Birmingham is home to one of the UK’s largest shopping centres in the Bullring – Home to the Birmingham branch of Selfridges. A short walk away is the other end of the scale with the Mailbox, a place for luxury shopping and home to Harvey Nicholls and many more luxurious retailers.
As a web design company operating out of Birmingham, we think we know the Birmingham area pretty well.
Birmingham also has a number of Online Retailers who are thriving not just on the high street but also off the high street.
In this article we speak with some local Birmingham businesses who are growing and scaling up their business solely online, read on to discover how you can grow your local business online and target not only a local audience but also capture a share of the world wide audience.
Birmingham recently welcomed online retail giant ASOS to the city which brought with it not only lower costs for the company but also a recruitment drive in the Birmingham area.
This is all down to the talent, infrastructure and network links that the city offers, but what about smaller every day retailers, how are they fairing by trading mostly online versus having a physical store in or around the town centre.
Mr Ali who runs Mr Mango online Asian groceries – an Online grocery retailer – pointed out that the costs of running an online business are far lower than having a physical store but a challenge is finding customers are driving them to the website which is a little more difficult than getting someone to walk into your shop.
“The reason is because the costs associated to having a premise, rates, rents, gas, electric, staff etc is too much at this time while growing the business.
However what I am looking at around mid this year is to purchase an already running business to double the sales.” Said Mr Mango.
Mr Mango goes on to further elaborate and also reinforce that getting customers to find you online can be difficult but the low cost to entry and access to a worldwide market is what makes it so exciting.
“The trick is how you get the customers to your virtual store. Access to the whole world not just local residents. Increases the market hugely.”
The efficiencies of growing online don’t get over looked either. “Because we don’t need to have a physicals base in every city to go national if we are online. There are much more efficient ways to go national than have stores. So online has great benefits as long as you have a strong marketing campaign.” Reiterates Mr Mango.
The above statement rings true with the Chinese retailer yihaodian who successfully opened 1,000 stores over night through the use of augmented reality.
Mike Hopper runs Hopper – An Instagram scheduling tool and further adds “Being online has without doubt enabled us to scale up nationally and internationally with greater ease. Instead of building geographically set stores we’re able to launch new landing pages at most with translated content on to essentially open up to a new market.”
Mike expanded and explained the benefits of being based in Birmingham city centre and having customers across the globe “The benefits of being online means that we can service clients all over the world with a small spread team. Hopper currently has customers is over 55 countries.
Being online means we can always be open for business 24/7 and we can work with the best talent across the world. We currently have staff in 4 different cities across 3 different countries.”
“We love Birmingham as a city, a home and a place to do business. From the thriving community of business people who are all supportive and passionate. To the ever increasing number of smart graduates and young professionals staying in the city.
Birmingham has long been the underdog when compared to London or some other northern counter parts but the rate of growth and development is now extremely exciting.”
Certainly Birmingham is booming and with Silicon Canal aiming to become a major tech hub, it’s easy to see why many businesses are moving to and operating from the heart of Birmingham. The community offers lots of opportunities for networking in Birmingham and will surely bring more benefits to the region over the coming years.
One thing we have noticed is not just the optimism of those based in Birmingham but across the whole of the United Kingdom. Sure there is talk of Brexit having an impact on business and without doubt there will sure be Brexit effects on the web design industry, but across the whole country despite the media and pessimism there is an unreported optimism amongst business owners.
After speaking with local business owners it seems many are going to be reinvesting more money in their online adventures this year. Many are wary of the high street performance versus online sales and are already ploughing money back into Digital marketing activities such as Pay Per Click Advertising and Facebook Advertising.
It will be interesting to see just how businesses grow online over the coming years, but one thing is for sure, many high street businesses have seen the red flags and are focusing more resources towards capturing a larger share of the online market.
Updated for 2019
In 2019, local business and SEO is a really big thing.
The big thing for 2019 compared to when this article was written back in 2017 is all about SEO and local SEO – as it has changed a lot.
If you work with a local SEO agency in Birmingham then they will be able to brief you on the specifics of your requirements to get you ranking locally, but some important things to rank locally for 2019 are:
- Having your Google my business configured correctly – Make sure that you respond to your reviews and include keywords as they help get you ranking. It’s not exactly the more reviews you have, the higher you rank, but replying with keywords does help.
- Local Citations – Make sure that your Name, Address and Phone number are all the same and consistent. This is known as your NAP, do not change this unless necessary.
- Improve your meta tags – Make sure that they not only contain your keyword, but make sense, are written for humans and importantly stimulate emotion and urgency to make them click worthy.
- Backlinks – Still super important in ranking locally. The higher the authority, as usual, the better. Having high authority backlinks from high citation directories can help you get ranking as well.
A thing with local SEO these days is that many websites are clamping down on adding locations to their anchor text – Whilst it’s not impossible to get backlinks with the location in such as “seo company in birmingham” it is becoming more difficuly.