Websites are now an essential part of any business as they are a powerful tool for communicating with potential customers. However, one challenge for small companies, is that on the internet, they are often competing for attention with other businesses offering similar products or services. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the company website is as effective as possible in order to differentiate from the competition. Tessa Denison, creative director of web designer, Denison Design, reveals tips on how to achieve this.
Initially, consider what the website’s primary purpose actually is. As well as selling, the website should offer something extra to demonstrate your company’s area of expertise and keep customers coming back. One effective way to do this is to feature a selection of simple articles offering advice on common issues. For example, a stockbroker might offer a guide to the stockmarket or an introduction to stocks and shares. Similarly, a wine merchant could provide information about different types of wine.
Another option is to offer a subscription to a monthly e-newsletter for example. This has the benefit of building up a database of e-mail addresses but also keeps interested parties up to date on the company, special offers and new products.
In addition to offering ‘something extra’ it is essential to get the content right. One key point is to ensure site content is not overloaded as this will increase the download time, a major factor contributing negatively to retaining site visitors. Keep to essential information and be sure to include is contact details; a name, address, telephone number and e-mail. Use a telephone number that is always answered and make sure that web e-mails are prioritised!
Other essential information is the use of testimonials as these are powerful endorsements and attract potential customers. Such positive feedback will reassure clients about the level of service or product they are purchasing and also makes your business stand out against the competition.
Photography is also important. It is said that ‘a picture says a thousand words’ so it is critical to use high quality imagery. However, like excessive content, large numbers of high-resolution pictures increase download time. Therefore, always compress the photographs to make them ‘lighter’ and yet still show the same image.
The layout of the images is also key and product pictures, rather like products the retail environment, should be merchandised on the home page properly. Just as customers are more likely to enter a shop where the quality of goods is visible through the window, web visitors will move through a site where the merchandise is on show at the outset. Therefore, include a selection of products or a product offer on the home page that will grab attention immediately.
We have touched briefly on just some ideas to make your site stand out however, to get the most from your website then customers will need to be driven there initially through search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines are the main method of directing traffic to your website and if content is updated regularly, web listings – those near the top of a search results list – can be improved. Therefore, frequently revise advice articles, testimonials, images and other significant content as more dynamic sites tend to achieve higher web listings.
The ability to update a website initially comes from constructing it according to “web standards” guidelines and using valid HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS). Using these will also enable a consistent view of the web page regardless of whether it is through a PC or a mobile phone and also it improves accessibility for any people who may have visual impairments.
These days the majority of businesses have an online presence. However, not all are using their valuable web space to the maximum effect. In order to make the most from your company website put careful consideration into the content, design and construction and by doing so customers will be driven to your website, they will stay to explore and most importantly sales and enquiries will be generated.
These days, there is nodenying your website is your ‘shop window to the world’ so how do you maximise revenue from your virtual retail outlet? Tessa Dension, creative director of Denison Design outlines her top ten tips to boost sales by encouraging buying behaviour from your online customers. The fact is from landing on the home page you have around three seconds to capture your audience before they lose interest and click off to another site. Therefore, it is critical that the website looks attractive and compels potential customers to stay and place an order.
The first tip is that products, rather like in the retail environment, should be merchandised on the home page properly. Customers are unlikely to enter a shop where the quality of goods can’t be viewed through the window. Similarly, customers are more likely to move through a website site where the merchandise is on show at the start. Therefore, include a selection of products or a product offer on the home page that will grab attention immediately.
For example: international wine site of the year for three years running, Berry Brothers & Rudd includes a selection of the latest releases on its home page in addition to ‘straight to buy’ button allowing customers to purchase quickly as well as encouraging impulse decisions.
The products and offers on display on the home page should also be updated regularly. This keeps the site looking interesting, moves it up the search engine listings and again encourages impulse purchases. Berry Brothers & Rudd updates its latest releases daily.
3) Layout & Imagery
In retail visual impact is key to attracting customers and encouraging buying behaviour and the same it true for online retailing. The layout of pages, particularly of the home page must be clear and appealing. Much of this can be achieved with straightforward navigation and quality imagery.www.plants4presents.co.uk is a great example of an e-commerce site that achieves just this. Striking photography combined with easy navigation encourages purchasing and makes it an easy, painless experience.
4) Appeal to a lifestyle choice
In addition to the layout and quality of imagery it is essential to ensure the site appeals to the life-style choice of the potential buyer. Show the products being used, show where they come from, build a picture that indicates that by buying the product the customer is purchasing an aspirational lifestyle choice.
Quotes from other satisfied customers are a powerful sales tool and people often read these to help them make a buying decision. Similarly, awards and trade association memberships endorse the quality of the company’s offering so should be displayed prominently. Logo’s for awards should appear on the home page.
Be as transparent as possible when it comes to pricing. Particularly with delivery costs as customers can be put-off at the last minute if they think they are being ‘ripped-off’ by postage.
The act of payment should be as easy as possible. Achieve this by removing any barriers to sale. For example include clear navigation for delivery times, ensure the checkout process is clear with a prominent ‘next’ button on display and in addition, include the functionality to ‘save details’ to make it easy for returning customers.
When it comes to payment safety and security are also key. Use and advertise a well-known payment gateway such as WorldPay. Or if you choose to handle payments in-house use a secure SSL server which encrypts data transferred from the site. Consumers are now wise to the padlock icon that denotes the use of a secure server and are put off if it is not in evidence or a well-known payment gateway is not used.
Armed with the information above the chances of purchasing behaviour are increased, however if people can’t find your online shop they won’t buy. Most will need to be driven to the site and for this it will need to appear near the top search engine listings. To achieve this websites should be constructed according to “web standards” guidelines, using valid HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS enables the web developer to separate the appearance or style of a web page from its structure and content. Using CSS also makes it much easier and more cost effective to update websites.
Once your site has been created it is important to monitor how it is being used. For a small additional fee your web hosting company will be able to provide statistics illustrating how long visitors stay on each page for example. As web design is not an exact science this allows invaluable improvements to be made the site in the future so further encouraging buying behaviour. If things aren’t working don’t be afraid to change them. You would in a shop so the same principle applies online.