2015 was the year online shopping exploded. Holiday spending ticked up 8% overall, while online purchases surged 20% over the year prior.

Now that the New Year’s confetti is settled and you’ve restocked for the month, you’ve got time to reflect on how you participated in – or missed out on – this growing shopping trend and how your digital presence aided – or hindered – your business’s ability to cash in on sales.

Over the next few months, we'll provide you with practical ways you can establish (or upgrade) your business’ digital persona – whether it includes updating your website, adding social media accounts or engaging with customers via text, loyalty app or virtual connections. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and let's get digital!

Improve the health of your website

It’s easy to keep your storefront sparkling and signs glowing. But sometimes we can forget to polish one of the most important portals to our business: our website.

Websites are growing in importance now more than ever. With a professional look and robust, up-to-date information, your website will convert visitors into customers. The proof is in the numbers. SCORE’s 2015 study on small business websites helps narrow down the most important conversion points.

Sadly, half of small businesses don’t have a website. And for those that do, 70% don’t have a call to action, 27% don’t have a phone number, and 68% don’t have an email address on the home page. You can lose half of your potential customers simply because they can’t find what they need.

Fortunately, 2016 is the perfect year to convert online searches into sales. Weebly, DudaOne, Wix and Squarespace are just a few examples of do-it-yourself website builders. Many free website builders come with a responsive design – an absolute must have this year that we’ll explain below.

Take the time to review or build your business’ website this month. While you’re reviewing it, don’t be shy about getting creative. After all, this site should make an excellent first impression, so tell visitors what makes your small business professional and unique.

Use this simple checklist to cover your bases.

  • Use a responsive design so visitors can navigate your site on mobile devices.
  • Use search engine optimization (SEO) to maximize visibility in searches.
  • Ensure a professional look by hiring a designer or writer.
  • Make pertinent information (phone number, address, hours) easy to find.
  • Provide a place to contact or email you.
  • Describe your products or services. Revisit this page frequently to update items or services.
  • Tell your story. Use the “About” section to describe your story, niche and personality.

Need additional help? Check out SCORE’s online website workshops.

Resolve to be more social

You don’t have to sign up for every social media account out there, but it can benefit your business if you have at least one. Interact with your customers using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Use these accounts to drive traffic to your website and keep followers in the loop when you have a special event or sale.

Stick with a social media account you’re able and willing to keep updated. It’s better to dedicate your efforts to one account rather than letting an idle account collect dust.

Finally, respond to comments or messages. It’s a best practice to reply quickly. Even disgruntled customers can become loyal if you listen and meet their needs.

Up next: meeting your customers on mobile and leveraging digital conversations.