Navigating the Online Storefront - Part 1

This is part one of a three part series. The three parts will be:

  • Website

  • Social Media

  • Reviews


The three pillars of a successful online presence

The physical storefront, office or commercial location is a necessity for almost any business. Business leaders will fuss over the look, the location, the amenities available for clients, etc. What I have often found is that most business leaders pay more attention to the physical storefront compared to their online storefront, as they see it daily when coming in to work. It is a matter of perception, which can cost businesses a lot in missed revenue. This is because a businesses online presence is just as, if not more important than the physical location.

A business’s online presence increases its customer base multiple times over due to the shear amount of people using the internet to shop, review and research products. You may be wondering the volume of internet users. Here are some quick statistics:

I have found in my experience that there are three pillars that help in building a solid online foundation; Website, Social Media and Reviews.  The three pillars are key to creating a great foundation for an excellent online presence, but at the end of the day, the importance is in ensuring that attention is given in equal measure to a business’ online storefront and the physical location.  For smaller businesses, it is recommended they hire an individual internally to manage their online presence. Having at least one skilled employee managing a small company’s online presence can lead to a large return on investment. If hiring an employee is not possible, contracting the work to a third party can reap rewards, while lowering cost initially. Now, let us begin exploring the three pillars of online success.

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Website

The easiest way I have found to explain the importance of a website is to compare it to a physical location. To quickly generalize, a physical location needs to be built to offer products, services or both, it needs to be welcoming and it needs to offer information that helps customers make their purchasing decision. A website should be built with exactly the same thought process. Compared to the other pillars of an online presence, a website allows the business to have full control of what customers see and for this reason it is the one that I place the most value.

One of the main issues I have found when helping businesses with their digital footprint is their lack of attention to their website. Many businesses treat their physical location to daily cleaning and maintenance yet forego any type of cleaning, or maintenance to their website. This is a recipe for disaster. Businesses lose customers if their website is not properly maintained, as 57% of all mobile users have stated that they will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website. With over 50% of all website users visiting on a mobile device, that is a large loss of customers. I state this particular statistic as it is the most prevalent and harmful issue affecting businesses. All websites should be built for mobile first, yet I find far too often that businesses still use websites that were designed far too long ago and that are only built for desktops in mind.

To solve this issue of poorly maintained websites, there are now a plethora of new options that make building a website easy even for the less experienced. Here are a few of my recommendations:

WordPress

WordPress is the number one content management system (CMS) with 30% of all websites being powered through its technology. It is personally my favorite option as it is simple for people who do not have much experience with website design and is exceptionally customizable for those who are. It offers the ability to quickly and easily manage users and add content. It has thousands of themes to make it simple for most people to change the look to their needs and finally it has thousands of plugins to make the website do whatever they need it to do. The most amazing part of building a website with WordPress is that it can be done completely free. Though you will still need to buy a domain and host the website. To get started with WordPress here are few great plugins to help you along the way:

Shopify

Shopify is my second recommendation as it is very simple to use and is excellent for eCommerce. Whether you sell business to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B) Shopify has you covered with some amazing themes and some amazing capabilities. It can be used for much more then eCommerce, but it excels when used as an eCommerce site. When you consider the cost of hosting and purchasing a domain, it is not much more expensive than running a WordPress site.

Squarespace

Squarespace is my final recommendation and is very similar to Shopify. It can used for many different types of websites just like Shopify and is very quick top build with. We have used Squarespace to quickly build RWT Growth’s website with some great results.


We hope you have enjoyed this first part of Navigating the Online Storefront. Next week we will explore Social Media.