Utilisation of Websites by Small Businesses in 2023

Introduction

Small businesses are extending their presence into the digital realm through websites. However, around 40% of them opt not to invest in a website due to concerns over cost and relevance. It has been observed that having a website enhances the credibility of small businesses. This study reveals that creating a basic website is achievable without imposing significant financial strain.

Websites play a crucial role in the marketing strategy of small businesses as they contribute to establishing legitimacy and fostering trust among diverse consumers. A company’s website often forms the first impression for potential customers, who rely on its digital presence to determine the authenticity and reputation of the business.

A survey conducted by Visual Objects involved 529 small businesses, investigating the presence, purpose, and maintenance of their websites. This report serves as a valuable resource for businesses to comprehend the significance of investing time and resources into website development, as well as strategies to overcome associated challenges and costs.

 

Key Findings:

  • Most small businesses (60%) have invested in a website, while 40% have chosen not to do so.
  • Among the businesses without a website, 28% consider websites irrelevant to their operations.
  • Nearly one-third of small businesses (30%) utilize their websites to drive revenue.
  • The most common challenges faced by small business websites in 2018 were low website traffic (19%) and competition from other businesses (19%).
  • More than half of small businesses (52%) have in-house employees responsible for website maintenance, while approximately 20% collaborate with agencies to achieve their website goals.
  • Two-thirds of companies (66%) spent less than $10,000 on designing, building, and launching their websites.
  • Over one-third of small businesses (37%) plan to increase their website spending in 2023.

 

Notably, more than a third of small businesses do not have a website, although the majority of small and medium-sized enterprises have taken this step. Out of all small businesses, 60% possess a website, with 43% having invested in one before 2018 and 16% launching their websites within the past year. Additionally, 22% of small businesses plan to launch a website either in 2023, 2024, or beyond, while 18% express no intention of establishing a website in the future.

This unexpected finding surprised Jackson Fox, the user experience director at Viget, a digital agency based outside of Washington, D.C. He emphasized the growing trend of online transactions and the importance of a digital presence, regardless of the business’s scale or nature. Fox stated that more and more people prefer to initiate or complete transactions online, and a digital presence enhances the perceived legitimacy of businesses, regardless of whether they are as large as Amazon or as small as a local shop.

Considering the increasing consumer demand for digital transactions, it is crucial for small businesses to invest in establishing a digital presence to remain competitive. Websites prove beneficial for various business models, whether they involve selling products or services, publishing content, or promoting offerings. In the digital era, an online presence legitimizes businesses and their offerings, particularly as most transactions occur online. The emerging generations, such as millennials and Generation Z, are more accustomed to digital experiences than their predecessors, making websites even more valuable.

 

Websites also serve as invaluable tools for consumers seeking information about businesses. As business transactions increasingly move online, small businesses should invest in websites to stay relevant and reach a broader consumer base.

Businesses without websites believe that websites are irrelevant to their operations. Among small businesses without a website, 28% believe that websites hold no relevance for their business. Other reasons for not investing in a website include cost (23%) and the utilization of social media platforms instead (13%). These businesses rely on alternative strategies to develop their brands and promote their products.

Marcos Clowes, an independent logistics and transport consultant in the United Kingdom, chose not to create a website for his business. He decided to leverage his existing network, both offline and online, by receiving referrals from trusted friends and colleagues and contributing articles to the media to showcase his expertise. According to Clowes, these approaches generate sufficient business, eliminating the need for a website.

 

However, relying solely on traditional, word-of-mouth networks has limitations. Jackson Fox believes that businesses without websites may face challenges in scaling their unique marketing strategies. He suggests that these networks have finite reach, leading to a limited pipeline for generating new business leads. Without a digital presence in some form, businesses may struggle to gain the trust of potential customers who are not part of their existing networks. Websites, on the other hand, provide answers to potential customers’ questions beyond the scope of word-of-mouth referrals.

Websites effectively provide essential information about companies to customers online, reaching a broader audience compared to word-of-mouth or other marketing methods. It is vital for businesses to invest in a cohesive digital presence.

Despite concerns over cost, it is noteworthy that most businesses spend less than $10,000 to design, build, and launch their websites. While 23% of small businesses cite cost as the primary reason for not having a website, affordable options are available, such as Squarespace and Wix. These platforms cater to individuals with limited technical expertise, offering user-friendly interfaces and real-time editing capabilities.

 

Although website builders like Squarespace and Wix provide affordable solutions, small businesses often struggle to achieve the same quality and aesthetics as showcased on these platforms. Small business owners find it challenging to reproduce the beautiful sample websites without professional assistance. While platforms exist that promise quick website creation within an hour, they often fall short in delivering results for non-professionals.

 

Kristine Neil, owner and creative director at Markon Brands, a design firm based in Vancouver, Washington, has observed how small businesses struggle to achieve high-quality outcomes on website-building platforms without professional help. These platforms oversell their capabilities, showcasing beautiful sites that were created by professionals. For small businesses with higher budgets and complex needs, Neil recommends alternative website creation methods, such as working with freelancers or small design agencies.

Freelancers provide an affordable option for small businesses seeking web design expertise without agency-level costs. However, numerous web design companies specialize in assisting small businesses with their limited resources and tackle projects accordingly. Online software like Squarespace allows in-house employees with limited design experience to establish basic website functionality. Simultaneously, freelancers and agencies support small businesses seeking custom, complex systems. Small businesses have a range of affordable options for creating attractive and functional websites.

 

Furthermore, more than one-third of small businesses (39%) rely on website builders or software for website maintenance, while 35% collaborate with freelancers or consultants, and 19% work with agencies. Additionally, 52% of small businesses utilize in-house staff to assist in website maintenance. However, without skilled web designers and developers in-house, maintaining a website becomes challenging. This is particularly relevant considering that over half of the survey respondents (52%) have fewer than 10 employees.

Roxana Colorado, an international business strategist at Kandula International LLC and creator of the LatinaNomad business blog, initially created her website independently due to budget constraints. However, she found the process overwhelming and realized she would have been better off hiring a professional. She eventually partnered with a developer to create her current website, saving her valuable time and ensuring a functional and visually appealing website.

While website-building software may seem cost-effective, it still requires financial investment and demands time and resources that small businesses may not possess. Nevertheless, agencies like Markon Brands effectively collaborate with website builders to produce impressive results for their clients using existing frameworks. This approach enables small businesses with limited budgets to receive a high-quality product and maintain some level of control over their website.

 

Despite the challenges, it is encouraging to note that more than a third of small businesses (37%) intend to increase their website spending in 2023. Although most small businesses spend less than $1,000 on their websites initially, they recognize the value of further investment. Only a small percentage (15%) believe their website spending will decrease, while 30% expect it to remain the same.

Roxana Colorado affirms the worthiness of increased investment in a website, emphasizing the value of time as a crucial asset. She believes that even if the cost had increased, it would have been worthwhile, considering the time saved and the potential profit generated by focusing on her expertise instead of struggling with website development. Colorado advocates for a significant return on investment when businesses spend more and work with design and development professionals.

James Trumbly, founder and managing partner of HMG Creative, a marketing agency in Austin, Texas, emphasizes the importance of web design agencies empowering their clients to maintain their own websites after the initial launch. Trumbly believes in enabling clients to publish and manage content without relying on the agency for day-to-day website support.

 

 

While it is essential for businesses to invest in website development, costs can remain steady if the website is high-quality and valuable to consumers. Websites not only legitimize small businesses but also serve as tools to establish brand authority, connect with customers, and drive sales and revenue. However, generating website traffic poses a challenge, and businesses must incorporate their websites into a holistic digital marketing strategy to attract visitors.

Overall, qualified web design agencies are a worthwhile investment for businesses looking to build, maintain, or enhance their websites. These agencies possess the expertise to identify and solve complex problems, ultimately establishing brand authority online.

 

Cyber and Privacy Insurance

Cyber and privacy insurance is a type of insurance coverage that protects businesses and individuals from the financial losses associated with cyber threats and privacy breaches. In today’s digital age, the risk of cyber attacks, data breaches, and privacy violations is a significant concern for organizations of all sizes. Cyber insurance policies typically cover expenses related to data breaches, including forensic investigations, legal fees, customer notification, credit monitoring, and potential lawsuits. Additionally, they may provide coverage for business interruption, extortion attempts, and reputational damage caused by cyber incidents. Privacy insurance focuses on protecting individuals’ privacy rights and provides coverage for claims arising from violations of privacy laws, such as unauthorized disclosure of personal information. These insurance policies are essential in safeguarding businesses and individuals against the financial repercussions of cyber risks and privacy breaches.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, cyber and privacy insurance have become crucial risk management tools in today’s interconnected world. As cyber threats and privacy concerns continue to evolve, the financial consequences of cyber attacks and privacy breaches can be devastating for businesses and individuals alike. Having comprehensive insurance coverage provides a sense of security, helping to mitigate potential financial losses and legal liabilities associated with cyber incidents. By investing in cyber and privacy insurance, organizations and individuals can proactively protect themselves against the ever-increasing risks in the digital landscape and focus on their core activities with peace of mind.

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