Why do small businesses still struggle with digital?

To start this article, I think it’s important for us to turn back time just a little bit. The internet isn’t a brand new thing, the young and innovative company called Google is now bankrolling millions of dollars in revenue. Facebook has billions of registered users and the internet is in everyone’s back pocket, almost. 

Yet there still seems to be a weird problem in small towns, local communities, and particularly with small businesses. A genuine and great way to make money, win business, and spread their name is being ignored.  So what exactly causes this? 

The fear is real..

I’ve spoken to a lot of businesses who would love to get into the digital world, but one of the main things stopping them from doing that is fear. Still. Even though the internet has been around for longer than most of its users have been alive. 

Just last year, according to Turnerlittle in a news release on this website, only 60% of UK businesses are using social media last year. The remainder said they weren’t even planning on investing in it – in 2018! This number should be much, much, higher. 

Adding to that number, in 2017 2 million small businesses in the UK didn’t have a website. Although that number has probably dropped since then, it’s still a shocking statistic considering the strides we’ve taken to make the web accessible for everyone.

You have to ask yourself, after these stats, what have we done wrong? Why is it still a struggle for small businesses to harness something that could in the long run make them more money and spread their brand further than traditional marketing.

The web still doesn’t know how to be non-confusing 

When I first started making websites, the whole landscape confused me. I wanted to make a website, just to give myself something to do, but I couldn’t. The moment I wanted to buy hosting, I got confused with computer jargon that, at that point, I had no idea about. 

The web world still hasn’t moved on from this stage of its life, it’s a little less confusing though. But if you’re running a small business, making cards, or running your cafe and you want to figure out exactly what you need – do you know whether to go for shared hosting or dedicated? What size? How much bandwidth? What’s an SSD? WordPress? Joomla? 

You have to remember that a lot of these small businesses will be looking at this in their spare time, when they’ve got 5 minutes after the shop has shut. They don’t want to be spending half of their night worrying about what size disk space they need, or what kind of CMS they want to use. 

Simplifying the web is one of the big challenges we have now, as much as we have had since I started.

Some of us also need to work on our manners

There are some incredibly smart people in the world of web development, there are some incredibly friendly folk out there too. But there are also some not-so-friendly folk, to people within the industry and people outside of it. 

It surprises me that there’s some level of customer service, or professionalism that is lacking within the world of the web. From bloggers to designers, developers to hosters. We all have moments we forget that we represent a growing industry. 

I’m never, sadly, surprised when I see that two bloggers are having a public argument over something, or when a developer takes the opportunity to tell people “if you don’t know, that’s your problem”. I’ve noticed the worst culprit for this is the WordPress developer forum, where you struggle to get a friendly response out of anyone when you are looking for help. This paints everyone with a bad brush, not just the person saying it and puts a lot of people off utilising services we offer and tools that can help them.

All in all, we have a lot of work to do

The internet has been a great friend of mine for years now, but we need to do a lot more to make it friendly and more accessible for everyone to take advantage of. After all, that’s what it was designed for, I feel a lot of us forget about that fact as the internet grows.

Feuding needs to stop and those asking for help need to be helped, without being told that it’s their problem if they can’t do something. Yes, sometimes it might be frustrating and annoying, but it’s like that for everyone in any industry. You wouldn’t expect to have the same treatment in a shop, so why would you get it on the internet.

Small businesses can and should be a real asset to the internet community, we just need to support them and help them grow – even if that does mean sacrificing some time and sanity for the good cause.