It's not a secret that having a strong online presence is essential for small businesses. In today's hyperconnected society, consumers want to have access to stores and make their purchases from anywhere at any time. Ecommerce is a booming retail sector, and yet many small business owners aren't properly presenting their services online. 

Making small businesses accessible
According to Entrepreneur, 97 percent of surveyed Internet users will go online to research a business or product before making a purchase. Some small businesses aren't doing enough to stand out from their competitors online, however. Almost half of small businesses don't have their websites optimized for mobile viewing, while 45 percent don't even have a website in the first place. 

"Internet users will go online to research a business."

As the use of the Internet continues to grow and new platforms emerge, simply creating a website is no longer enough anyway. People are accessing sites from different devices that don't display web pages the same way. Social media has evolved from a means for friends to stay connected to include businesses connecting with consumers. Inc reported that 60 percent of very small businesses don't have web pages, and 88 percent of those don't have Facebook pages either. 

Today's consumers want to actively engage with the businesses they shop from. If they can't find information on a business, they will likely just move on to a competitor.

What to include when building an online presence
The good news for small business owners who aren't staying active online is that it's easier and more affordable than ever before to get set up with online accounts. Many web hosting programs are free or have tiered pricing plans so that entrepreneurs only have to buy what they need. Social media accounts generally don't cost anything and can provide small businesses with access to free advertising possibilities.

At the bare minimum, companies need to answer the basic questions that customers will likely go looking online for. Contact information, store hours and product lists with prices are essential for bringing in customers. Consumers don't want to waste their time – they want to know what to expect when they choose to shop with a particular business. Giving them the data they need to make an informed decision will greatly boost sales opportunities for small business owners. 

According to the Inc article, the reason many companies cited for not having an online presence was their small size. Keeping a company online doesn't need to be a time-consuming process, however. Using mobile technology like smartphones and tablets allows small business owners to work on their web accounts on the go, and many built-in apps will streamline updating and posting processes to save valuable time and resources as well. 

Equipment and business industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.