Why many small businesses are moving online to attract new customers


It’s been estimated that up to 99% of consumers, at least once in a year, will now find a local business they need using the internet.

Around 80% go online more than once a week to try and find a local business.

Customers looking for things like a local hairdresser, florist, restaurant or garage will now increasingly find those businesses online, while using their smartphones or other online devices. 

For companies therefore – particularly small, local businesses – it’s now essential to have some kind of online presence. The days of companies relying on just a small newspaper advert and local word-of-mouth have passed.

While traditional advertising and recommendations from friends and family still count for businesses, the huge growth in smartphone ownership in recent years, alongside the popularity of companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, has transformed the way small companies do business.

Chris Sims, MD for BT’s SoHo (Single/Small Office, Home Office) unit, said: “The growth in smartphone use and the way we access the web and social media to find information has changed the game for small businesses. 

“The pandemic sped up that shift to online, with many businesses having to change the way they operate, almost overnight.

“While the idea of ‘being online’ for many businesses in recent years meant simply having a website, that has changed quickly, with companies now having to think about how people find them on search engines like Google and also how they can promote themselves locally via social media.”

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Chris Sims added: “With people of all ages now spending more time than ever on social media, it offers another great platform for small businesses to use the power of the internet to promote their business locally.

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you have, if you don’t have a solid online presence, you’re potentially missing out on thousands of customers who don’t know you exist. It’s also a big leveller.   It allows a small local business to appear online, alongside big, well-known brands, allowing customers to make a choice.

“Although many small businesses have already expanded their online presence, we know that, for many of them, they lack the time, money, and confidence to do this effectively.”


Anna’s Larder is a second generation, Italian family business selling a wide and varied range of produce including fresh fruit and vegetable, traditional confectionery, milk, free range eggs, organic flour and pulses plus a range of gifts and cards. The Toma family have been trading in Alloa for over 100 years and Anna’s Larder has been trading for over 50 years.

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Prior to Covid, Anna’s Larder was open 7 days a week from 9am until 8pm. They had no online presence at all but a very good loyal local customer base.

When the countrty went into lockdown, Anna’s Larder realised that they had to take the plunge and create an online presence or risk being forgotten.

With the support of the local Business Improvement District (BID), Alloa First,  the Anna’s Larder Facebook page was created.

They also organised a series of online workshops via zoom to help support them and other local businesses to promote what they were selling locally and most importantly, remind people they were open and trading.

To date, Anna’s Larder has 2258 followers and not only has the Facebook page enabled them to promote  all their products, but it’s also has given them the opportunity be part of the wider seasonal marketing campaigns that Alloa First promote as well as taking part in the national campaign Totally Locally Fiver Fest.

In January 2021, Anna’s Larder launched the online shop and again this was with the support of Alloa First who funded the online market place for Alloa  shop.alloafirst.co.uk to ensure all the local businesses could remain competitive.

They also fund a local delivery service so that if someone places an order before 11am it is delivered the same day – or next day if it is placed after 11am. This service is available throughout Clackmannanshire.

Once a cash-only business, the online shop made Anna’s Larder realise card payments were necessary – and began using the payment service Sumup.

Embracing online technology is ensuring Anna’s Larder is available to everyone so don’t miss out at www.facebook.com/AnnasLarder

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To help make it easier for small businesses to promote their goods and services online, BT recently launched a new digital advertising platform.

BT’s Digital Marketing Hub gives businesses the tools and support to create, publish and measure their digital advertising across Google, Facebook, and Instagram, all from one place.

To find out more about BT’s Digital Marketing Hub, click here