Blog articles: Digital business and online marketing tips for small businesses

Online directory listings

It is important to list your business on as many online directories as possible.

Online directories are websites that have the core function of listing businesses or information sources about a particular topic, industry or product/service category. It is useful for customers because it make searching for information easy for them. The online directory usually make money through advertising or for charging a fee for businesses like yours to be listed there. However, most paying directories have the option to be listed for free in the form of just a very basic listing with limited information presented to customers.

Posted: 1 February 2019 by Thomas de Ridder.

Stimulating the Rustenburg economy and your small business income with a website designed to attract income from outside

Many small businesses in Rustenburg have the potential to attract the numerous tourists in the region or to sell to customers in nearby towns and cities with much stronger economies, thereby attracting additional income from outside. A website can be the most appropriate tool to attract the attention of such outsiders.

Due to low commodity prices and uncertainty in the mining sector the Rustenburg local economy is struggling. Local people have less buying power and less money is circulating in the local economy. One way to stimulate the local economy and to help local businesses to increase their income is by attracting more customers from outside. The more outside customers local businesses have, the more income will flow into the local economy.

A website is one of the best tools to attract customers from more distant places. Chances that outsiders will stumble upon your business is very small if you do not make a deliberate effort to let them know about your product or service. There are several marketing techniques to grab the attention of more distant buyers including trade fairs, advertisements in regional, national or niche media, building a sales force, websites etc. However, having a website designed to focus on pinpointed market segments, even if not local, is probably the most affordable tool for this purpose, especially for small businesses. Apart from being most affordable it is also the best starting point.

Rustenburg is strategically very well situated to attract regional customers. Two major trade routes cross Rustenburg: the R30 linking Limpopo to North West, Free State and the rest of the southern provinces, and the N4 that links Gauteng and Mpumalanga to Botswana. It is also near major tourism areas of national and increasingly even global importance. Best of all, the town is situated near major metropolitan areas in Gauteng which are considered major markets even at global scale.

Of course not all types of businesses can “export” their product to or attract customers from neighbouring towns or cities in the region, but you will be surprised to learn what is possible. Tourists search the internet for much more than accommodation when driving to or through a town like Rustenburg. They need food, entertainment, fast moving consumer goods just like any local resident, want to experience local lifestyle, camping supplies, mechanical services etc.

If your product is cost-efficiently transportable over a distance of 120 km or more and you can produce it competitively, then you may consider selling to massive numbers of customers in Gauteng and beyond. The market size in Gauteng and the broader region is much much larger than the market size of Rustenburg.

So if you think you have something to offer travelers or the people or businesses of other places in the region, contact us at Webdevelo to discuss possibilities and how your website can be designed or adapted to gain outsiders’ attention. We have the expertise to advice you on business strategy and regional competitiveness as well so that we can develop a website that is not only beautiful but strategically sound as well.

Posted: 30 January 2019 by Thomas de Ridder.

Why MUST small business websites be mobile friendly?

Does your website display content differently or re-arrange layout on a phone screen compared to a laptop screen in such a manner that it is very easy to read and beautiful to the eye even if a phone screen is so small? If yes, your website is probably designed to be mobile friendly.

On the other hand, does a person looking at your website on a phone have to scroll horizontally or zoom in to see properly? Hopefully not, because if it is the case your website is classified by search engines as not mobile friendly and you can be assured that you have already lost business due to resulting lost website traffic.

In South Africa most potential customers search for products and services on their tablet or prone rather than on their laptop or desktop computer. People just don't use larger screened laptops and desktop computers that much anymore, and many people don't use these large screen devices at all. This is especially true if you sell directly to the consumer rather than to other businesses.

A mobile friendly website is also very important if your target market is lower income consumers because they usually do not own laptops or desktop computers and use only smart phones or cheap tablets to access the internet.

Another very important reason to become mobile friendly is because search engines such as Google will rank your website higher and display it more prominently to people searching for your type of products or service, if you have a mobile friendly website. These search engines are smart enough to automatically detect the degree of mobile friendliness of your website. If your website is not deliberately designed to be mobile friendly Google may display your website so far away from the top that the person doing the search may not even see it, while your competitors with mobile friendly websites are displayed long before you.

Does it cost more to get a mobile friendly website? NO, it is not supposed to be more expensive. We at Webdevelo will not charge you anything extra for a mobile friendly site. In fact, every respectable web development company should provide mobile friendliness out of the box, as a feature that automatically comes with your website at no additional cost.

Any website owner can contact us with your website address and we will be happy to measure your website’s mobile friendliness for free and give you advice (again for free) on how to become mobile friendly, because we don't want you to loose business because of such a simple and easy to correct yet devastating issue.

Posted: 12 January 2019 by Thomas de Ridder.

If you take any customer data online, have a visible privacy policy

Customers are increasingly becoming paranoid about their personal data, but for good reason. Hackers and data miners have increasingly sophisticated methods to harvest customer data, and such data are becoming more and more available as the world becomes increasingly digital and connected. Some data miners’ intentions are pure, such as to make better recommendations to users based on their interests and circumstances as deducted from gathered data, or to integrate systems and data sources to provide a seamless user experience. But in most cases it is to target users with more spam, or worse, for criminal activities.

Today most website and app users want to be assured that their data is safe and will indeed be kept private. This is especially important if you keep credit card data or banking details. However, it is also important if you store a user password, even if you don’t store sensitive user date. The reason is because users tend to use the same password for several purposes, therefore hackers know if they can capture a user’s password from a less secure site where protection of user data is not important, they can try to use those passwords to gain access to more important user information on other websites or apps.

Therefore, is you store any form of user data, make your intentions of what you plan to do with their data clear, e.g. that you will only use it for so and so, that you will not sell or pass it on to any 3rd parties (or if you do, make it clear to whom and for what purpose), and that you will protect their data and passwords at all cost. This should be in the form of a privacy and security policy that should be clearly visible.

Apart from keeping customers happy with your security efforts, responsible use and safekeeping of user data is also be required by law, which differs from country to country.

Posted: 2 January 2019 by Thomas de Ridder.

When a potential customer make an inquiry, reply IMMEDIATELY

People have always been impatient, but the need for instant gratification and instant answers has never before been greater due to technology that connect people throughout the day and night.

When an interested person contact you by email, social media, web form or any other way, they expect to be replied to in a very short time. In fact, customers see reaction time as an indicator of your overall competence and trustworthiness. If you take long to answer them, it is seen as a sight that you will take longer to deliver, and forever to assist them if they need after sales service.

You can also be sure that most people making enquirers have already send a similar enquiry to your competitor and are already searching the net for yet another option. Timing now is critical - it gives you a major competitive edge if you are first to reply with enough information for the customer to make a purchase decision. If you are second to reply, you are already forgotten and the customer may have already made up their mind.

People’s need for instant answers also explains why potential customers are put down with a website that provide too little contact options. A physical address is great to build trust but not at all to get an instant reply. An email is a step in the right direction but many people are too impatient to even bear the thought that it may sit in your inbox for a few hours or days. The same applies to inquiry forms on websites. The impatient want a phone number, they want to pic up the phone and talk to you, right now.

Another option that is becoming very popular is instant chat functionality on your website, which we at Webdevelo can develop for you on your website as an advanced interactive feature. This is a great way to handle technical questions and to show that you are always ready to assist. It also creates a very professional impression.

Posted: 14 December 2018 by Thomas de Ridder.

Know your website visitors and they will want to get to know you...

Do you know who your website’s most important visitors are? Do you know where they are from and what their preferred language to read are? How fluent are they in English or whatever your website’s language is? Will providing content in their preferred language if it is not English provide you with a competitive advantage? We know that many small and large businesses in Africa can greatly benefit from providing content and support in African languages.

Do you know how frequently they visit your site? Do you know why they do not visit it even more frequently? Any ideas on how to attract them more often? Does your website have a way to store data and personal preferences of regular visitors for marketing, targeting and convenience to them?

What is the skills, experience or literacy levels of your site visitors? Are they able to understand the terms you use? Do you make an effort to find out what search terms your target market use that is relevant to your product or service?

In what format does your site visitors prefer content to be in? People are steadily moving away from text to video as preferred content format. Audio is still severely underutilized on the internet as a potentially wonderful content format for various purposes. In what format does your users prefer to store or later use your content: printing, uploading to the cloud, downloading onto memory, email to themselves, social sharing with others, or pin it with Pinterest? Or do they just read it once and don't need to save it for later?

On what device, at what place or time do they use your site? On a mobile device while relaxing at home or while traveling? On a desktop at work? Does your most important mobile device users use a small smartphone, convenient phablet or a larger tablet? This has huge implications to your site’s ideal layout.

There are several more questions you should ask and try to find out about your site visitors, however, the most important question by far is: what is their aim for visiting your website, and do you provide it for them? If you can just get this question and answer right you are definitely on the right track.

In future articles we will discuss how to answer these questions, using user research methods such as User Experience Design and web analytics. This is important because if you know your website visitor they will reward you well.

Posted: 2 December 2019 by Thomas de Ridder.

Modern multichannel shopping behavior: does people touch or test drive your products but then go buy it online from someone else?

Today's customers do not necessarily use either the internet or a physical store to buy. They tend to use both.

Some customers do product research on the internet then go buy it at a physical store. This is especially true for feature rich and complex products (which explains why there is a need to research it thoroughly on the internet) that are widely available all over the country because many people in every town and city want it (which explains why it is so easy to find it at a local store). It is also true for very expensive items because people take the time to think carefully and research options thoroughly, and do not want to buy over the internet without seeing and taking ownership of the actual product themselves. Examples include cars and smart phones. This is good for local store owners because the hard work of marketing, information and persuasion to buy has been done by the online seller.

Other customers do product research and especially testing at a physical store, then go buy it on the internet. This is especially true for products with features difficult to illustrate over the internet, but is cheaper to buy over the internet. Examples include perfume and some types of books. This is bad for the small local physical business because they incur the huge cost of stocking and demonstrating products but they can't make profit from actually selling it.

Yet other customers use both the internet together with a physical store visit at the same time to compare options, make a purchasing decision and finally buy the product.

The implication of such multichannel shopping behavior to small businesses is huge and it can have a major impact on your profit and long term viability. It is important to find out in what category your business falls, then to adapt your business strategy accordingly. Future articles will cover possible strategies in detail.

Posted: 16 November 2018 by Thomas de Ridder.

Agile web development: frequent small changes is better than few large changes

“Agile” software or web development is a smart word for the principle that it is better to make frequent small changes to the website or software, rather than less frequent large changes.

These frequent small changes are made to the current live version of the website, so the current version is the only version, and it constantly keeps evolving and improving.

There are 3 main reasons why such agile web development is best. Firstly, users find it easier to adapt to small incremental changes. A sudden major change is likely to alienate users, especially those who do not cope with new interfaces, layouts or functionality well. Users not only cope better but actually enjoy frequent small new features, which makes the website more interesting and they then visit more frequently. The second main reason why frequent small changes are better than less frequent large ones is because when such small changes are made, it is made to the live, active version of the website, reducing chances of “breaking” the code. Lastly, it allows users to immediately use, evaluate and give feedback on the changed features. Such immediate feedback is important because it enables the development of high quality features at a fast pace.

Examples of big or credible companies practicing agile development is easy to find. For example, look at how frequently the most popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter and other popular social platforms are updated. It is important that such updates should be easy, non-disruptive and not expensive to the user, as is the case with these popular social media Apps. Disruptive updates that eat a user’s mobile data does not go down well, which explains why so many people are so frustrated with Windows Updates.

At Webdevelo we strongly believe in the power of agile development. We can advise you on how small but frequent steps of improvement and new features can be rolled out to your website, App or software to keep your users excited and to ensure rapid continuous improvement.

Posted: 2 November 2018 by Thomas de Ridder.

Simple VS interactive website, which one is best for my business?

A static website is a very simple website that can be read only by the visitor. It is also called “brochureware” because it is essentially the traditional brochure of a business that is transferred to the internet.

An interactive website on the other hand is not read-only. The visitor can interact with it in some way. A visitor may for example submit forms or do surveys, save personal information, use tools to search for and select a product or engage in various other interactive activities.

The type of website most suitable for your business depends on several factors but the 2 most important factors are:

Webdevelo can provide you with further advice on what type of website you may need, and if you do need an interactive website, we can advise you on the specific types of interactive tools and features your target customers may find the most useful. Visit our website development page for cost and features of our different websites, or contact us for a chat.

Posted: 15 October 2018 by Thomas de Ridder.

Online adverts work even if not clicked

Because of increasing competition in the digital space, it is becoming increasingly important for small businesses to enhance the marketing power of traditional media (newspapers, radio etc.), websites and social media with paid online advertising.

Unfortunately online advertising cost money (although Return on Investment can be huge if it is well targeted to the right audience). Good news is that most online advertising options, including the very efficient Google AdSense service that we will cover in a future article, are displayed for free and you will only pay if someone clicks on it.

A common concern is that you place online advertisements but only a few or no people clicks on it. Well, you don’t pay if people don’t click so it is not that bad. But there is another huge advantage that you get even of it is not clicked upon: brand exposure!

Even if a user does not click on an advert, even if they don’t follow through with any call to action such as to buy or sign up, the mere presence of a digital advert does contribute to brand awareness. This brand awareness creation effect is especially powerful if exposure is frequent. It can be especially effective to introduce a new business, new product or service, or to remind customers of your product or service when the need for it are starting to emerge in their mind.

In conclusion, it is very common for customers to remember a brand from previous online advert exposure only at a later stage when the need arise, after seeing it (but not necessary clicking on it) on the internet or in their social media. Best of all, many forms of online advertising provide this type of passive exposure for free because you only pay if the user does click on it.

Posted: 3 October 2018 by Thomas de Ridder.