A website can be a big commitment for a small business, but is it a worthwhile one?

Small business website

There are many considerations to make when owning a small business, and whether or not you need a website is an important one.

The decline of the high street and dominance of online marketplaces such as Amazon has encouraged many SME’s to turn online, but can also mean the web is a daunting prospect, especially for beginners.

This has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with businesses with an online presence better equipped than those without – though the decision should ultimately be based on normality, despite an uncertain future.

The Pros

A website is a digital shop window, and it is accessible 24/7.

Whatever the sector, it is an undeniable benefit for a business to effectively be ‘open’ around the clock.

Whether the business website will facilitate trade or otherwise, a website can be a clear indication to consumers that a business is still operating.

Information, from location to opening hours, and contact details to products or services, is constantly available at the click of a button.

If the website will be used for eCommerce, it will undeniably aid the consumer shift to online – a trend only expected to grow, and at a pandemic-accelerated speed.

A report carried out by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics estimates that 17.2 million British consumers – around 25% of the population – will make permanent changes to the way they shop as a result of Covid-19.

Those who were once slow to utilise online shopping and banking were forced to adapt amidst lockdowns and virus fears, and now likely won’t return to old habits.

Selling or simply advertising, a website is a great tool for building brand and credibility, with testimonial collection and showcasing easy to facilitate online.

Bdaily estimate that 76% of Brits check online reviews, with women more likely to, perhaps worth noting should an audience be predominantly female.

With such a focus on appraisal, a website is a great way to stay in control of business reviews.

Digitalising a small business can save both time and resource, which ultimately saves money.

A survey by Wix found that 88% of SME’s that were completely digital (using digital tools for the likes of invoicing, payments, customer service, chat etc.) found their revenue increase by an average of £35,000 a month, while those with 1-49 staff members enjoy a rise of around £23,000.

Turning to a website to aid administrative duties can free up employees for more profitable tasks and make better use of their hours.

Ultimately, a website can be the definitive marketing tool for a small business, but not without effort, and investment.

The Cons

The investment required for a small business website is not just financial, but it requires time too.

The decision to create a website for a small business needs to be carefully thought out, with research and know-how integral for return on investment.

From setting up a domain name through to building and optimising the website, a degree of expertise is necessary to both create and maintain a website.

While steps such as website design can be outsourced to one of a growing multitude of companies, this will incur a cost, as can any updates required.

It is easy to think that once a website is set up the work is done, however upkeep is necessary, with Expert Market estimating monthly maintenance costs anything between £40 and upwards of £200 a month.

The charge tends to be unavoidable, with technical support staff a necessity when it comes to avoiding any data breaches and troubleshooting issues.

What’s more, it may be necessary in a competitive sector to produce regular website content and regularly perform Search Engine Optimisation updates.

An upsurge in the popularity of marketplaces such as Etsy and Not On The High Street gives small businesses an online front without the anxieties involved with owning a website.

Of course, some small businesses will also benefit from free social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – and can perform their eCommerce through these – so much so that a website is simply unwarranted.

The decision

Ultimately, whether or not a small business needs a website will differ from business to business, with the benefits to one not worth the drawbacks to another.

Detailing the pros and cons and calculating return on investment can give a small business a good overview of whether a website will take it to the next level.