses are offering multiple methods for customers to get in touch and convert.
Based on the results of the survey, there are areas where small businesses could strengthen and improve their lead generation and branding. Yet, the survey also showed that many small businesses do not prioritize website updates, with almost two thirds (64%) updating their website quarterly or even less frequently.
With the importance that small businesses place on websites for lead generation, why then are updates to website content not prioritized? The number one reported reason for not updating a website more was due to lack of time (73%), where nearly half reported limited skills (49%) and limited resources (47%) as other contributing factors, while nearly one third (32%) reported lack of ideas as another blocker.
Due to lack of time, skills, resources, and ideas, it is not surprising then that small businesses looked to outside vendors to a greater extent than choosing a DIY solution in regards to the business website (40% vs 31%), as well as other functions and capabilities on the site such as booking appointment forms (36% vs. 14%) and an e-commerce store (31% vs 17%).
If you are a small business in either the Home or Professional Services sector and are interested in how your business website stacks up compared to other similar businesses, this report may provide you with new insights and avenues of interest.
If you are a digital reseller, then this report is a great asset to help you better understand the needs of your customers in the Home and Professional Service sectors and how you can help – by providing DIFM and DIWM services to strengthen brand positioning and lead generation.
For all Mono reseller partners and their designers, you can help provide small businesses with inspiration for website design. It is now time for our annual Best Website Competition to see who built and designed the best SME website on the Mono Platform in 2021. Last year, we created a showcase with the top 25 SME website submissions: See it here.
Want to show off your great work helping SMEs? Submit your website entries here: