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You may remember, not too long ago… New stores would put up signs in their storefront and post ads in the local newspaper. Small businesses have come a long way in just a few short years. As far as internet usage is concerned. The internet provides many tools for small businesses. The internet is practically an all in one tool for businesses.

There are a few things that make perfect sense when looking at the rise in internet usage in small businesses. First off, the web is everywhere. Plus smartphones, tablets, and computers are easy for consumers to get their hands on.

The availability of the web is unreal. Try to think of a business that doesn’t use the internet? It’s hard, right?

Many consumers conduct online research for local products and services. How many exactly? 97% according to the Independent We Stand (IWS) campaign.  With this number in mind, it makes sense why businesses are working on their web presence. It’s what the consumer’s want.

Consumers base their purchases off of what they see and hear via their internet searches. This provides reviews and links to the business’s website and social media pages.  These searches and reviews act as word of mouth marketing. We all know how fast WOM travels and we all know how much of an impact it has on the internet.

Social Media

I’m sure we have all done a search for a small business. And even if you came up empty-handed while trying to find their ‘actual’ website. You were probably able to find their Twitter and Facebook page. It seems that a lot of small businesses use social media to mark their presence on the internet. This is perfectly fine. In fact, according to Convince and Convert, “72 percent of marketers said that social media has helped them gain loyal fans”!

With social media acting as a forerunner to the connection between customers and businesses. It makes perfect sense why small businesses use of the internet is evolving. Social media has provided a relatively inexpensive way of marketing. Plus, many businesses use social media to connect with their customers. Whether it is by answering a question or just reaching out to say hello.

social media and small businesses

The New Generation

Millennials are changing the way businesses do… well, business. Millennials adapt to technology quickly. Meaning the internet is practically a life source for this generation. The workforce is ever growing with millennials. This means small businesses have had to adjust the way they use the internet.

Businesses are transforming to keep up with their competitors marketing strategies.  The use of internet marketing leads to the ability to quickly spread information.  This a millennial’s dream come true.

Automation and Busywork

Many small businesses have decided to install some form of online automation tool. Plenty of businesses see the value of using web-based tools. As they are great for helping with tedious tasks and busywork. With social media and email running 24 hours a day, automation tools have allowed businesses to build connections at any time. This is especially true for businesses who put in place tools like Buffer and Mailchimp.

Analytics

Understanding data isn’t just for large businesses anymore. Small businesses have become more cognizant of their online (and offline) information.

Sure large businesses have their data scientists and research teams that figure out trends and what steps need to be taken next. But small businesses have a ton of online resources to help gather the same information.

Marketing automation tools track and monitor data. That’s a ‘2 birds with 1 stone’ kind of deal. Not to mention, small businesses can use their social media platforms to track analytics too. Here are a few great small business analytic tools you have to check out…

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Cyfe
  3. Domo

There is an infinite source of data for small businesses to see. This data can help any business get a leg up in the game. It’s no wonder small businesses have increased their digital footprint.

The Way We Shop

Amazon, Groupon, Etsy, Shutterfly, do I need to go on?  The thing is so many businesses – no matter the size have realized how many people shop online. Many businesses realize that the way people shop is changing. Whether it’s actually consumers making online purchases or just comparing products.

Consumer’s like when things are easy. You know, the touch of a button leads to new shoes. In fact, you may have noticed that many stores offer ‘online exclusive products’. This may have to do with the increased online shopping presence.

Remember when I previously mentioned that everyone does internet searches on the products they want? Even if consumers are not buying immediately, they know from internet searches where they are most likely going to purchase from.

As Jack Loechner, Staff Writer for MediaPost mentions, “31% of consumers now shop online at least once a week, an increase of 41% from two years ago”. With this number increasing yearly, small businesses feel the pressure to stay relevant. Plus, small business owners (think of Etsy) do not have to pay rent for an actual store-front. Most of their consumer’s come from the internet. This alone explains the appeal of being a completely online store.

small businesses and the internet

Small Business Internet Use

Businesses are not just using the internet to host a website. They are using the internet to scope and compare their competitors. “Businesses use the Internet to research new product ideas, new methods of creating products and pricing information” mentions K.A. Francis, studioD. Small business owners have become incredibly savvy at locating information. It doesn’t take a trip to the library anymore to do research.

The internet gives small businesses the platform to connect with their consumers. It can also be used to find new consumers too. It doesn’t matter how small the company is or if the company is a team of introverts. The internet is a powerful tool that any team or company can use to reach out and maintain relationships.

Plus, the internet allows small business to expand their geographic limits. Sure you may be a small business working out of Charleston, SC. but with the internet, you can have customers all over the world. “Businesses are able to increase revenue through technology-enabled commerce, which helps their small companies to better survive in the long term,” says Tod Cohen, (Check him out on Twitter @TodCohen)The internet provides small businesses with a way to display their products, advertise their store and connect with their customers. The internet has evolved the way small businesses operate.

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.