Gone are the days when your website could be a single landing page and you could expect it to drive business to your retail shop. Savvy customers need interaction and engagement with you and your business and one way to do this is through a robust and engaging website.
Independent retailers have a leg up when it comes to their website design against big box stores (yes, even against the giants like Amazon). Being independent means you can be nimble and react quickly to capitalize on opportunities, something retail giants cannot do thanks to the many different decision makers involved in running their business. Still, you must be mindful of your website’s design and content cannot be an afterthought if you’re going to compete in today’s retail marketplace. On average, a person will visit a website five times before making a purchase, according to a piece in Website Magazine so you need to provide great reasons to keep them coming back!
The following are some tips and tactics you can use to maintain your current customers and create new ones through your website:
Showcase Your Social Media Accounts
Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers should include their contact information and all of their social media links on their websites as well as include a mailing list sign-up form, says Adria Willenson, founder of Adria Willenson Designs, an artist and designer specializing in web design, graphic design and email marketing solutions.
Going a step beyond just providing the links to your social media accounts, consider connecting your social media accounts to your website’s home page so new content appears every single time you post something on one of the platforms.
Alternatively, your social media can help direct customers to your website, reminds Willenson. “Use social media sites such as Instagram daily to keep followers engaged,” she says. One retailer she feels uses Instagram well for this purpose is Little Gypsy Finery: instagram.com/littlegypsyfinery
Give Your Customers What They Want
Give it to them by providing thoughtful, meaningful content, easy-to-navigate layouts, and the ability to reach you directly if they have questions. When creating content to share, consider what kind of customer you want to attract and make sure the content speaks to them. This will help you nurture the relationships you have with your current customers and make it easier for new ones to find you through local search results online.
New content on a regular basis is attractive to search engines so it pays to sit down and think of stories for the next few months now and then write them (or hire someone to write them for you) so they’re ready to post even if you get busy.
Don’t Hide Your Contact Information
This always baffles me. You’re in the people-business so make sure you are accessible. Nothing turns me off faster than not being able to find a way to make contact with someone, anyone, at a business where I want to shop. If you’re worried about getting spam mail, set up a contact page through your website and put a notice on your page that you will respond within 24 hours. At the very least, include a phone number to reach you.
Hire a Professional Website Designer
It’s tempting to try and create your own website since so many sites like Squarespace and Wix make it easy, but what normally happens is your website will never get done and it’ll look like everyone else’s website since you’re likely going to use a template. You’d be surprised at how affordable great website designers are and since it’s their business, they know which features and designs will work best for your particular needs which will, in turn, drive business.
At a minimum, make sure you (or your designer) use responsive web design to accommodate web browsing on a variety of mobile devices, recommends Willenson.
Use Email to Drive Business to Your Website
It’s not enough to work on your website design, you need to bring people to the site, too, on a regular basis. “Use email marketing to capture prospective customers and engage existing customers,” recommends Willenson. “Send out weekly or bi-weekly information about special deals or coupons for online shopping and upcoming events.”
When you send an email, make sure you include several links to pages throughout your website. Encourage customers to let you know what they’d like to see more (or less) of on your website.
Remember, your website is a great vehicle to drive customers to your business and you’re in the driver’s seat!