There’s been a lot in the news recently about local retailers complaining about unfair competition from offshore providers like Amazon etc. They don’t have to include gst. A wider choice and a lower cost in most cases. Radio NZ’s recent future of shopping discussion talked with a number of upset Wellington ‘High St’ retailers.
Certainly for items like books and things easily posted are the highest risk items. Insight focused upon the opportunities and the fact that some select retailers are trying to do more to ‘go online’. The problem is, most of our small business retail websites and the sales engagement processes are poor and erratic. Some using online say they do very well, while others are not.
What’s the secret to success online?
Once you get past the top dozen retail big chains, it seems the majority of retailer sites fail to produce a steady return or live up to expectations. Some of the expert $25,000+ sites certainly look good, but looks don’t bring traffic. At the other end there’s the cheap DIY $39/month instant shop packages. But after spending 6-12 months adding in stuff, owners inevitably have little traffic and few sales.
To be successful and compete with offshore competitors and their $1m websites, both retailers and local developers need to stop playing and get serious. Instead of a focus upon looks or cost, we need to think about the things that get traffic to the site and have those people buy our goods, then tell their friends. Perhaps have gimmicks that encourage website visitors to come into the store to buy, as well as purchasing online. At least have a strategy around selling online and the role the website is expected to play.
Lesson number 1 – Appearances aren’t enough
Many are under the delusion that all they need is a ‘better looking’ website to succeed online. But to use a vehicle analogy, there’s two key parts of a modern website. The outer shell and the internal engine. The designer builds the body and a skilled developer/coder builds the engine. Most web designers have no training or real interest in the coding, doing just the bare basics to get the site looking right.
Yet a visual makeover with better graphics and call to action statements is precisely what many companies do to try to ‘fix up’ their old or poor performing website with little traffic. Many are on their third rebuild, seeing little improvement. Why is this?
Well, a good website will have around 75% of it’s traffic via Google search. But does Google like your new website? Likely not, as Google cares little for fancy graphics or layout upgrades. Only good code, structure, content and links. Most design-focused websites don’t even comply with Googles webmaster guidelines.
What’s the cost?
If you jumped to this section first, it means you’ve got the wrong mindset and likely will fail online. You see online as a cost, not a selling opportunity, as small business did years ago when they hired a new salesperson to boast sales. And that’s what it means when you get a well coded site that’s super-optimised for traffic. Google becomes your best salesperson, bringing in most new business, working 24/7 without complaint.
Typically though, whatever was spent with the ‘website designer’ around 2-3 times this amount needs to be put into coding, SEO and backlinks work. And hiring a copywriter to critique the site and update content each week wouldn’t go amiss either. After all, if your new website can’t be found online and get a steady stream of traffic, why bother to have a site at all?
With this extra work you’re guaranteed to get loads more more traffic and new clients. Google does its best to help, biasing search results towards local well-coded websites it understands and regards as reputable. And Google’s far more effective and way cheaper than the $50,000 p.a. you’d spend on any new salesperson or shop assistant…
Building an online strategy – Taking control
The other side of the coin is that business owners need to be better educated upon what’s even possible with a well-built, state-of-the-art website assembled by experts. They also need unbiased advice. They need a shopping list. A plan.
They also need to be aware of tools like SEO Profiler, Sitebeam and Kissmetrics that monitor a website’s search ranking, content, customer engagement and coding quality. These can establish if the ‘engine’ of the website is a dud and what needs to be done. You can also use them to find out if your web designer-developer company really has the expert coding and SEO skills they say they have.
If you don’t have a mobile-optimised site, you will be left behind very quickly…
Remember, we’re not designing a brochure. Looks or branding are NOT the top priority. In fact site appearance is not even in the top three on a rebuild ‘to do’ list:
- Hire a copywriter to set the scene; Conjure up the right words and visuals.
- Have an SEO expert define the best keywords and market opportunities.
- Analyse the competition, their online profile and weaknesses
- As a reminder of why we’re doing this, set the site a monthly sales target
Remember, the website appearance is just the icing on the cake. A cake comprising dozens of ingredients. The design ingredient is still needed, but others are actually more important and need to be attended to first. Quickly responding to market forces is another critical success factor. Paul Robson, (right) boss of Adobe Australasia recently talked about retail, noting the importance of tracking tools and mobile.
“We are at the tipping point now where we have as many mobile devices as there are PCs. Marketers need to be optimising for mobile first. If you don’t have a mobile-optimised site, you will be left behind very quickly.”
p.s. We recently discovered Adobe’s Marketing Cloud and will look to review it in a future post.
Google Study – Consumers expect more from their stores
Hey, don’t take Pauls word for it. A recent study by Google discovered:
- 61% of respondents take their business elsewhere if they encounter a poor mobile experience.
- 67% of consumers said they’re more likely to make a purchase if a website is mobile-friendly.
- A poor online/mobile experience definitely hurts the company image and brand
- Tablets especially tend to be the starting point for those shopping online (see below)
Another study concluded that a consumer with a good mobile experience is twice as likely to buy from that company next time they want to make a similar purchase. Unfortunately, most NZ business websites fail the mobile test. Little wonder more and more NZ consumers are looking offshore for a better online experience, proving it’s not just a pricing issue that forces customers to leave you…
Step ONE – Get Mobile-Friendly
Perhaps a good start would be to:
- Build a clean, well-coded, Google-compliant website that views quickly and properly on a mobile or tablet device. A site that is easily self-managed allowing you (or a copywriter) to add content at will to build up your Google search ranking and domain authority.
- Stage two could be to bring in some engagement technologies, expertly analyse the traffic, allow for easy subscribing or sharing of site content or comments via Facebook; building up a subscriber list, use cross-channel marketing and refine products.
- With the above in place, now you can add in more branding and a shopping cart. (read more)
The trick is to not to try to do everything at once. Turn it into a 6 month project, with goals for each stage.
p.s. Be aware that a percentage of ‘old school’ designers will rebel against these new mobile-responsive websites, since the site will auto-format elements to eliminate the need to pinch/zoom. Such ‘manipulation’ is not always welcomed by graphic artists, especially those with a print background. However the greater business good must prevail. More traffic, more sales…
Step up or remain in the past?
I fear procrastination around mobile and online will be the death of many small retailers here. Waiting isn’t really an option if you want to stop the loss of customers to competitors. People will soon become frustrated working with a company that is content to live in the past.
To see an example of an affordable, state-of-the-art website at www.easymarketing.co.nz/realty
N.B. This is a special promo site we built for Realtor marketing. Two others variations are being built, one for Retail with built-in shopping cart and another for the Automotive sector where mobile compatibility plus integration with Google maps is critical.
These new generation of mobile-friendly websites are typically half cost of existing options and guaranteed to get 2-3 times more traffic – Proving it can be done here in NZ. You just have to know the right people…