Every now and then you stumble across something on the internet whilst surfing that takes your breath away. No I don’t mean illegal or suspicious content but one of those sites that has committed a business marketing crime by publishing a “sorry” looking website. I can’t mention the name or URL of site that I have just seen (my solicitor’s bills are big enough thanks) but it made me think what on earth were the owners thinking when they gave the go ahead for such a shabby piece of global advertising.
I actually know of the offline part of this business and they are a reputable, established company with good products to sell. So why would they allow their reputation to be tarnished by showing themselves on the internet in such a poor light? Perhaps they thought that any advertisement is better than no advertisement and that the thrown together web presence would be good enough or perhaps they thought that their offline reputation would allow people to see through the poorly presented website.
I think the latter is closer to the truth and it is a mistake that many established small businesses make when going online for the first time. Just five years ago this may have worked for the business as most websites were purely online brochures where people went to check contact numbers, opening times etc. before visiting the physical store. A recent survey has shown that our spending habits are changing and that Britain’s love affair with shopping and the high street is changing. In the past six years, online spending has increased by 2,000 per cent and in the past 12 months alone we have spent more than £50 billion purchasing via the internet.
This change has occurred, I think for various reasons. Our towns and cities are increasingly overcrowded with poor travel facilities. We have less time for shopping and are savvier when it comes to knowing what we want. We value good customer service, but at the end of the day, a MP3 player is the same wherever you bought it from and we want the best price.
So, what does this mean for the small to medium size business? Well, they can no longer get away with having a poor, out of date internet site. A lot of potential customers may never have seen your store and actually know little of your reputation. As in most things, we formulate opinions very quickly and an uninspiring website will do little to convince the customer as to your genuine value and service. To convert these potential customers to purchasers the website needs to be clean, simple and easy to navigate. It also needs to provide more than just a brochure of your products. Providing information that relates to your product is a key method of generating interest and trust. For example, if you sell a specific product why not get some real reviews from your existing customers by offering them a discount on their next purchase. I’m not suggesting you bribe them to give a good review when they wouldn’t otherwise, but I personally always read products reviews online before I make any significant purchase. This adds value and hopefully with minimal effort will convert into sales.
These are just a few ideas to prevent you also becoming a victim of small business web design crimes!