Many small firms may be held back due to poor web address choices, according to research by Streamline.net.
The study of 1,300 people found that one in five Britons who use small business websites regularly struggle with domain names that are convoluted or difficult to recall, and younger age groups are the most affected with one in three aged between 16 and 35 judging the SME domains they use to be unattractive.
A further poll of 189 UK firms, meanwhile, showed that while 34% were not satisfied with their web sales, only 3% are considering making any change to their primary domain name. With 70% of Britons are now willing to conduct business with SMEs via the web, says Streamline, the ability for a consumer to easily recall a web address has never been so important.
The poll, conducted during the Christmas shopping period, found that the web addresses of small firms are a problem for 25% of men and 20% of women. Businesses in rural areas are allowed more leeway, while London-based firms will find their customers most put off with 32% of consumers affected compared to only 11% in Northern Ireland and 14% in Wales.
"The data suggests that many small businesses undervalue the effect their web address can have on their consumers' behaviour," says Steve Holford, marketing director at Streamline.net. "There is a real danger their work and investment on the web can be undermined by the simple fact that consumers cannot remember their URL. Domains have reached a level of affordability whereby every business owner can now afford to experiment with alternative domain choices".
"If you truly want more people to visit your web pages you need URLs that human beings can remember (and hopefully pass on)," adds internet psychologist Graham Jones. "If a page is quite important for your business, than nothing really beats having a specific domain name that is easy for people to remember, that can then be linked to the page as necessary".
Given that an easy-to-remember .co.uk or .com domain name may be out of the reach for many small retailers at this point, Streamline recommends that companies pick a customer friendly .biz, .net or .eu address rather than opting for a more complicated .co.uk address.