By all accounts, online sales will continue strong growth this year—and beyond. As of Q1 2021, Adobe’s e-commerce division reported that U.S. consumers spent $813 billion online during 2020, up 42% over 2019, according to TechCrunch. The firm expects this growth to continue in coming years, reaching $1 trillion by 2022.
So, what should independent retailers do—and not do—on their websites to meet this opportunity-avalanche and earn their share (and more!) of e-commerce? Retailer Web Services in partnership with Site on Time, developed this list of Dos and Don’ts to ensure your store and your products are in front of your increasingly digital customers and prospects:
- Merchandise your website. You’d never set a new shipment of appliances or mattresses stacked haphazardly at the entrance of your store, so don’t treat your website this way. Set a sort order on your site that prioritizes items that are in stock or on display in your showroom. Showcase bestsellers, seasonal and other products that are important to your business. Whether traditional brick-and- mortar or your website, thoughtful merchandising is the key to engaging shoppers and putting them on the path to purchase.
- Display prices. This is a must that bears repeating. When consumers don’t see a price or see, “Call for pricing,” they assume the product they’re interested in purchasing is too expensive and/or they can’t afford to shop at your store. (Not to mention, not displaying prices negates having a transactional website and misses vast opportunity with more consumers buying online.) Set pricing formulas that keep your site compliant with manufacturers’ pricing and policies during and outside of promotional periods.
- Activate your shopping cart. Now that you’ve set your pricing strategy, activate your shopping cart. The pandemic and its lingering effects have shown that it’s no longer just a convenience, but for those that can’t visit your brick-and-mortar store, your website is the only opportunity shoppers have to purchase from you. Ensure that your checkout process is simple and intuitive with convenient features such as delivery setting capabilities and finance options.
- Offer recognizable finance options. Offer trusted, recognizable third-party finance options. PayPal reports that 51% of U.S. users have reported abandoning a transaction because PayPal wasn’t an option at checkout. Further, instant financing solutions have become the norm and are embedded in the checkout processes at major retailers. “Buy now, pay later” at checkout can reduce cart abandonment and increase overall sales, two key metrics driving the rise of e-commerce instant financing, according to Klarna.
- Create every opportunity to connect. Harness the many opportunities for customers to engage with your business in ways that are convenient for them. You’re no longer limited to Contact forms, email or phone calls. For example, with live chat software installed on your site, customers can get immediate responses. On Facebook, customers may want to connect with you on Messenger. If a customer looks for directions in Google My Business, they may engage with you by messaging a question.
- Assume that customers know who you are. Even if you’re a staple in your community, don’t assume everyone knows about your stellar service and products, or your deep roots in the community. Don’t assume that the “next generation” in your geographic area knows about your business; don’t forget that residents move in and out of town. Take the time to tell your story! Create a marketing plan that targets prospects and keeps your store top of mind with existing customers.
- Over-complicate the checkout process. Consider ways your shopping cart can mirror your in-store experience. If a customer visits your store, they may decide to buy online later. Don’t overcomplicate the process. Avoid the temptation to provide too many options or complex delivery rules. Particularly when adding multiple products, present services and delivery options in an easy-to-understand format. Remember that simple, quick and intuitive creates the best user experience.
- Create missed opportunities. In addition to creating a great e-commerce experience, don’t create missed opportunities to connect with customers. Consider all the communications touchpoints at your disposal. With live chat, create a schedule to ensure that it’s covered during normal business hours (at a minimum) and monitored for prompt response. Put a policy in place to quickly respond to consumer inquiries. The longer you take to respond, the less likely you are to convert. Customers can also engage with you on Facebook Messenger and Google My Business. Monitor these too and don’t miss a chance to engage with a customer that’s ready to buy!
- Separate your web and digital marketing. Your brand, your story and your offer shouldn’t end on a third-party platform; all should be present on your website too. Marry your ad campaign with your website to further engage customers. You can do this by using images on your site that reflect your ads, leveraging landing pages that highlight specific sales, or implementing a sort order to feature your advertised models.
- Let your website get stale. Often times, your site is the first impression to a potential customer. According to Forbes, you have seven seconds to make a first impression. Keep your site fresh and interesting. Don’t leave old promotional images live and be sure to remove flyers that are no longer current. Don’t “set it and forget it” for too long. A good rule of thumb is to review your site monthly with your provider. Share your in-store strategy and lean on their expertise.
For more ways to deliver a powerful website presence to capture today’s online consumer, discover what WebFronts Level 4 can do for you.