Are you a small business who's late to the digital game? Don't worry - you're not alone. The conversion from real-time retail to online sales can be an intimidating mountain to climb, but one thing to keep in mind is that your customers are waiting to meet you at the top. Small businesses can experience some serious benefits by maintaining an online presence. By taking steps to enter the digital realm, you can expand your customer base, provide 24 access to your brand and discover new ways to engage your audience. Think about it: your retail stores are equipped with friendly staff, a well laid out floor plan with easy to find products, readily available information and a smooth check out process, so why should your online presence be any different?

Here are 5 ways to enhance your online experience:

  1. Prioritize the User Experience

    Your entire online presence begins and ends with your company website, so it's essential that your site be kept up to date and user friendly. This allows you to offer your customers a seamless and intuitive experience, which not only reflects well on your company, but is crucial when building competitive advantage. When someone is able to locate, access and navigate your website easily, you have a much higher chance of gaining new business.

    To get yourself started, we suggest you focus on the following:

    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

      Closely managing your SEO will ensure you receive a higher ranking within the organic search results of any search engine. This is the fastest and easiest way for customers to locate your business online. There are different ways to approach SEO management, including on and off page keywords with fresh content, but it all starts with a solid understanding of your client. Learn more about SEO here.

    • User Centred Design

      Walk a mile in the shoes of your target customer, create a list of everything you would require for a successful online experience, and then build your website around these needs. This will not only result in a superior user experience based on real-life requirements, but has the potential to increase revenue and customer loyalty too!

    • Mobile Optimization

      Keep in mind that your website will be accessed on many different types of devices. Whether your audience is travelling, at work or on the couch - it's important that your website be accessible on mobile devices, tablets and desktops. Mobify reports that 1.2 billion people currently access the web on their mobile devices, with 90% of them moving between devices to accomplish their goal. So by making sure that your website works properly across all devices, you will appeal to different types of users and hopefully keep them engaged for longer periods of time.

  2. Spend Time Where Your Customers Are

    The digital world is a wonderful place to initiate conversation with your customers, but this only works if you know where to find them. Take some time to research which social networking sites, blogs and forums they are frequently visiting. Also make sure you are familiar with the workings of each platform and understand which sites will best suit your business.

    It's also important to think about what platform will mesh well with your chosen content and audience. Being active on a few social networks where you're reaching the right people is much more beneficial than being active on every single one and reaching the wrong people.

  3. Reverse Your Marketing Process

    If you haven't noticed, the traditional marketing process has recently undergone a complete transformation. It's no longer about interrupting consumers with your marketing techniques, but about drawing them in with your knowledge of the industry and other useful content. This is referred to as inbound marketing - leveraging quality content to engage people and get them interested in what you have to offer. Running contests on social media, creating fun videos or implementing a company blog are just a few ways to do so. Empower your customers by providing them with the information and answers they're looking for!

  4. Ask For Feedback

    Your business is only as good as your customers think it is, so why not use their feedback to your advantage? Collecting suggestions, recommendations and ideas will give you the opportunity to improve not only your online presence, but the business as a whole. It will also help to build and strengthen the relationship you have with your customers. We suggest gathering as much information as possible from social media channels, email blasts and forms on your website. This will show your customers that you're interested in what they have to say, and are invested in providing the best possible product, service and overall experience.

  5. Grow Your Email Lists

    With the current, uber-sensitive email marketing climate, subscriber lists are constantly shrinking. It's important to keep the task of maintaining your email contacts at the top of your priority list. Whether you're simply asking customers to sign up at the point of sale or running more complex promotions, you should always be actively thinking about your email lists.

    One sure way of capturing opt-ins is to provide customers with the opportunity at every single touch point. Ask them to sign up through your website, your social media channels, customer service calls, face to face interactions, confirmation emails etc. Once you have captured these contacts, be sure that the content you're offering is useful and of high quality (refer back to #3.) If you're providing customers with fantastic content, they will be more likely to stay subscribed and feel encouraged to share their positive experience.

    Click here for more ideas on how to grow and maintain your email lists.

These are just some of our ideas for enhancing your online presence. Want to share any of your own? Join the discussion on Twitter or Facebook!