The majority of Canadian businesses have come to understand how important and profitable it is to be online, even if they aren’t taking full advantage of the opportunity. It’s impossible to deny that the customer journey has evolved and expanded to include digital options, because it’s part of modern living. The internet certainly isn’t going anywhere and its use will only become more seamless as it grows.
“In 2019, one in ten dollars spent in Canada retail will flow through digital channels,” says a recent Visa.ca study. “22.1 million Canadians will be digital buyers in 2019 (68.8% of the total population). By 2023, this number is expected to grow to 24.3 million or 72.8% of the total population in Canada.”
Not only do many Canadians prefer to shop online, they often spend more per visit as well.
It has become essential to have an online presence during the discovery and evaluation stages of the shopping journey. Most consumers now start their search online, even if they end up buying offline.
Research shows that consumers prefer using a business website, social media and email when deciding where to shop. Thirty-three percent of Canadian retail purchases are made online and 59 percent of consumers are planning to increase their online purchases in the next five years, according to the Visa study.
Plus, they want to buy from YOU! Eighty-seven percent of Canadian consumers feel it’s important to support local small and medium businesses.
So, if small-medium business (SMBs) and home business owners in Canada are aware of the benefits of having an online presence, why is it that only 32% of them are online? Even less have a website with online sales functionality.
The cost is low and additional revenue easily offsets the investment. According to a 2017 PayPal report, businesses that sell their goods or services through eCommerce make on average $175,000 more in annual revenue than their offline counterparts. You can safely bet that figure is much higher now. Yet they found only 17 percent of Canadian businesses sell their products or services online.
Having a business website is all about making your customers happy, whether they make the purchase online or offline. Sales are a result of happy customers. They want to find you online, so you must be online. They want easy access to information, so you must provide them with information online. They want as much digital functionality as possible and ideally, omni-channel options. You can make it easy for potential customers to find you and buy from you, even if you do all of your selling offline.
Get Over It
What’s the holdup? Do you feel overwhelmed by the process? Does the whole idea leave you feeling inadequate? Did you consider it a number of years ago and dismiss it as too complicated or expensive?
It’s way past time to get over it. It has never been easier or less expensive to take your small business online! It’s so easy, many small business owners opt to do it themselves. If you can use a computer, you can publish a simple website with the help of many online tools that are designed for people who have few technical skills. For example, Canada’s Bookmark promises you can use their tools to build a professional website in minutes.
Avoid becoming overwhelmed by taking it one step at a time. Focus first on getting your business online. Blogging, marketing, apps, loyalty programs or other features, and even some design and functionality, can wait.
It’s important to be aware of your digital transformation goals so you’re able to expand your website later with more ease and less expense. However, today’s website platforms can easily expand to meet the needs of most small businesses, so you don’t have to worry too much.
The most important thing you have to do is get your website published and ensure you’re in compliance with relevant Canadian laws. With most companies in this country lagging behind in building an online presence, you’ll enjoy a competitive advantage to kick-start your debut.
Bring Your Canadian Small Business Online
We’re here to help with the information you need to take your business online, step-by-step.
Here’s a road map:
1. Register a domain name
2. Choose a website host
Make sure you’re in compliance with Canadian privacy laws. Use our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.
3. Select a platform
A platform facilitates a broad range of functionality. One of the most popular platforms is WordPress, for example. It’s free to use and easy to expand for business purposes.
If you require a more robust eCommerce platform, read our Canadian Guide to the Best eCommerce Platform Software.
4. Build your website
Many small business owners decide to build their own website. Learning how your website works will save time and money later.
Our Checklist: How to Start a Profitable Online Business in Canada has everything you need to know in order to DIY. Hiring a website designer is certainly easier, but you’ll be more reliant on the designer until you learn more about it.
Starting out, your basic website should include the following pages:
- Homepage – An introduction to your business and website navigation.
- About Us – A concise description of what your business is all about. This can include your industry, specialties, products, services, a mission statement, and related information.
- Contact Us – Your address, contact information and business hours.
From this basic website, you can expand your web presence by adding:
- Product information
Stage three of your website may involve:
- Ecommerce (online shopping and digital payment processing)
- Product instructions
- Blog with useful information, comparison charts, and ideas for product use
- Additional media, such as videos
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Custom programming. For example, a hat store may want to allow customers to upload a photo to try different styles. A company providing offline services, like a hair salon, could let customers book appointments online.
During the process, focus on what your ideal customer wants and needs. You can start with our report, What Canadian Online Shoppers Want.
TIP: Study your competition! Make a list of what you envy about their website and how they’re using it to better serve their customers & increase business. You don’t have to be the only company doing something, but it helps if you do it better than most. Don’t steal their content though, it will do you more harm than good and violates Canada’s copyright laws.
Once your website is live, you have a homebase to direct consumers to. That’s extremely important because your next step will be online marketing and social media engagement. One step at a time though, you can learn more about it later or hire someone to help.
What are you waiting for? Expand your reach and grow your Canadian small business using the most profitable tool available today; the internet.
If you have questions about bringing your Canadian business online or want to discuss the topic further, please comment below or join our Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.