Editorial September/October 2006

March 06, 2008
Written by Anja Sonnenberg
As the owner of a flourishing garden centre, I’m sure you’re always looking for ways to improve your business.  One-way of attracting more attention to your business is by creating a company web site or reevaluating your existing one.
Welcome to the Web

As the owner of a flourishing garden centre, I’m sure you’re always looking for ways to improve your business.  One-way of attracting more attention to your business is by creating a company web site or reevaluating your existing one.

Some business owners are still reluctant to take their company online because they believe it’s expensive and complicated, but that’s not true.  Finding a good web host and a reliable Webmaster is all you need to take your first steps into the World Wide Web.  As Homer Simpson once asked, “Internet! Is that thing still around?”  Yes it is, and it’s here to stay.  In fact, the Internet has been around longer than most people realize.

The Internet evolved from a 1960s U.S. Defense Department experiment in computer networking called ARPAnet. Its goal was to allow different kinds of computers to interconnect, so that researchers could share information. By the end of the 1970s, links developed between ARPAnet and other network developed by other countries around the world, creating a computer ‘web.’ In the 1980s, this network of networks, which became known collectively as the Internet, expanded at a phenomenal rate. By 1985, approximately one hundred networks were connected. By 1987, the number had grown to two hundred; in 1989, it exceeded five hundred. In the 1990s, the Internet grew at exponential rates. With the popularity of the World Wide Web, the number of networks connected to the Internet jumped to a worldwide total of more than 50,000 by the end of the decade.

As of 2005, the worldwide Internet population was 1.08 billion and the projected growth by 2010 is 1.8 billion.  According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey, Canada is the world leader in percentage terms with more than 60 per cent of households with Internet access.  The average Canadian family spends more than 1,600 hours online per year.

With so many Canadians surfing the web, it makes sense for a business to have a presence on the web.  But it’s not just a matter of having a web site anymore.  Consumers’ expectations have soared and their attention spans have plummeted.  So what makes a good website?  Well, for starters, it should be easy to read.  Black text on a white background is easiest to read, but that’s not to say you can’t be creative – just avoid using dark colours or detailed graphics as your background.  Include a search tool to allow your customers to navigate your site easily. Making your web page interactive is one of the most important elements of a great site.  Good interactivity engages the user and makes your site memorable.  Since gardeners love to see images of what they want to buy, make sure you include photos of plants you sell.  Let your customers get to know you by having a section on your web page about yourself and your company.  If your garden centre has been in the family for generations, let them know.  In this competitive market, customers will appreciate the personal touch of a family owned and operated business.

If you already have a web page, it doesn’t mean that people will take the time to visit.  It’s your responsibility to offer them something to entice them - information, gardening tips, sales and promotions, interactivity, fun, freebies, etc.  But your job isn’t over after their first visit - now you need to encourage them to come back again and again.  Your site must contain original content that is up-dated on a regular basis.  With a little creativity, your web site will help you reach new markets, help build brand loyalty, act as an advertisement, provide your customers easy access to your products and services, and provide them with a trusted resource for all their gardening needs.  If you build it, they will come!

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