A recent study from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills showed that more than half of the public (55%) find it difficult to support local small firms because often these businesses aren't online. In fact, the figures show that as many as 2 million (39%) sole traders and small companies are missing out on business because they have no online presence.
In addition, over half of customers (52%) go straight to search engines when looking to buy from local businesses, which is nearly double the number that ask for word-of-mouth recommendations. With total website sales in the UK worth £193 Billion, small businesses without a digital presence are missing out.
With this in mind, here are some handy tips to help small businesses Do More Online:
Build your own website
Building a website doesn't have to be super expensive and you don't need to be a coding wizard. The most important thing to bear in mind is you can do it yourself for free using online website builders such as 1&1, Squarespace and Weebly, or, if that's out of your comfort zone, you can pay a web designer to build your website.
Before you get carried away building your website, you need to purchase a domain name. This is your own personal '.com', www.thisismoney.co.uk for example. It's easy to do and you can have any name you like, as long as it hasn't been taken. You can purchase a domain name at Easyspace, Godaddy and UK2.
The final step to building your own website is filling it with content. It's important to write copy and use images that help visitors learn about your company's unique brand. What's more, you should make it easy for visitors to find the information they're looking for by including 'About us', 'Webshop' and 'Contact us' pages.
As the saying goes if you haven't heard of it, 'Google it'. With this in mind, small businesses - particularly micro businesses and sole traders - need to be easy to find, which means you need to ensure you appear on search engines. Google is so important as it puts your business info on Google search, Maps and Google+ so your customers can find you.
Engaging through social media
Social media is a valuable means of finding your customers online. The largest social media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, are all free and public, and represent a huge opportunity when it comes to having conversations with your customers and promoting your small business.
Social media is a cost effective means of advertising designed to be engaging and interactive. An instant means of communicating to groups of people, social media can help companies broadcast their products and services. One site will often suit a company more than another, for example, Instagram is used by picture lovers (and selfie lovers) whereas Facebook is used to broadcast more meaty information like events.
You only need an email address to set up a Facebook or Twitter account. Once set up, the billions of people that use social media will instantly become potential customers/clients. The best advice for anyone using social media is try to make posts and content engaging by using images, videos and news. Experiment with different kinds of posts such as questions, competitions, jokes and anecdotes. You'll quickly see what works for you and what gets people talking.
Being efficient with online finance
It wasn't a million years ago that paying suppliers for a small business meant 20 different cheques with 20 different envelopes and trips back and forth from the bank or post office. You can do all that today just by getting your small business connected using the Internet.
Paypal is a very popular tool for secure online transactions. It's important to display the system you use so potential customers feel assured and are more likely to buy from you. Partnering with a reputable payment system is the start but you must also offer a help service, provide contact details and confirm any transactions with an email.
Using the internet for your finances can be made safer by protecting your bank details, updating your anti-virus software, using the latest version of Windows and, if possible, try not to use public computers. With your business finances online there'll be less paperwork, your company will run more efficiently and you'll have more time.
Marketing online is a goal for many small businesses but can be seen as quite a daunting task. There are multiple platforms to explore when it comes to promoting your business and services online including social media, Google ads, newsletters and blogs.
Don't be afraid to experiment with different kinds of marketing tools. Boosting a Facebook post is useful if you want to up the number of people that engage with your page or post. If you go down this route it's important to set yourself a budget and bear in mind it doesn't have to be expensive.
With so many companies selling online, and house hold names like Argos, eBay and Etsy making it so easy to trade online, it's no wonder UK online sales are at £193 billion a year. Using host sites such as, Etsy and eBay is ultra safe and they also provide help and support for new sellers.