Like it or not, your retail business is going to need a website.
A recent study from Retailing Today showed 81% of people do online research before making any kind of large purchase. Whether or not you sell a product or service online, that’s a huge number of potential customers for your retail business. A website will be most people’s first impression of your business, so it’s worth making that impression a positive one. Here’s how:
Get the Website Basics Right
The folks at GoDaddy.com, a well-known web hosting and domain registrar, suggest that every business website start with 5 core pages: Home, About Us, Products/ Services, Customer Testimonials and Contact Us.
Home – This is a welcome page with an enticing image of your business and some sort of “Call to action” button, such as “Make an appointment now” or “Click here to start shopping.” It should also include a basic headline or description of what your business does so that shoppers know they’re in the right place.
About Us – This is a fun, homey section where you get to talk about why you started the business and what your mission or goal is. This is also a good place to include photos of you or your staff.
Products/Services – Here’s where you make your sale. Give as much detail as you can so customers can know you’re the right business for them. This generally includes what each product or service does and how much it costs. Images, if applicable, are often helpful here too.
Customer Testimonials – While you can’t control what customers say about you on Yelp! or other social media sites, you can control what reviews you put up on your website. Obviously, go for the positive ones, but make sure to include a variety of testimonials so that the page at least looks authentic.
Contact Us – You may want to specify your preferred method of contact, but you should at least list a physical address, phone number and email. Unless you think you’ll get thousands of messages, avoid the impersonal and vague online forms.
The Back-End: How Much Tech Does Your Business Site Need?
A site that isn’t updated regularly is almost worse than not having one at all. Nothing says “I don’t care about my business” like a website whose first page is a list of drink specials for Super Bowl XLIV.
This is why you need to invest in a user-friendly content management system (CMS). The person building your website can help steer you towards one that fits your needs, but think about how often you’ll realistically need to update your website.
A bar or restaurant, for example, will need CONSTANT updating, since menu items, specials, events details, and other things change frequently. This is also true of a retail shop, or any business with frequently-rotating inventory.
However a lawn service company or accounting firm may not need a CMS so flexible and intricate, since not much changes from month to month.
No matter how often you plan to update, however, make sure you have a CMS as part of your site so that updates can be made as needed. You need to avoid what’s called a “brochure” website that looks stale and outdated.
You also must make sure your retail website is mobile-ready and responsive to ensure it’s easily viewable on mobile devices. Since more people browse the web and shop on mobile devices now, a site that’s not set up for mobile is set up for failure.
Finally, cyber security is essential for your business website, especially if you’re collecting customer data online. Encryption services and a hosting service with frequent backups are both absolutely mandatory.
Your Website’s Bells and Whistles
Blogs aren’t just for knitting aficionados and conspiracy nuts anymore. This thing you’re reading right now? It’s a blog with resources and tips for business owners, and all kinds of companies are using them as informational and promotional tools. Did you know that 55% of businesses that feature blogs on their sites report more website traffic than those without a blog?
While setting one up through WordPress or a similar service is free, it looks much more professional to use WordPress as your CMS on your own domain. A professional blog will cost extra, so it’s up to you to determine whether that investment in an on-site blog is something you think will drive enough traffic to be worthwhile.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is another important component of any website, and many web developers will help make your business website SEO-friendly for an added fee. SEO, if done correctly, can drive more traffic to your website, allows your business to compete with big brands, and thus generate more revenue for your business. Just be careful to avoid many of the common digital marketing mistakes made by other small business owners.
Images and video are also essential to any website. Loading your site with cheap stock images will make your website look amateurish, but professional and relevant photos can help set you apart from your competition. This is especially true with businesses like restaurants and salons, where the visual element is a big part of the overall customer experience.
There are many other options that developers will try and sell you for your website, but you must consider the potential return on investment. These options include online ordering capabilities, fun ‘build your own” features and interactive videos, all of which are designed to make your site more user-friendly.
A website is as much an investment in your business as your signage, employee training and office equipment. Your website is usually your customers’ first introduction to your business, so make sure it’s a strong one. Keep costs down by keeping your site simple to use while ensuring it has everything you need to meet your customers’ expectations.