In today’s increasingly digital world, you could argue that your brand’s online presence is just as important as its physical presence to boost your reputation with your customers and across your industry.

A clear digital strategy brings many benefits to your business.

Not only does it give your business a clear direction, it helps you to provide a clear and responsive user experience for your customers. Not to mention the ROI that results.

However, a killer online strategy doesn’t just help your business in the digital world. Here are five fundamental ways your digital presence boosts your wider brand perception:

  1. Your customers can find you

We now live in an era where the Yellow Pages is long gone, and your customers now regularly turn to their favourite search engine to find your business.

Research reveals that 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic online search and that these researchers complete 12 searches, on average, prior to engaging with a specific brand’s site. What’s more, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases.

However, a surprisingly high number of small businesses don’t have a website and many lack the responsive design needed to optimise their sites for mobile devices.

This represents a huge oversight. While mobile and desktop searches have fluctuated in dominance in recent times, Google announced that we have passed the tipping point where the number of mobile searches has overtaken desktop searches in specific countries, including the US.

  1. You can reach a global audience

With an online presence, you’re no longer limited to your local area when building your business. Also, an online presence gives your customers a means to investigate and interact with your brand beyond the standard 9-5.

There are many different ways to extend your global reach in the online world but a content-based approach builds a strong brand.

Research reveals that 60% of consumers are inspired to seek out a product after reading about it and 70% of people would rather learn about a company through articles rather than an advert.

You could, for example, create a blog, video content, or a prolific social media presence to help you to become a content authority in your industry.

However, building a global brand is a little more complicated than launching a website or blog that’s accessible from anywhere in the world. You need to understand cultural differences and local trends to market your business appropriately in different locations.

  1. You can get more people in your physical stores

Your online presence provides another avenue for you to increase your physical footfall. A recent study from the Centre for Retail Research illustrated just how important digital could be to the fortunes of physical stores, with initiatives including click and collect or loyalty app schemes driving online customers into physical stores.

Local SEO is another important strategy, as research reveals 50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone and 34% who search on a computer or tablet visit a store within a day.

Store locators are another tech-savvy feature with 60% of internet users checking whether a product is available in a local store before they visit it, according to Google research.

More than a quarter of UK shoppers also follow brands on social media. So, you may want to come up with a handful strategies to further drive your footfall.

For example, you could offer special coupons online that are only redeemable in store, host a special event and advertise it using a designated hashtag, post images of your physical locations to your social media accounts, show off the personalities of your staff and spaces, encourage social reviews and share feedback from your brand advocates.

  1. You build a solid brand reputation with online reviews

An online presence gives your customers the opportunity to write reviews and provide feedback about your business.

It’s an important feature as research reveals that 86% of people would pay more for services from a company with higher ratings and reviews with the majority of respondents (68%) claiming online reviews are “extremely” or “very valuable” when evaluating different businesses.

You should also take a proactive approach when responding to your online reviews. A recent study from the Harvard Business Review investigated reviews and responses on TripAdvisor, where hotel guests rank an establishment using a five-star system (1 is terrible, 5 is excellent).

The study found that when hotels start responding to reviews, they receive 12% more reviews and their ratings increase, on average, by 0.12 stars.

The report states: “While these gains may seem modest, TripAdvisor rounds average ratings to the nearest half star: A hotel with a rating of 4.26 stars will be rounded up to a 4.5, while a hotel with 4.24 stars will be rounded down to a 4.”

  1. The online world highlights your in-store issues

A study from Google found that two-thirds of consumers do not find the information they need in-store and 43% then leave frustrated.

As a result, a digital presence gives retailers the opportunity to improve their in-store shopping experience. The Google research also reveals that 71% of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research claim their device has become more important to their in-store experience.

The report states: “Retailers can make use of these insights to connect and engage with people. From providing consumers with local information online before they go to stores to customising their experiences once they’re in-store, digital presents new opportunities for retailers to connect.”

Simply put, a strong digital presence will encourage as many customers to interact with, and buy from, your brand in both the online and physical domains. Everything is connected.

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