When you think about your e-commerce website as part of your business, how do you think of it?
- As an expense?
- A pain in the…?
- A digital brochure?
- As a member of the team?
While some days I’m sure it’s a mixture of all three, I hope you’re treating your website as a member of your team, because it is! A good website should carry its own weight as part of your marketing and sales force.
Make sure you’re taking advantage of your own digital strengths by reviewing your site against these three key marketing elements.
You want your site to not just stand out but to also have a professional identity. For example, if you’re researching a new dentist, you want their site to “feel” like a pro dentist website, not like an amateur’s gig? (I fear dentists, so perhaps I am hyper-vigilant.)
A site’s visual identity goes beyond a logo and extends to all the little pieces that help a new customer figure out who you are and what your expertise is: the typography you choose, the colors, the quality, and size of the photos. It’s hard to step back from your own work and say, ‘If I was new here, is it clear who we are what problem we solve?" But you’ve got to ensure your site does that effortlessly.
Also, your website does not exist in a vacuum; are you offering the same type of experience on your website as you do in the real world? And are your offers and promotions on your site consistent with your other marketing channels, or did you just slap something up on the website? I like Natalie Burg’s phrase for this: personalizing the customer experience.
Once you’ve established an identity—who you are and what you do—then it’s time to move on to a more difficult question: Can I trust you?
In the real word, we have a lot more information to determine trustworthiness: squeezing fruit to see if it’s ripe in a store, looking at shelves to inspect the quality of clothes in a boutique, etc. In a digital world, that’s more difficult. Why do you think there’s such a proliferation of online review sites? (Whether those reviews can be trusted, this is a discussion for another day. Irony noted.)
You can establish trust on your site by using what I call “proof.” Examples of proof you can use:
- Licenses and certifications
- Customer testimonials
- Behind-the-scenes content
- Press and reviews
You can never have enough proof, but make sure that you’re not just stuffing testimonials down a potential client’s throat. It’s a balancing act to present a rounded picture of all the things your customer needs to decide, "This is for me."
You probably have bills to pay, so let’s close our discussion with a review of the bottom line. Is your website ready to take action when your customer is ready?
There are two quick tests to make sure your site is ready:
- On your product or service pages, is there a “buy now” or “request more info” button or form available? Make it easy for a customer who likes what is offered to say yes.
- On all other pages, do you have your contact information prominently displayed (preferably both email and phone), as well as a direct link to support or contact page? Make it easy for a customer to engage, especially if they need help buying—a common problem to have!
Just a little bit of effort making tweaks to your site can make a big difference when it comes to not just closing a sale, but making your customer happy, too. Everybody loves a happy client.
Andy Hayes is a creative web producer and helps small businesses improve their web presence with his popular website critique. He’s based in sunny Portland, Oregon. Connect with him on Twitter, @andrewghayes.