The 2011 holiday season showed us that shoppers are going online for purchases now more than ever. Small brick-and-mortar retailers would prefer to drive customers offline and into their stores, and here are some thoughts on how a clean, user-friendly website can do just that. These are quick, cost-effective fixes that small retailers can use that will ensure to drive more customers to their location, with a focus on transactional intelligence.
Customers are on the move. Depending on your target audience, it’s likely that most shoppers have a smartphone with a mobile web browser. At a minimum, small businesses should view their website on the most common smartphones, including iPhone and Android, to be certain that all key information is visible and easy to navigate. If your phone number and address are at the bottom of the screen, move it to the top. It could take a lot of smudging and swiping and to get down to the most critical information to drive your customer to your store.
Those small businesses with a little more to invest must consider launching a mobile-optimized web experience that caters to the smaller screen size. Prioritize the most important information that a customer needs to know about your business—your phone number and address, this week’s promotions, special “in store only” sales—and make this information very easy to find.
Focus on the user
Some of the best enterprise websites are successful because they build user-centered solutions based on a very deep understanding of the customer. Small businesses can benefit from the same type of user-centered approach by emulating a number of the techniques used by bigger sites. Make a list of your most common customer types and the scenarios they are likely to run into—the busy working mom with limited time to browse your products, spouses reviewing together a large purchase, a child letting a parent know the latest and greatest toy they want—and build an experience around these customer personas and scenarios. Every decision you make about adding a feature or design element to the site should be prioritized to solve the most pressing needs of your customers.
The most commonly visited section on a small brick-and-mortar business website is the store locator. Customers want to know your store locations, your hours, and your phone number. Don’t bury this information behind multiple screens. Place your phone number and physical store address prominently on your homepage and at the top of every page of your site.
But don’t stop there. The best executed store locator pages have calls-to-action or coupons that further encourage customers to come into the store. Along with your phone number and address include a special web coupon or your hottest products of the week. Use the opportunity to turn the often dry locator page into a stronger selling tool. Rewarding customers with a coupon for printing the store locator page or showing a floor salesperson the site on their mobile phone will let give you valuable feedback on the efficacy of your store-driving campaign.
Watch your analytics
Understanding what your customers are doing on your website, the successful areas that drive customers to the store, and those that are barriers, is paramount to running an effective business. Google Analytics is a free tool that includes a number of reports on the activity of your site visitors. Where are most visitors coming from? What’s the first and last page they visit on your site? How many clicks does it take for them to find your brick-and-mortar store information?