Part 1 of a 2-part series
A few years ago, crawling Internet speeds claimed users as their victim when streaming on certain Web sites. Small businesses may once again be found in this lull with the overturn of net neutrality.
The “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” was passed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 14, eliminating the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Opponents of the decision are seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to overrule the FCC. What’s more, lawmakers in several states are introducing state legislation that forbids Internet providers to block or slow down sites or online services.
However, these opponents still face several hurdles. In the meantime, it’s important to realize what this change in net neutrality means for consumers and small businesses doing business in the U.S.
Countries like Spain and Portugal don’t have regulations like net neutrality, and they’re experiencing major changes. Lisbon-based telecommunications firm MEO released data plans that place limits on specific apps. For example, users would pay for Internet, then add certain packages with additional charges to access certain applications and Web sites.
If you want The New York Times, you’ll need the news package. To stream Netflix, pay for the entertainment package. And to stay connected with loved ones through Facebook, add another few dollars to your bill and pay for the social media plan.
But think about how this will destroy small businesses. If a small business cannot afford to purchase premium data, they will need to find alternative ways to attract consumers and compete with big organizations.
Here is how to solve major obstacles that may impact small businesses if net neutrality is repealed:
Slower Internet speeds impede sales potential
Every second counts when it comes to page loading times. The longer a user has to wait, the higher the risk of their leaving. Slower page response time results in an increase in page abandonment, and mobile users expect the same efficiency as their desktop.
In fact, according to a Google Consumer Survey conducted in May 2015, only 9% of users will stay on a mobile site or app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs. The report also found that 66% of consumers will take actions that have some negative impact on the brand, and 40% will be less likely to come back to the mobile site or app.
Providing customer support services is a great incentive for users, but if a company doesn’t have enough bandwidth to support their site and chat platform, then neither one will be effective. It is comparable to having several programs running at once: speed lags, and eventually the server crashes because it cannot handle it.
Other factors affecting slow Internet speeds are visuals and video. These remain an integral part of a Web site’s content, but can create a negative effect and weigh it down if not optimized.
Solution: Instead of embedded chat platforms, designate and train a team to stay on top of customer service issues through email and social media outreach. This way, customer support is still proactive, but does not have a negative impact on the customer’s online experience.
Adjusting visual aids on a website can help to accommodate slower data upload/download speeds and not compromise aesthetic appeal. Consider reworking image sizes to fit the width of your page. Use a standard image editor to crop and maintain the dimensions and avoid distortion. You can also reduce the size by decreasing the depth of color to a minimum level.
Before publication, test the quality to avoid pixelated images, and make sure the format is correct: “jpeg” is an image; “png” and “gif” are for assembling graphics. The format will affect the quality and overall outcome. Also, be aware of the size of the image, how many are present, format, and different tags.
Outsourcing video content is very effective. Consider video giant YouTube to publish videos and then simply include the link on your Web site. This will save you a ton of time in both the design and conversion phase.
The next blog in this series will explore how small businesses can use their inherent strengths to counter the weaknesses of their corporate competitors.