For most people, this month’s outage on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp was just an inconvenience. But for small businesses that depend on these networks for online sales, the six hours they were down meant six hours with no transactions or income.
This might make some small businesses wonder to what extent they have become dependent on social media giants. From Instagram’s Storefront service to all the tools built into Facebook and WhatsApp, these networks take a lot of the hard work out of e-commerce for small businesses, which don’t even need their own websites. That’s fine – until the networks go down.
Many ecommerce experts say small businesses now need to build their own web presence. This does not mean giving up the Facebook approach, which offers real benefits; but also set up your own online presence, independently of social networks.
The good news is that you don’t need specialized coding skills to build a website. There is a competitive industry of website builders, each offering a range of features and pricing options. Their most basic plans are free, but even for a full ecommerce setup you shouldn’t be paying more than Â£ 20-30 per month. Builders target their services to beginners. They provide hundreds of templates for your website look, along with tools that make it easy to customize the site to suit your needs. You can usually import your own photograph and access the tools to start driving traffic to your site.
In particular, website builders will help you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of ensuring that you rank high in web searches. It’s also important to look for a website builder that offers the level of help you are likely to need. In particular, if you are building a large-scale e-commerce site, make sure that the support service is available 24 hours a day. You don’t want to miss out on sales because there is a problem with your website. that you cannot resolve quickly.
Most website builders offer multiple pricing plans. Their basic services – often free – will help you build a presence, but there’s not much you can do with them. If you want a website that customers can interact with, especially if you want to sell online, you will need to pay for a higher level of service. That said, free plans can be a good way to try out a new builder. Once you have decided that it will meet your needs, you can upgrade to the pricing plan you need.
The independent site Start-up distinguishes six website builders, with Wix winning the title of best multi-purpose supplier, followed by Square space and Weebly. Wix’s prices start at Â£ 3 per month, rising to Â£ 22 per month for its Business VIP package, which offers full e-commerce functionality, ongoing support, and significant storage. The deal also comes with marketing support, such as the ability to create email campaigns.