It’s been about twenty years now since small Canadian businesses started getting knocks on the door from enterprising web designers trying to convince them that this Internet thing was going to be a big deal and that they really needed a website.

Well, by all appearances, the World Wide Web is here to stay, and for most new businesses, a website and a basic IT solution is very near the top of the getting started checklist.

There’s a good reason for that, too. Online sales accounted for $136 billion in revenue for Canadian businesses in 2013 and, once the 2014 numbers are available there is every reason to expect they will be even higher.

E-commerce has been on an implacable upward trend for well over a decade and very few Canadians today make any substantial purchases without, at a minimum, performing online research. In fact, Forrester Research projects that 60 percent of all retail sales will involve the web by 2017.

“Marketing takes the sale quite a lot further down the field than they used to.”

Marketing is the new sales

“Marketing is the new sales,” explains Flynn Maloy, Senior Director of Enterprise Marketing, SMB Segment at Hewlett-Packard. “Marketing takes the sale quite a lot further down the field than they used to.” It is no longer the case that marketing gets the customer in the door and the sales team handles the rest.

When I’m making a purchase these days, even a relatively small one, I’ve usually visited all the competitors’ websites, compared features online, and researched expected prices before I even set foot inside a store. And it’s increasingly common for customers to carry UPC scanning apps on their phones, letting them access all this information instantly right there on the sales floor.

An online presence is vital

If a business is not actively involved in the online aspect of customer experience, with a dynamic website, a social media presence, and possibly even a mobile app, they are essentially invisible to a rapidly growing segment of the market.

“A dynamic online presence is vital,” agrees Maloy. "It’s about letting the customers learn about you in the way they want to learn about you. And all of that is driven by IT. You need to have the servers, storage, network infrastructure and the application infrastructure that can run and support it.”

Whether your business is looking to deploy a new cloud service, purchase some of the surprisingly powerful and affordable servers, storage and networking solutions on the market today, or like most businesses, utilize a hybrid IT model, the infrastructure that drives your company’s connectivity with the customer base can no longer afford to be an afterthought.

It’s 2015, and the small and medium Canadian businesses that will thrive this year are the ones investing heavily in a highly-connected IT-driven business model.