A business without a website won’t be a business for long. More than 81 percent of shoppers research items online before making a purchase, so without a carefully tended space on the Internet, you are unlikely to catch the attention of enough customers to survive even the first year.
However, it isn’t enough to buy a domain name and throw up some contact information. Web users look for particular services from different websites, and to find lasting success, you must be sure your business site offers the proper amenities. While there are millions of ways you can customize your website, usually business sites utilize one of eight distinct models — one of which is perfect for your business.
Long ago, when the Internet was young, plenty of businesses published websites for the novelty of it. It was new and exciting to have a digital location, but because few customers sought information from the Web, businesses rarely developed their sites beyond a single, simple page. Today, plenty of businesses maintain these primeval placeholder sites even though customer interaction with the Internet has dramatically changed. Usually, sites like these are small and static, doing little to help businesses make sales. The placeholder site is not ideal for any business since it does little to convince visitors to check out your physical storefront.
Slightly more useful to modern consumers is the information website, which serves to educate the digital public about all aspects of your business. Though the information model does not in itself make money, it encourages conversions through its ability to communicate details about your business. Often, informational structured sites will include pages of facts and figures, as well as a company blog for industry news and a regular newsletter with valuable updates. With an information-based site, you can make your business an authoritative source that customers trust.
E-commerce’s recent spike in popularity and profitability has gained the merchant website business model great fame. Sites like eBay and Amazon have demonstrated that online shopping is big and getting bigger, and plenty of businesses are hustling to create digital stores to capitalize on the newly discovered market. Though there are a few drawbacks — shipping costs, online customer support needs, and initial financial investment, among others — the potential for profits is huge, making the merchant model appealing to nearly every business. Even if you have a physical location, you can build an online shop with the right Web host to attract customers in other states or countries.
The Web is no longer the treacherous source of lethal malware that it once was, but many online shoppers remain wary of divulging their personal information over the wire. Thus, brokerage sites like Paypal have appeared to make transferring data from buyers to sellers simple and secure. With the development of useful systems, brokerage businesses intervene in online transactions to provide less complicated exchanges and usually additional defenses against theft. Not every business can develop a brokerage model, but companies already invested in online security can make a healthy profit with this site structure.
Even as newspaper and magazine subscriptions dwindle, online subscription websites are seeing a sharp increase in popularity. The subscription model takes the information model a step further, charging customers for access to valuable content. Businesses that provide services aside from information, like access to music or movies, are moving to the subscription model for higher membership and ongoing income. Recently, the subscription model has become applicable to goods, as businesses send out boxes for weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly fees.
Humans are social creatures, and the prospect of connecting with others online has always been attractive. The prominence of social media demonstrates the power of the online community model for building awareness and bringing profits. Some businesses that aren’t inherently social can still utilize the community model with forums or messaging services integrated into their sites.
Newer small businesses looking to build an audience online might consider the affiliate model, which relies on relationships with established websites to attract customers. An affiliate relationship with another business or blog requires no costs upfront, but when their site allows you to complete a sale, your affiliate will earn a portion of your profits. Ultimately, it provides a win-win-win outcome for business, affiliate, and customer. You can also utilize affiliate links on your own site to earn the same benefits with another company.
Online advertising is especially profitable, both for companies paying for ads and the websites that feature them. It is becoming imperative that businesses looking for success must develop an online advertising scheme, and that allows plenty of site owners to make use of the advertising model. Whether income comes from payment per impression, payment per click, or a fixed price, placing ads around your site can be lucrative — as long as you don’t alienate visitors with cluttered, irrelevant sales messages.