Over the past month, while trying to purchase a variety of obscure items (security nuts and marine VHF cable connectors) I experienced for the first time the outdated nature of many small businesses on the internet.
While the likes of Amazon and The Source have an extensive online presence, where browsing and purchasing their products is a breeze, there are thousands of other, mainly smaller businesses that have little to no online presence. While many small businesses have a website, some list just the products they sell, some provide pictures, and others give just the location and business hours of their store. What they all share is the inability for consumers to purchase their products online. Most direct you to either visit their store in person, or “call for a quote”. This is a huge issue as chances are the small, obscure company I am trying to buy from is in another city. Even if it is a local store, how am I to know from their terrible website whether or not they actually might sell what I’m looking for. Worst of all, many local companies are only open during traditional business hours, making weekend or evening trips (when most people are available) impossible. In a world where you can design and order your own pizza online, and have it delivered to your door, you would think everyone would have caught on that selling things online is a must.
The most astounding part about this whole problem is that there are dozens of companies around the world, and one right here in Ottawa, that specialize in giving businesses of all sizes easy access to an online shopping presence. Shopify in Ottawa for example, offers small business plans starting at just $29/month, and going all the way up to a “lofty” $179/month. Those plans include all the features necessary to run an online store like payment and order processing, and product management. So with such easy access to a platform that allows companies to reach such a large market, it’s astounding the number that have neglected to join the modern web. And while many of them do mainly deal with local commercial and industrial deals, I hardly think that at such a low entry cost they couldn’t benefit in some way from being able to sell directly to consumers. The reality is that if I found their site and was frustrated by my inability to purchase their products online, then you can bet that there are many other out there experiencing the same problem.
This lack of interest in harnessing the selling power of the internet is not only short-sighted, but also hampers the productivity of small businesses in general. One can only hope that the owners of these small businesses see the error in their ways and embrace the internet as a way to showcase their products to more people, and not just as a needless extra cost.