In the not so distant past, small businesses would promote their stores with signs in the shop window or posting ads in the local newspaper. If you’re a small business owner, you might still do this. However, most small businesses have stepped up the way they promote their products and services by using the internet.

Before the internet, standing out as a small business was a huge challenge, with multinational companies monopolising advertising space with their big budgets and flashy campaigns. However, the internet has levelled the playing field a little.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you have to compete with the big boys on the internet, but it does give you a great platform on which to reach and connect with new and existing customers to build brand awareness and consumer loyalty.

Why does the Internet work so well for small businesses?

The internet is a powerful tool for your small business, opening up a whole new world of opportunities. The internet allows your business to reach further, faster while enabling you to think bigger. The days of the small business purely being local are over, the internet provides a pathway to global markets.

And by “small business”, we really do mean anyone, be it butchers, florists or coffee shops, literally anyone can get online now, and they really should.

Having a presence on the internet improves the chances of your small business surviving in the long-term, which with the year we’ve all had in 2020, has been no easy feat. Ultimately, the internet gives you the opportunity to increase revenue through technology-enabled commerce…

…How? Well people literally ‘carry’ the internet around with them in the shape of smartphones and tablets. Meanwhile, most people have computer access giving them web availability 24/7.

According to a study by Hootsuite, the average web user will spend more than a quarter of their life on the internet. The same study shows that consumers are online an average of 6 hours and 42 minutes each day.

This means that your small business can grab some of that time people are spending on the internet, which leads us nicely into the next reason why the internet works so well for small businesses.

Multiple ways to reach customers

Consumers spend a lot of time on the internet, but they’re not all in one place. Some are visiting websites, some are on social media or some are on review sites or browsing elsewhere. The point we’re making is that the internet allows you to reach customers wherever they are online using different avenues to connect with them.

Pre-internet, the kind of connection and reach small businesses had was very limited. While owners of small firms became savvy at building a strong loyal customer base, reaching new customers was challenging.

Consumer preference and coronavirus

The main reason the internet works so well for small businesses is because it works for consumers. According to a study by EmpathyBroker, 51% of consumers in the UK said they prefer to shop online because it’s convenient.

Gone are the days when shoppers have to nip down to Argos and sift through over a thousand pages of products to find what they wanted! Online is where consumers are, so it makes sense for your small business to be there too.

Another reason why the internet serves small businesses so well is that consumers prefer to buy from independent companies. A study by Mastercard shows that 66% of Brits prefer to buy from small businesses.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the desire to buy from small businesses has surged. The Mastercard study shows that 49% of people have purchased from a small business to help them ‘bounce back.’ Interestingly, 27% said they’d re-established or formed a new relationship with a small business.

Meanwhile, 20% said that the reason they chose to shop with a small business is because they trusted recommendations made by friends or family and a whopping 65% said they had found a new appreciation for small businesses.

The profile and value of the small business has certainly risen in 2020, with the evidence pointing to an increase in online shopping with smaller firms.

Internet for product development and research

The internet has also proven to be a huge resource for research and product development among small businesses. It allows you to research competitors and gather information for new product development.

Meanwhile, the internet has been revolutionary in helping small businesses to operate more efficiently, with powerful tools and apps that help to streamline tedious admin tasks, manage finances and automate marketing activity, among other things.

The internet is also a great way to manage suppliers and increase business to business opportunities.

Small business revolution

It’s often said that small business is the backbone of the British economy and in 2020, a year that has been hugely challenging for all, independent stores have stood tall to serve their communities.

The internet has brought small business and consumer back together, sparking a renaissance and a new found appreciation for one another. The web has kept many small businesses open when 20 or 30 years ago they would have gone out of business if faced with lengthy closures.

The value of the internet to small businesses, especially in 2020, is priceless. It has helped business and customer stay connected, which will prove invaluable in the months to come and is the reason why the internet works for small firms.

We’ll leave you with this… According to Growth Intelligence, following the first UK lockdown, between March and July 85,000 small businesses launched an online store – the highest ever recorded over a four-month period.

Are you one of them? Do you want to be?