More than a decade ago, Bill Gates made an ominous prediction that, by the end of 2002, any business without an online presence would no longer be in business, as reported by Entrepreneur. Despite the rush of users to the Internet—nearly 79 percent of people in North America are online, according to the Internet World Stats website—amazingly enough, some operations can be successful without being online. Local diners, childcare facilities and retail stores still manage to do business quite well through drop-in visitors and word of mouth alone.
The ability of the Internet, however, to help a business grow is unsurpassed. A consumer survey conducted by business review website Yelp found that 85 percent of consumers use the Internet to get information on local businesses. A company that’s online will be able to draw in a greater audience, but, perhaps more importantly, having an online presence also makes consumers visible to a company. This allows a business owner to learn more about current customers, potential customers and where the business’s services are most in need.
Physical Location Data
Let’s say a restaurant is located in a trendy neighborhood where a select group of locals come to shop and hang out on weekends. Enough of them pass by from Friday night through Sunday afternoon to make weekend sales the backbone of the business. The rest of the week, between paying staff and utilities, the restaurant only breaks even, despite the killer two-hand tacos that come out of the kitchen. There just isn’t enough interest in chowing down on the best Mexican in town from Monday through Thursday. Or is there?
Some of the website analytics and statistical data that can be garnered from online traffic will tell you where site visitors are geographically located. Plug-ins that record this type of statistical data are available even with the simplest (and freest) of website frameworks, such as WordPress. If that Mexican restaurant in the trendy neighborhood gets enough hits from IP addresses assigned to a college 10 miles away, it indicates a high level of interest in that area. Might it be worth opening a branch near the college, or even moving operations? Or is it already in the ideal location?
The point of any business is to convert curious site visitors to customers, and knowing where a business is drawing interest can be a game changer when it comes to keeping a full house every night of the week.
Virtual Location Data
The physical location of site visitors is just one important facet when it comes to analyzing online traffic. How a user found your site is equally important. If half the traffic on a site gets there from a specific review page on Yelp or Citysearch, that’s a good place to expand company information or even to advertise. By knowing how users found their way to the site, a business owner knows where to focus attention.
Increasing Exposure while Gaining Vital Information
Although some businesses can take their chances on surviving without it, having a solid website means being visible to those who rely on the Internet to discover local businesses. In the example of our Mexican restaurant, an online presence can help the place expand its profitability by introducing it to potential customers on the other side of the city who may be willing to drive out of their way for the best taco in town.
Keep in mind that a website doesn’t need to be complex. A basic WordPress site with a good WordPress hosting company that ensures minimal downtime will get the job done. Just make sure your site is easy to navigate and provides useful information, such as contact information, business hours and info on products and services. An effective site will achieve two goals for your company simultaneously: help consumers find the business and help the business learn more about its consumers.