Jan 222012
with social media and cloud computing business shouldn't close on the web

This post originally appeared in Smart Company.

Many industries hoped this Christmas was going to be their saviour – across the country businesses in the retail, tourism, real estate and many other service sectors hoped they’d see an upbeat end to a tough year.

When you’re doing it tough you don’t turn customers away, yet thousands of businesses did that over the Christmas and New Year break by not updating their website to reflect their holiday trading hours.

Almost every business I encountered over the break had little – if any – information about their Christmas trading hours. In holiday towns where visitors are unfamiliar with the local businesses many cafes, restaurants and service businesses didn’t have a website or a local listing despite customers searching for them on iPads and smartphones.

Smart Company’s sister site Property Observer discussed this problem in the real estate industry where tenants were being left with problems over Christmas because there are no emergency contact numbers shown on websites.

What’s even more amazing about real estate agents in holiday areas is many pack up for a week or two and miss possible vacation rentals or even sales to enthusiastic out of towners. Who would have thought real estate agents would let commissions pass them by?

For me, I found information lacking on sites for both small and big businesses. To check the opening hours of Myer stores for instance required downloading a PDF file, Australia’s biggest retailer surely can spare a few hours of a junior’s time to updating the opening hours in their already inadequate store finder.

Similarly the City of Sydney fell down on their swimming pools, with their fabulous Victoria Park and Boy Charlton complexes both showing the wrong opening hours. This customer took his business to Leichhardt and North Sydney instead.

Most of the local shops did poorly as well – few had any mention of opening hours at all let alone Christmas trading times. Those who did open probably missed business because people assumed they were closed or found another place online.

Not updating a website would have made sense ten years ago when even the smallest change meant a fat bill from your web designer. Today online publishing tools like WordPress and Drupal mean there is no reason for you or your staff not to log on and make minor changes like revised hours or holiday specials.

If you still fear a fat bill each time you ask for a change to the website then it’s time to sit your designer down and discuss making some changes to the way your site works – not to mention some strong words about your billing arrangements.

Having up to date content isn’t just good for helping your customers, it also adds credibility to search engines like Google and Microsoft Bing which like sites that are regularly updated.

Almost every business has something to say during the year, whether it’s a new product line, welcoming a new staff member or having a special offer. There are also seasonal factors like Christmas, back-to-school, end of financial year and whole range of annual events that affect your industry.

The beauty of the web right now is that we aren’t constrained in what we want to say about our businesses, so next Christmas let your customers know great you are and which days and times you open.

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