The Internet as an important tool for business development

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional Economic Development

I was recently returning from a meeting in Edmonton and was sitting at my departure gate at the airport waiting to board. I was in a waiting room with about a dozen other people. They were a range of people from early twenties to seniors, there were a couple couples and there was a young family. With the exception of the baby, and the baby’s mother who was busy changing the diaper, was on their cellphone.

There was a couple of people chatting to someone on their phones, but most were staring intently at their screen, their thumbs swiping madly across their screens, no doubt bouncing them from website to website. With the intensity that they were gazing at their screens, I’m sure it was a fascinating sight. Even the father, whose wife was changing the body, was sitting down staring at this screen.

So I have to be honest, I am not a tech savvy guy. By the time I figured out how to program the VCR, the world had moved on to DVDs. I have a cell phone and even a tablet, but I have never played a video game and don’t really have a desire to. I don’t do Facebook. I don’t tweet or twitter or do any of those other fabulous things people do with modern technology. And I suspect there are few other people like me out there.

But the reality is most people, which includes most consumers, do. More and more businesses and shops have turned to Internet sales and it is understandable why. Marketing by Internet reduces advertising and marketing costs, if your company does not have retail space, you save costs on that and you overall reduced overhead.

Even if you are a business with a storefront location, the Internet can prove a valuable way to promote your business. When I lived in Wetaskiwin, there was a local restaurant that had developed a loyal following of lunch customers. Brady, the owner, had people enter a draw for a free lunch by entering their business card. From that Brady gathered a database of email addresses of his clients.

Everyday, Brady would send out a day’s greeting along with the special of the day. And everyday Brady had a full house for lunch. Many restaurants today take reservations by email.

A grocery store can offer on-line shopping simply by allowing customers to email their orders in. This is a valuable service for people who are too busy to shop or people who may not want to. Some grocers offer delivery services; Internet shopping is a way to simplify some people groceries days even more.

As a society we have become very comfortable with shopping for some things online. We book our flights and holiday getaways on line. We peruse hotel websites and frequently book hotels on line. Many consumers purchase their clothes from their favorite boutiques on-line.

People looking for a new home often start the search by checking out the real estate websites. And people in the market for a car, often begin their search online as well. As a society we have become very savvy with on-line shopping.

Local and rural retailers can offer the same type of convenience to customers within our own communities. Having a webpage and being able to promote your products to your community and others is a great way to expand your customer base.

Now I must admit, I may never see your webpage, but the majority of people who seem to love modern technology, just might.

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