You don’t have to go far to find websites that are still living in the 90’s with copious amounts of flashing marquees, glaring color contrasts, and comic sans descriptions. Buzzfeed and other sites have even made it easy by compiling lists of some of the worst offenders.
Your website may not have any of those design mistakes, but there are other ways your website could be limiting your retail business. Omitting information and leaving out certain features makes it a lot harder for your customers to do business with you. Just because they know where your physical store is doesn’t mean they’re not still using your website.
What’s worse is that half of small businesses don’t even have a website, according to a 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report.
You might feel that since the bulk of your business comes in locally, a website isn’t essential. But data shows otherwise. Roughly 83 percent of customers turn to search engines and the web to find information about a business. Nearly half of customers under the age of forty use the web to research businesses at least once per day.
While you may count yourself among the 76% of businesses who believe the bulk of customers come via word-of-mouth, 48% of customers state they would consider no longer shopping with a small business or retailer that did not have a website.
Customers want you to have a website, and they’re looking for very specific information. Here’s what every retail website needs in order to drive local business and improve visibility.
Easy-to-Find Contact and Store Information
When customers are searching online for information about you, and checking your site, one of the top things they’re searching for is contact information and general business operating info.
They want to know:
- A phone number so they can call to ask a question not answered on the site
- When you’re open and on what days
- Address information to easily find your store
- Social links to find out what social channels you’re on
Your retail website needs to makes it easy for customers to initiate contact and do business with you. But, simply adding the information to your site isn’t enough,. You also need to make it easy to find the info. Don’t just bury it on an internal contact page.
Put it front and center.
- Place your phone number at the top of your site where it’s clearly visible
- Put your address near or in the footer on the home page
- Include a thumbnail map link that takes them to directions for your store
- Add social links in the header and/or footer
- Make your hours of operation clear
Not only is this relevant to your customers, but Google also cross checks business information on your site with what’s listed in other business databases. This validation step is part of how Google ranks business listings to show them in local search (and local map searches).
An Opt-In Form
Customers love to follow brands on social media. It’s an easy way to check in and see what’s going on and if there’s anything new.
Despite the ease of social media, 47% of consumers still prefer to receive updates via email from retailers they follow. Often times, customers will visit a website specifically to sign up for special promotions. To cater to those customers, and entice others to sign up, add an email subscribe opt-in on your website that’s visible at the top of the home page. You can also have it appear as a light box that pops up in the center or at the bottom of the page, and call them to opt-in with some special incentive.
Storytelling is a crucial part of winning over new customers. In a world where local competition is steep, and small businesses compete with big brand retailers, your retail website needs to leverage any opportunity to set yourself apart.
Storytelling is effective not because customers necessarily want to hear the story, but because stories appeal to the human brain on a personal level. We naturally pay closer when stories engage our emotions and are relatable. Consumers (all of us) naturally crave a good story.
Your About page is a great place to share your story in detail, but don’t leave it there to languish. Work it into your branding, make it part of your value proposition, get it on the front page, and make the content of your website a personable, story-driven experience.
A Product Catalog with Pricing
Your website should be more than a generic brochure with your location information. Customers visit your website hoping to find information about a specific product. They also visit your site when they have a problem and expect or hope to find that you offer a solution.
Listing your available products on your site, even if you don’t have an eCommerce option, answers their questions promptly and makes it easy for them to make a purchase decision from you. It saves them a phone call, and helps you avoid a situation where they move on to a competitor (or online search) to find more information.
It’s worth noting that more than half of customers perform product-specific searches online every day, and 49% of those product searches take consumers directly to Amazon.
With a product catalog on your site, you improve the odds of capturing local sales before they make their purchase online.
An Online Shopping Cart
You’re already halfway there if you’re listing products on your site. While selling online might seem like a logistics nightmare for some small business owners, rest assured there are multiple ways to tackle an online store.
If you don’t want to sell to other countries, or even other states, you don’t have to. You can limit your online store to local purchases only. Customizable eCommerce platforms even let you setup site-to-store only, so there’s no shipping. This simply allows customers to see your stock, shop online, and swing by to pick up their items.
No matter your approach, an eCommerce integration adds convenience to customers and helps improve your bottom line.
An SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate is used to signal that the traffic passing to and from your domain is secure and encrypted. It’s required for eCommerce in order to product customer information, but even if you don’t have an online store your retail website needs an SSL certificate. The HTTPS and green lock symbol tell customers that your site is safe and can be trusted, even if the only data being passed is their name and email address when filling out your form.
It’s not just a courtesy today. Earlier this year (June 2018) Google updated its Chrome browser so when customers visit a site that asks for information (any kind of submission form) and there’s no SSL certificate present, the user will be warned that the site is not secure and submitting data may be unsafe.
SSL certificates are cheap, easy to configure with your web admin or site host, and provide a lot of trust among savvy customers who want to do business with you online and in person.
Today’s consumers are used to instant gratification, short social posts, image captions, and brevity. They scroll fast, skip clips, and skim pages. They won’t stick around to read large blocks of text on your site.
Your retail website needs to create a more engaging experience. Start by using large hero images on your pages (especially your home page). Choose quality images featuring your business and your customers, pictures inside and outside of your store, product images, and pictures of your team. Let the visuals tell a more compelling story at a glance.
An easy way to do this is to integrate your Instagram feed into your site showcasing the latest images from your business. Or, if you’re light on digital assets that are relevant to certain segments of your site, you can also use stock photos to help supplement the storytelling within your content.
Online visitors will often scan websites to get a sample of the content and quickly identify if it contains the information they’re looking for. Use the tips above to get the most relevant information customers seek onto your site. Over time, you’ll see foot traffic to your store improve in addition to more traffic to your website for relevant customer searches.