I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there…

December 2, 2016

As the UK marks Small Business Saturday on 3 December 2016, it’s time for SMEs to come out of (online) hiding.

Picture this: Mrs Average Customer arrives home after work to find her kitchen is underwater, a tap gutsily spraying out its wares. She doesn’t know a local plumber and it’s urgent she finds one – what does she do?

Most likely she will pull out her smartphone or tablet and search for a plumber in her local area.

You’re a plumber – perfect, perhaps she’ll call you!

Oh wait…your business is one of the two million across the UK not online, so the chance of this unexpected windfall of work coming your way is nil.

Despite the ubiquity of the internet in our daily lives, far too many small businesses remain without an online presence, hidden away from the increasing percentage of consumers who look online for local services and businesses when in need. According to the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2016, only 51% of SMEs have a website and yet online sales are rising in the UK – 2016 saw a rise of 14.9%, according to RetailMeNot and the Centre for Retail Research.

So why the game of hide and seek? Nominet research has shown that many small businesses are dissuaded from establishing websites due to (inaccurate) concerns over the process involved, assuming it will be expensive, complicated and time-consuming. There are also those who deem having a website as unnecessary – I already have lots of customers is a popular refrain, I prefer word-of-mouth business.

In such a competitive space, anyone aiming for longevity needs to cover all bases to keep themselves visible and accessible to potential clients or customers – according to Government statistics, of the 5.5 million private sector businesses in the UK, 99.3% are SMES. Having an online home for the business not only makes SMEs discoverable, a website can also offer legitimacy in the eye of the customer, provide an opportunity to grow or simply refine your customer base, and help fulfil ambitions of expansion.

More importantly, being online offers real, financial rewards that any SME would be foolish to shut off in a hugely crowded market. Research from the .UK Domain, run by Nominet, shows that tradespeople with a website gain, on average, 21 extra leads a year and could earn over £16,000 more than those hiding themselves away from the internet. These potential gains go right across the board, whether you fix fences, sell sweets or operate a dog-walking business from your own home.

With Christmas fast approaching and UK tipped to be the most spend-happy nation in Europe during the 2016 festive period, you have no reason not to get online. RetailMeNot and the Centre for Retail Research predicts UK Christmas spending will hit £77.56 billion this year – don’t miss your slice!