Study: Improve Your Website Experience to Meet Customer Expectations

With hours in the day to spend on digital marketing in short supply, small business owners need to know how to make the most of the time they do find to reach new audiences online. With that in mind, we asked their potential customers what matters most to them in a business website, and how business owners can best meet their expectations.

As part of the Vistaprint Digital Small Business Consumer Expectations Report, we surveyed 1,800 U.S. adults who have visited a small business website in the past to find out what they’re looking for on a website, how often they expect sites to be updated, what’s most likely to make a bad impression, and more. Hopefully, what we found will help you prioritize your to-do list and make the most of your online marketing efforts!

Starting off with a bit of good news; over 40% of the initial 5,298 respondents said that they have visited a small business website in the past. That means there are lots of opportunities to make your business look good to your potential customers.

Have you ever visited the website of a small business before?

When those potential customers do find their way to your website, it’s critical to make a great first impression (36% of consumers discover business online for the first time!). But don’t be intimidated; let the results below provide a sort of checklist to help you see how your website measures up. First up? Make sure your contact details – email address, phone number, location – are up to date. Other items that should top your list? Providing directions and hours, updating product information, and checking that your design or color scheme is sending the right message.

What’s most likely to leave you with a bad impression when visiting a small business’ website?

While it’s important to know what makes a bad impression, we also wanted to know what factors contribute to a positive experience. No surprises here: the results showed that current and accurate information is also the most important thing when it comes to making a good impression.

What’s most important when it comes to having a positive experience with a small business website?

If you’re wondering just how important it is that you make your way through that website checklist, bear in mind that we found that nearly 60% of respondents said a bad website impression would make them less likely to purchase from a small business.

What kind of an impact does a bad impression of a website have on your decision to work with the small business?

Knowing that outdated information is one of the most likely things to leave a bad impression – and that a bad impression might cost you business – you might be wondering how often you should update your website to avoid that faux pas. Based on our findings, information starts to feel dated somewhere between one and six months. If you have the bandwidth, the best course of action is to do a monthly audit of your site just to make sure you’re on track. Make sure you website builder that allows you to quickly and easily go in and make regular updates so you don’t fall behind and feel overwhelmed.

At what point would you consider a small business’ website to be outdated?

In addition to the actual content (and the freshness of that content) you put on your website, another important element of your website experience is the overall look and feel. We were curious to know how likely a customer would be to make a purchase if they found a website to be poorly designed, and we found that 42% would be not very likely, and 21% would be not likely at all. With that in mind, keep a close eye on the colors, fonts, and layout you choose for your website.

How likely are you to visit or purchase something from a small business if it has a poorly designed or unprofessional website?

If you’re just getting started with a website – or thinking about doing a major spring cleaning of your current site – it’s important to know what people are looking for so you can prioritize your time and effort. We found that by far the most sought out aspect of a small business website is product information. Of course things like contact information and hours are important, but it’s possible to get those things from local search listings. Only your website can give shoppers the specific details about your products and services they need to make an informed decision.

What information do you primarily search for on a small business website?

Lastly, we wanted to know if the expectations on small businesses are different than those on larger firms when it comes to websites. You might be surprised to learn that half of the consumers we surveyed reported that they have the same expectations about the experience they will have on a small business website as they do about that of a large chain. Though it wasn’t part of this survey, it’s possible the reason for this is because digital marketing has become so widely adopted (70% of micro businesses market both online and off!) that the line between small and large business is blurred in the online world.

When visiting the website of a small business as opposed to a large chain, do you have lower experience expectations?

We hope these insights about your potential customers will help you prioritize when it comes to your online presence, and grow your business by meeting and exceeding their expectations! Did anything in the survey findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.