It is hard to believe, but in 2017, many small businesses are still without a website, or at least one that will help drive more sales. These days, a functioning website is, at a minimum, table stakes.

Today, 90 percent of Americans have access to the internet. A total of 70 percent of the population has a smart phone. Americans rely less on advertising and more on the ability to find what they want instantly than ever before. If you are a small business and your customers can’t find you? Well, chances are you won’t be in business very long.

Lisa Downs was nearing the end of what she felt she could endure at Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique in downtown Wabash, Indiana. After several years in business, the cash flow was drying up and her ability to drive traffic to her store was hitting a wall. Brides and high school students looking for prom dresses were heading to Fort Wayne or Indianapolis, forgoing the small town experience.

Part of Downs’ struggle was the lack of a cohesive and solid website. She had one that was functional, but the pictures were outdated, and the only way to book an appointment was to call the shop during business hours. Millennials don’t want to pick up a phone and call anyone; they want the convenience of booking an appointment online and knowing their options.

Downs was part of the first year of Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution – Main Street series. Among a series of tools provided to her was a new website with photos, stories and, best of all, an appointment-booking function. Now her clients had a way to make plans and head to her shop for a fun day filled with trying on wedding or prom dresses.

In January 2016, Downs had been at a low point. She had sold one wedding dress and only 20 prom dresses. She was spending more on her inventory than she was taking in. She couldn’t pay herself. She was worried. But with a brand-new website, online marketing and community outreach, she set new goals for January 2017: Sell five wedding dresses and 30 prom dresses.

With January 2017 come and gone, Downs is now grinning ear to ear. She shattered her goals and, for the first time in years, she paid herself her first paycheck. Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique sold 14 bridal dresses and 45 prom dresses. She more than doubled her sales goals for the month and she shattered her previous year sales by more than 200 percent.

Website CTA_Book My Dress Day
Website visitors can book an appointment online.

Why? Many reasons, but the one she points to as having the greatest impact is the booking function on her website. Now her clients can find an appointment that works for their schedules, and those of their friends and family. And Downs can make sure her inventory is up to date to the needs of each client.

It may seem simple in 2017 that a website is essential. Yet what is essential is a website with the functions that will maximize any small business’s bottom line. Just look at Ellen’s Bridal. What a difference a year makes.

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