In today’s digital world, there’s an app for that – whatever “that” may be. Devices like smartphones and tablets are becoming the dashboards of our lives. Depositing a check? Snap a picture of it and tap the button on your bank’s app. Does your son or daughter at college need money? Transfer it electronically. Forgot to pick up milk? Hop online and order it. Fueled by smart technologies, mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity, the way consumers browse, shop and pay is increasingly digital.

For small to medium-size businesses (SMBs), that can present a challenge. This year alone, 280 million Americans are expected to go online every month, according to eMarketer research, and Pew research estimates that eight in ten Americans will make an online purchase. Yet, according to research by Visa, less than half of SMBs have an online presence. Similarly, for in-store shopping most consumers (78 percent) surveyed by Visa say that they prefer making payments digitally either with a card or their phone. Does your SMB accept digital payments both online and in-store?

As digital commerce continues to expand, SMBs that don’t jump onboard risk being left behind. In an effort to understand more about what consumers want from SMBs, Visa and a consortium of partners surveyed more than 400 SMBs and nearly 2,500 consumers.

The result is a guide on how SMBs can grow their businesses in an increasingly digital world: “Digital Transformations of SMBs: The Future of Commerce.” It offers actionable tips for technology and digital upgrades that SMBs can implement to help grow their businesses, including a “how to” on digital payments, marketing and advertising tactics, new service considerations and customer loyalty programs.

Some of the findings that came out of the survey might surprise you. Here are three key reasons why SMBs should go digital:

Consumers expect it, but you’re not offering it. While 90 percent of consumers say they want to support small businesses, there is more to the story. Consumers still expect convenience, and today, that means digital offerings. This creates a big problem for SMBs, whether they realize it or not. Visa’s survey found that only 15 percent of SMBs sales are conducted via digital channels, yet 61 percent of consumers surveyed plan to increase their online purchases in the next 5 years. That represents a significant gap between what consumers are planning and what SMBs are delivering.

It may help the bottom line. Moving, storing and securing cash, checks and money orders takes valuable time and is also subject to fees, losses and theft. Based on survey responses collected from SMBs, Visa estimates the surveyed SMBs’ average cost of processing digital transactions was 57 percent less than cash transactions. This, based on annual sales volume, number of cash versus digital transactions, and processing costs for digital and cash payments (inclusive of direct expenses and labor costs). Adding digital payments may help businesses increase sales: two-thirds of SMBs surveyed shared that they believe customers spend more when using cards versus cash.

Consumers want digital loyalty plans. Only one in five SMBs surveyed offer a loyalty program, but rewards can drive consumer preferences. Seventy-eight percent of consumers say they’re more likely to choose a business that has a loyalty program, and of those, most say that they check out the programs before trying a service, a restaurant or a store for the first time. Every SMB knows that differentiating themselves is a key to success; a loyalty program is an excellent way to stand out from competitors. Why do a digital loyalty program and not, say, a paper punch card? Because nearly all consumers surveyed – 90 percent – prefer digital.

If you want to find out more about how to go digital, download the “Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce” guide at www.visa.com/smbDigital. It’s free, and it’s filled with actionable tips to help you get started.

*References to consumer and small business preferences are based on findings from the survey Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce. Survey was commissioned by Visa and conducted by a third party research firm, Maru/Matchbox, during February and March 2018 and administered in English to U.S. 425 small and medium size businesses with storefront or at home business in food/dining, retail, services and grocery industries, and 2,458 consumers taking into account balanced income, age and regional representation.

Managing your company’s online tools and strategies is crucial to your success both online and in-person. You need to focus on the right areas in order to boost your brand and your profits while eliminating added costs and risks. Knowing which parts of your online strategy to address can be difficult, especially for first-time businesses. It seems like all components should be looked at equally, but savvy entrepreneurs know where to focus. Here are the five areas you should put your efforts into:

CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Your sales team needs to be able to keep track of call notes. They also need to understand where in your sales process a certain lead is. That way, they can make the right calls, ask the right questions and keep all information organized. A great CRM software lets you do all of this. It also gives you analytics to see how your closing ratio is compared to your quota. Then, this information can be shared with management, customer service and anyone else that needs to view it. Being online with your CRM software also allows for easy access to all your sales team, no matter where they work. It’s an easy way to streamline your process and selling approach.

Marketing Automation

Doing everything manually in your marketing strategy is a surefire way to fail. You will spend too much time, pay too much and not be as efficient when your time is taken up with marketing updates. Automating your marketing with online tools is crucial, and they let you choose times for emails to be sent out, when social media updates are pushed, and makes organizing your information and efforts easier. This also lets you integrate your marketing elements into one central database.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a model in which data is stored on remote servers on the Internet, or “in the cloud.” These storage is operated and managed by a cloud storage service provider. Cloud storage gives you scalability and access to your data anytime, anywhere with a low total cost of ownership.

 

Social Media Management

If you are not using social media right now, then you are missing out. However, it is not as simple as tweeting out a sale or posting the occasional infographic. You should have someone onboard to manage this process so your social media presence is relevant, entertaining and profitable. You can’t do this if social media is always an afterthought. You need a well planned strategy and someone on your team that engages your audience.

Security

In this day and age, security is of the utmost importance. If you don’t have the right protections and network monitoring tools in place, hackers could get inside your network and you would never know it. This can be a huge threat, not only to business operations, but customer information as well. Be sure you have your IT team look into firewalls, monitoring and script blocking so your networks and websites stay secure.

If you want to be successful in today’s digital world, you need to use the right online tools. U the tools above and focus on the areas that will bring you the greatest results in the smallest amount of time. Edge360 Creative offers personalized web design services to help you connect with your audience online. Get started today!

In this digital age, your website is a key communication tool for your business and in most cases it should help drive sales. However, a poor design, slow experience or a website that doesn’t function properly can lead to visitors leaving before buying any products, or worse, browsing and selecting products to purchase only to find that the process is too complicated to complete. Here’s four signs that your website needs a redesign.

Your website is not meeting your commercial needs

The truth is that as a small business owner, your website exists to encourage your visitors to fulfill your call to action. This is ultimately the main measure of success, whether you’re attempting to sell a product or service, promote tickets for an event or get sign ups for your company newsletter. If people are visiting your website, taking a look around and then leaving before fulfilling your call to action then that is a missed opportunity for you. The key metric here is your conversion rate, which is:

Call to action completions / Total unique visitors = Conversion rate

Of course, every visitor isn’t going to be interested in your offering so your conversion rate will never be 100%. However, if your site’s conversion rate is low, perhaps it is time to rethink your approach or test another design.

Your website is slow or doesn’t load properly

Computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones… We now have so many devices that make light work of internet browsing wherever we are. It is important that your website is responsive, meaning that it renders correctly based on screen size, platform and orientation. It is a very jarring experience when site displays improperly on a mobile device. Another factor you should consider is load time. If your site takes more than a couple of seconds to load you have a higher chance of losing potential customers and taking a hit on your search engine placement. Turns out that both people and Google love fast sites. The longer people have to wait, the more likely they are to leave and visit a competitors website, so make sure you test your site regularly to ensure it provides a fast, pleasant experience.

Your web design looks outdated

It can be difficult, but your approach to website design should always be fluid and aspects of design that work well today are very quickly replaced by innovations tomorrow. If you don’t continuously tweak and improve your design to keep up with these innovations, then you may fall behind. However, it can be quite difficult to stay on top of the latest technology and trends if you’re not a tech savvy web designer. That’s one of the reasons that working with a professional digital agency is beneficial. When browsing your competitors websites, keep an eye out for new technology and design that works well, then analyze the benefits and decide if you should implement similar changes. In general, you should always be looking for ways to improve your site’s design, because this sends a signal to your visitors that you’re a dynamic business keeping up with latest trends, and it may also boost your site’s performance and search engine placement.

Visitors are struggling to navigate your website

When designing and developing a website, properly measuring a website’s ongoing performance is an important step to ensuring your marketing plans are giving you desired results. It can be very frustrating if you’ve spent a lot of time and energy optimizing your website for search, finally building a steady stream of traffic and then notice that your visitors leave after one look at the homepage. For small business owners, a website can be the best way to show the world your products and services, and you obviously want everyone to move around your site and view your offerings and complete your call to action. Your website’s bounce rate is a really simple metric for identifying how many pages each user is viewing. You can work this out with the following calculation:

Visits with only 1 pageview / Total visits = Bounce Rate

There’s numerous reasons why someone might leave after only loading the homepage. This metric, combined with other considerations, may help you identify if design is the reason your website isn’t converting. However, the deeper issue here could be with the overall design of your site. To identify if people are browsing multiple pages and still not completing your call to action, you should study the pages/session rate. Pages per session broadly gauges how compelling users find your content and the ease of access.

If your visitors are browsing multiple pages without fulfilling your call to action, this may indicate an issue. Perhaps the issue is with the product or price, but it could also be a navigation problem. If it isn’t clear to your customers how they can purchase the products or complete your call to action, they are more likely to leave the site and visit a competitor.

Redesigning your website can seem daunting. It takes time and skill to make sure the design fits your brand and that it provides a convenient experience for your visitors. However, your products and services deserve the best platform and a well designed website can be a very effective tool.

It is essential that your small business website clearly communicates your message and drives growth for your company. Whether your goal is to inform visitors about your brand, promote upcoming events or encourage them to make a purchase, your website should meet your visitor’s needs. By incorporating the features we’ve covered here, you can ensure that your website is effective at engaging your visitors and helping you grow your business.

Responsive websites

Recent studies show that more than 55% of website visitors are now using mobile devices. Of course, this means that 45% of website visitors are still using desktops. To be successful, you need to ensure that your website renders properly on all types of devices.  If your site is only optimized for desktop and it doesn’t load properly for a visitor on a tablet or phone, you can be sure that they’re not going to switch to their desktop. Instead, they will likely just visit a competitor’s website that does work well on a mobile device. If your website is responsive across all devices, customers will have faith that they can use it at any time, anywhere, however they access it. This will help encourage customer loyalty and make it easier to engage your visitors and present them with your call to action.

Branding is key to design

Your brand is how your customers recognize you and it differentiates you from your competitors. Effective branding also builds trust and increases customer loyalty. It is important ensure that your website reflects and remains consistent with your existing branding. If your brand is bright and colorful, but your website is simplistic and colorless then it will look completely out of place and your visitors will struggle to associate your site with your company. A great example of a company that does this right is Apple; we know what they stand for because their approach to simplistic product design. Their stores are also simple and easy to navigate. Visit their website and you’ll see that the design is inspired by those same values. Your brand is the very soul of your business and your websites design needs to remain true to what you’ve communicated before, otherwise it all becomes disjointed and difficult to follow.

Effective calls to action

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Every business has at least one action that they want their website visitors to take. Whether that’s buying your products, signing up for your newsletter or downloading a brochure, it’s essential that you make your call to action very clear. You can have the most intricately designed website with the best branding applied, but if visitors aren’t fulfilling your call to action then you’re not getting the desired reaction and your website becomes a burden instead of a tool to help you grow your business. Successful websites leave no doubt what they want visitors to do by placing calls to action in prominent places and using effective design to maximize convenience. Although this might seem pushy, well worded, friendly and persuasive copy will ensure that visitors are encouraged to complete your call to action. At the end of the day, the clearer and easier you make things for the visitors, the more likely they are to do what you want.

Creating a successful website can be difficult, especially for small business owners who often do not have the time or the resources. By ensuring your website has these three features, you’ll be maximizing it’s effectiveness and hopefully increasing the return on your investment. Remember that you get out what you put in, so if you don’t have the knowledge and time to work on your website then you should work with a professional to make sure your website is an effective tool for growth.

So it’s 2018 and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be well aware that it’s possible to make a very comfortable living online. Let’s assume that you’ve optimized all of your content to rank well on Google and you’re getting a fair amount of organic traffic. You might be fooled into thinking you’ve made it big time. Unfortunately, unless these visitors are buying your products, subscribing to your courses or completing whatever your call to action may be, then the chances are your pockets might be feeling a little empty. Do you want to know the key to start turning your traffic into dollar signs? Here are three hacks that may seem obvious, but you probably aren’t using them to their full potential.

Make your website super easy to use

People love convenience. Your visitors don’t want to wait for your site to load, or waste time trying to work out how to use it. They’ve got far more important things to be doing. This is why basic web design is so important. Firstly, find a web hosting service that will ensure that your website loads quickly. This is important for Google too when they rank your website, as they want promote websites with a great user experience. A fast loading website helps you rank higher on Google and keeps your potential customers engaged. Win-win-win for everyone – first hurdle cleared.

Now that your visitors on the website, they should be able to quickly clearly identify the purpose of the site. For e-commerce sites, the pages should be displayed using a logical design so that the visitor can find the products they are looking for. Once they move around the site, make it clear what your call to action is! In this case, it is to purchase your goods. This is the deal maker when converting traffic. No matter how much a visitor loves your products, they will very quickly give up and go to a competitor if they can’t quickly find what they are looking for and move through the checkout process. To maximize the convenience, make every step of the process crystal clear for the user. This takes us on to the next tip.

Funnel visitors to the point of sale

If your focus is on sales, then show your customers where to buy the products. That could be as blatant as putting your most recognizable or best-selling products on the front page, or creating a sales page to increase volume on slow moving products. By designing the site around your call to action, you can ensure that customers are only two or three clicks away from buying your products. If they have to spend ages navigating and clicking, the experience becomes inconvenient and they have more time to lose interest. If you’re struggling to convert traffic into sales, then one potential issue is that you haven’t made it clear what you are trying to offer.

A picture says a thousand words

There’s no excuse for sub-par images in an age where smart phone cameras have razor sharp focus and more megapixels than you can shake a stick at. Go to any successful e-commerce website and you’ll find great photos showcasing the products they offer. You will also notice that there’s a great deal of detail in the way they’re shot. You’ve heard the phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words”, and your images are far more convincing than a whole page of sales copy will ever be. This isn’t to say that copy isn’t important, but it will all be undermined by an awful, pixelated image. The visitors can’t pick up and feel your products, so the images need to offer enough detail to let their imagination fill in the gaps. Essentially, this means high resolution photographs at different angles to pick up every detail of your product. Upload them to your website and have them available to view full screen so that your visitors can inspect them thoroughly. This could prove to be the difference between someone choosing your product or a competitors.

You may have put in a lot of effort to create a professional looking website, but it can still be difficult to convert traffic into sales. By following these tips, you can improve your website’s performance and add revenue to your bottom line. Visitors will find out what your website is about very efficiently and can then either visit another website or conveniently move through the funnel and purchase your products. Convenience is king!

Everything in the tech and digital marketing space moves at lightning speed and website design trends for small businesses are no exception! It can sometimes seem like a full time job keeping your website’s design up to date. Some trends come and go, but others are definitely here to stay. We’ve covered three key website design trends that you should stay on top of this year to stay ahead of the competition.

Sticky website design features

You should pay close attention to how you can use new features to improve the stickiness of your website design. Stickiness is a term that refers to techniques that that you can employ to encourage visitors to stay on your website. If you can keep them on your website, they’ll continue to browse your content and are more likely to fulfill your call to action. Although stickiness is not a new concept, new trends have emerged that show off your best content and keep your visitors on your site longer.

Video is now an essential part of any offering, whether it be to show demonstrations, product or service reviews, or even calls to action. Videos are perfect for conveying your message with added personality and provide the perfect opportunity to showcase what your brand is about. People are also more likely to stop and view or interact with a video as opposed to paragraphs of copy, which increases engagement and conversions.

Fixed navigation bars are also here to stay. For site visitors, it can be a real pain when you scroll down the page to consume the content and lose the navigation bar. By fixing the navigation bar to the top of the browser as we’ve done on our website, you can ensure that your visitors are always one click away from browsing your other content and engaging with your call to action. Without a fixed navigation bar, the user then has to scroll to the top of the page to access additional menu items. This one simple change could be the difference between a lead or the visitor leaving your website.

Mobile native website design

In 2018, you have absolutely no excuse for neglecting mobile visitors. Increasingly, many of your customers and potential clients are browsing your website on mobil devices. If your website design isn’t intuitive on mobile, people will leave quickly and you will lose conversion opportunities. Think of it this way; if your images are the wrong size for a mobile screen or your website isn’t loading properly but your competitor’s looks and feels like a native app, then you lose potential customers and they will be unlikely to return to your website any time soon.

When you have put a lot of effort into creating your business, designing your website and writing copy, don’t do yourself an injustice by not optimizing it for mobile users. Even simple things like putting sharing buttons in places where the visitor can clearly see them make a difference. Sharing via social media is so natural on mobile, so you should make it extremely convenient to do so. Naturally, the more your website is shared, the more traffic and the more potential sales you can generate.

The rise of AI in website design

Although not mainstream yet, this is certainly a trend you’ll see more of throughout 2018. Artificial Intelligence might seem incredibly complicated and only relevant to large tech companies like Tesla and Amazon, but they can benefit your website and business in the form of chatbots. A chatbot is a program designed to simulate conversation with your website’s visitors.

A chatbot on your website can provide a route of communication for the customer to ask questions instead of having a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section. Using the keywords within the question, the chatbot can then provide information from a database of answers to questions. If the visitor isn’t satisfied with their answer then they can always still opt to contact you directly, but if implemented correctly a chatbot can conveniently provide them with the required information. This is just one example of the way AI will assist small businesses owners and allow you to focus on offering the most value to your website visitors as quickly possible.

Changing your website’s design can sometimes be daunting as it’s what you and your visitors have come to know and hopefully love. However, a rule of business is that if you’re not changing and adapting to current trends then you will be left behind, because you can be sure your competition is. By following some of the trends we’ve mentioned here and employing features that suit your offering, you can be confident that your website stands out in 2018.