Inside: The eBusiness Puzzle: Bringing SMBs Online

1and1(Ping! Zine Issue 64) – Starting three years ago, research firm Gartner noticed a trend: the public cloud market was growing at an astronomical rate. In 2010, it accounted for 77 billion U.S. dollars. By 2013, it had jumped to represent $131 billion. Not surprisingly though, such growth is likely to continue. Within the next three years, public cloud is expected to cover a 210 billion dollar industry – a feat that represents an 18% overall increase from 2010 to 2016.

Other Gartner statistics, meanwhile, showed that the highest annual growth in SaaS would pertain to office suites (49.1%) while eMarketing was in high demand as well (34.0%).

Web hosts have been smart to pay close attention to such trends.

One company is 1&1 Internet. For a while now, the provider has been placing an emphasis on small to medium-sized business needs and how such companies can harness the power of hosting to fulfill them.

So exactly why place an emphasis on the SMB market? 1&1 has noticed there’s a lot of potential in the area aside from general cloud adoption rates: Data from a number of sources shows a lot of SMBs still don’t operate an online presence.

On the consumer side of the picture, other statistics have shown that businesses need to be online. For example, potential clientele are less likely to trust a business that doesn’t have a website while it’s pretty common that consumers get frustrated when websites don’t work properly on mobile phones and/or tablet devices.

Well, it’s now time to bring SMBs up to speed. Via their online presences, SMBs are looking for aspects like more lead generation, eBusiness capabilities, greater communication and brand protection.

If you have cable television (I know we also live in the age of Netflix and Hulu), you’ve probably seen 1&1 advertising its SMB-based 1&1 MyWebsite product – a tool that easily lets companies fully construct and customize their online presences without the hassle of having to know coding and other design elements. It’s a platform that seeks to answer some of the SMB gaps we mentioned earlier.

In less than two years of marketing, 1&1’s MyWebsite builder has already accounted for 500,000 customers. Meanwhile, the company has already set its sights on reaching 1 million.
However, if you want to offer SMBs the perfect tools, simply providing a website builder isn’t enough. You also need to look at social media. In today’s social savvy age, having a Facebook and Twitter presence is sometimes even more important than having an actual website. Why? During an earnings call in January, Facebook announced that it had 1.06 billion monthly active users. Let’s be honest: There are simply more and more people using Facebook nowadays to search for business Facebook pages compared to those actually looking for a business’s website.

1 &1 answered this part of the eBusiness puzzle back in July – introducing its own Social Media Center, a tool that lets users synchronize their MyWebsite content with their respective social networking presence on Facebook.

In addition to content synchronization, Social Media Center also lets the user send out Facebook statuses and Twitter Tweets directly from MyWebsite’s backend.

“Be it financial, personnel or production responsibilities, small business owners face enough challenges in order to make their establishment succeed. However, creating a website and establishing an effective social presence does not need to be one of those challenges. We have developed our MyWebsite product line and its features to position these often complex tactics in a simplistic manner. As a company, we strive to be more than a simple Web hosting provider, but rather an eBusiness partner guiding owners towards their professional goals,” explains 1&1 Manager Kelly Meeneghan.

And while you may think that 1&1 offers everything the basic SMB needs to be online, there’s also another important fact: Web addresses as we know them are changing.

During the next year or so, it’s expected that 700 new gTLDs will be launched. This follows a historic TLD registration period from ICANN in which the organization provided a registration period. In the near future, you’ll notice new TLDs hit the web. These will include new domain suffixes like .news, .music, .inc, .nyc, .shop, .tech and a heck of a lot more.

So how does the emergence of such new TLDs affect the SMB market? The advantages include the ability for companies to secure their Internet identities from competitors, provide for better online identities through search engines (after all, it’s getting harder to find a domain that’s not already registered with .com nowadays) and provide an overall better brand presence online.

1&1 is also doing its part to make sure that those interested have the chance to be involved in the new TLD process. Since opening a pre-reservation portal (www.1and1.com/new-top-level-domains) in early July, the company has experienced more than 2 million pre-reservations and expects to hit 5 million by the end of the year.

“A new era in Internet addresses promises great opportunities for every business online. However, research released in March shows that the majority of SMBs are still unaware of the launch of new gTLDs. 1&1’s new pre-reservation portal comprises an excellent resource for website owners to learn about their options, pre-reserve their new domains now and benefit from 1&1’s global scale and competence with domain registration,” stated 1&1 Internet CEO Hosting, Robert Hoffman, at the time of the launch.

For its shared hosting customers, the company recently launched its 1&1 App Center which offers users a library of application options. The first is 1&1’s Click & Build apps with two different installation methods: “safe mode” which is fully managed and secured by 1&1, and “free mode” which gives users complete coding freedom. The center also consists of pre-installed themes and plugins for 1&1’s top five applications (WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Typo3, and Magento) as well as more than 250 “drag-and-drop” apps which the company currently offers its MyWebsite customers. These easy to use apps allow customers to integrate their online presences, whether the apps be interactive (IE. Open Table) or deal with customer transactions (PayPal).

So overall, where is eBusiness heading? By placing a greater emphasis on getting SMBs online, perhaps the web hosting community can complete the SMB puzzle that currently sees too many companies in a place they shouldn’t be: Offline.

 

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