SMBs on the Web |  Small Business

A recent blog entry at an IT Web site asserts that fewer than 500,000 of the 14 million small businesses in the United States have ecommerce sites, and more than 10 million have no Web presence at all. The stat is unattributed, but if true, the majority of a small sampling of those businesses with a site says the sites are indispensible.

More than three-quarters -- 77 percent -- of 530 small business owners polled by Interland, an e-commerce services provider, say their Web sites have made their businesses healthier, more competitive and more stable. Over half -- 55 percent -- say their Web site has helped them survive recent economic slumps, and 81 percent say their sites are effective lead generators. (see "SMBs report Web sites good for business").

An SMB's Web site doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles to get the job done. In fact, at SMB Vermont Teddy Bears, simplicity is key (see "The bear necessities for Web sites"). The site, which will generate over 50 percent of the company's $28 million projected revenue this fiscal year, is "deliberately not sophisticated," the company's Web manager says. It features the company's 800 number in a prominent position, online chat with customer service reps and easy navigation.

The company has, instead, focused on the back-end, ensuring solid customer service and one-day delivery. That, the article notes, is especially important to male customers, as men "are known to wait to the last minute before ordering something special for the wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary."

And that could explain, at least in part, why a recent AOL survey of 6,200 shoppers found that men typically spend more online per month than women do (see "Men may outspend women on the Web"), both over the holidays and throughout the year.

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