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The software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model makes enterprise technology available to small business owners. Functionality, like eCommerce software, is now priced to fit in small business budgets.

That’s the great news. The challenge is that high volume means a ton of options to sort through. Before you get to the vendor selection stage, clarify what online services offer the best ROI. Back-office work is critical, but what would your business be without customers? Here are four online services every small business needs to grow online:

  1. Online storefront
  2. Online appointment scheduling
  3. Local SEO – getting found online
  4. Website usability – what are your prospects and customers doing on your website?

1. Your Online Store

If you’re selling online, you need an eCommerce software. One that makes all phases of getting product displayed, purchased, and delivered easy. Right now, Shopify is one of the biggest names in the small business eCommerce market. But you do have options, like such as WeeblyWixAmazon Webstore, and http://www.storenvy.com/ StorEnvy – just to name a few.

When selecting your eCommerce software, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Is custom web design available? Does its templates accommodate your branding, so it doesn’t feel like a template?
  • How easy is it to move between different price plans? Will you be paying for more online storefront capability or capacity than you need?
  • Does it hide the tech in the background? You should be able to add and remove items just by typing and clicking.
  • How flexible is it when you want to run special promotions or discounts?
  • Does it handle payment processing, including shipping and tax? How quickly does the money get into your account? What are the fees they charge for payments?
  • What’s the site’s security and uptime record? Does it backup your store daily?
  • Does it provide extensive reporting, including inventory management? What products are selling? Where is your traffic coming from?

Start your eCommerce software selection process by listing out your requirements. Match your needs against the different platforms that provide those services. Then start comparing vendors to see who provides the most reliable functions. If you just dive into the software search, it’s too easy to get distracted by bells and whistles you may not need.

2. Online Appointment Scheduling for Service Providers

Not everyone is selling goods. How about those of you who provide services? You have a range of online scheduling software options. Some eCommerce software solutions, such as Wix, include templates and online scheduling for service businesses. You can also find SaaS options dedicated to business scheduling appointments. Some are designed for certain industries, such as restaurants, spas and gyms, and medical practices, while others can be used in many industries.

More things to keep in mind when choosing such software:

  • What sort of reminder options does it provide? Text/SMS or phone call? How does that impact pricing?
  • Does it have wait lists? Does an automated text or email go out to interested customers when someone cancels?
  • How many appointment resources can it juggle? Many treatment rooms? Staff with different skill sets or work schedules?
  • Does it include payment processing, so people can prepay? Or can you ensure payment with a no-show fee?

3. Managing SEO and Online Directories

Getting your business found online is vital to your company’s success.

A survey of small businesses looked at how they grow their businesses online. Half said that their online listings had inaccurate information! Bad contact information is an absolute killer for any small business that wants to show up on local searches.

According to Google’s research, 80% of people search for local businesses online. It also found that local search leads to more purchasing. Of consumers who did a local search on their mobile device, 50% visited the business the same day. You definitely don’t want to miss those opportunities. Google also reported in early 2015 that “near me” searches have increased by 34% since 2011.

Potential customers are looking for local businesses. If they’re not finding yours, they’re finding your competition. Services like Moz Local and WhiteSpark are here to help. These companies provide varying services such as:

  • Selecting which directories are relevant for your type of business. They’ll also ensure the contact information in your listing is accurate.
  • Identifying search keywords that matter for your business in your location.
  • Helping you manage your online reputation and reviews.

4. Understanding How Your Customers Behave Online

What if you could see exactly what images hold a customer’s attention on your online store? What if you could see which information they look at first? Price? Description? How far down the page they go? What pages they visit, and in what order? Do visitors spend more time reading practitioner bios or service pages? What about FAQs or support?

Heatmap software lets you track exactly where your online visitors give their attention. It’s less creepy than it sounds and creates a font of customer intelligence. Called “usability testing,” this technology is finally getting priced for small businesses. Tools like HotJar and Ptengine record online sessions. So you can see how visitors move through your site. What they ignore, where they go first. All information you can use to refine your online assets so they become more appealing and useful to visitors.

Many of the usability tools and eCommerce software include online polls and comment functionality. This lets you get direct feedback from users while on your website.

Access to Technology is No Longer a Barrier

The SaaS model lets small businesses operate enterprise technology on a small business budget. No more excuses for having a static website that no one can find. Or a website that can’t take orders, and money, from customers. Or a website that doesn’t give customers the information they need to make a buying decision. If you want your online business to grow, get access to the right tools.

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