COVID-19 is forcing many brick and mortar stores to shut down shop. However, the circumstances don't mean you need to shut down your business. Right now is the prime time to move your business online.
If the thought of moving online makes your heart rate soar, your palms sweaty, and your stress levels rise, then let us take a moment to reassure you that you CAN make the jump. For this article, we’ve partnered with Erin Dooley of Sidekick Web Studio to help you put together a game plan.
We get that transitioning your store or services online is overwhelming.
We won’t sugar coat it. There will be work and time you need to put in. However, if you have no idea about the online world, then you're moving through the fog in a time when you need absolute clarity. No wonder why the thought of moving online is scary—you need to know where to start.
But no fear, we’re here to help clear away the fog and give you the exact steps you need to build an online presence for your brick and mortar. In these uncertain times, online channels are an avenue to keep your doors open and your business safe.
But remember, you're just not trying to get through this crisis. You're going to invest in adapting to the world in a modern way that will carry you through and beyond this pandemic and give you a massive ROI for the foreseeable future.
Brand Management: Reassess Your Messaging
“As you're transitioning online, it's crucial to remember that brand messaging for an online store is entirely different from a brick and mortar because you're asking two different things from people,” says Erin.
Traditionally you would ask people to physically come into your location to see a product or have a consultation. While online, you're asking them to purchase a product without ever meeting you or seeing, touching, and feeling your product.
Selling online requires an entirely different level of trust and communication that you need to build faster, so they feel comfortable and confident in entering their billing information at checkout.
Your message has to evoke trust immediately.
So how do you create a message that builds more trust online? In two steps:
Step 1: Identify Your Brand's Core
To position your brand message in a way that builds confidence and trust, you must answer the following questions:
- Who are you? What's your brand's purpose and mission?
- What's your expertise? How are you an authority in your niche?
- What do you sell?
- What makes your products or services unique?
- What makes your products or services better than your competitors?
The biggest thing that people need to know to build trust is clearly understanding who you are. But to get them to the tipping point of buying, they have to know why your product or service is better than the competition.
It sounds simple, but it's a big miss most brands make. Communicating your unique differentiators with clarity on your homepage will make you stand out in your consumer's minds.
Step 2: Craft Your Message Around Social and Economic Context
Good marketing and brand messaging should not focus on selling.
Instead, good marketing is relentlessly empathetic to your consumer's needs and pain points. In other words, it focuses on providing value and highlights how your products and services will make your consumer's lives better before you ask them to buy.
For example, with COVID-19, how can your services or products make your customer's life better during social distancing, quarantine, and a potential bear market?
Now, we understand that not every business can afford to drop prices. Still, the bigger picture is to find the small ways you can craft your message and offer around how you'll make a positive impact on your consumer's life, given their current social and economic circumstances.
Once you've revamped and clarified your message, use it to create your home page and about us pages to authentically introduce yourself, explain what you do, and why you care about them. Lastly, use your message in blog posts to educate your readers and provide them with valuable information.
2. Craft The UX (User Experience) of Your Ecommerce Site
User experience is the ease of use and how a person feels when they are navigating your website. The goals of excellent user experience are to meet your users' needs and provide them with a fantastic experience. That way, they'll gladly purchase from you again and share your brand with their friends and family.
Here are the best practices to create a fantastic user experience on your website that will make your customers want to come back again and again:
1. Understand Your Target Audience
What are the characteristics of the customers you're selling to and would like to sell to?
For example, say your clients fall in the 55+ range. What features does an older population need to confidently make a purchase? How can you reduce those barriers to entry and provide stress-free experience on your website?
Related: Identifying Your Target Persona
Some examples could be:
- You could utilize an education page for your products and services
- Reduce your navigation options
- Increase the size of images and fonts on your site
- Provide videos that showcase how to use your products
- Provide online and phone support
Ultimately, user experience is different for every brand, but no matter what you do or what you sell, you can't make assumptions about your consumers. Great user experience starts with stepping into their shoes and getting into their heads so you can provide an experience exclusively tailored to their wants and needs.
2. Understand Your Product
Erin and I agree that you shouldn’t assume people already know what your product is and how to use it. You have to ask, “What kind of products do you have and how do they work? Are you selling a mop and broom that everybody intuitively knows what it does and how they can use it? Or are you selling a packaged service or high-end product that comes with tons of different features? Are there things that people need to purchase and use your product or service?”
More complex products and services require more information to sell to your customers. You need to ensure you are refining the complexities to make it easy for your audience to understand.
Second, how many products and services are you selling? What does your entire catalog look like?
If you're selling three products, you're going to design your user experience way different than if you're selling 50 products.
3. Get People Into the Buy Flow
“Buy flow starts the second somebody adds something to their cart. Thus, you want your customers to find products as efficiently as possible so they can add to cart and buy faster,” Erin explains.
You never want your buy flow to be complicated. It needs to be simple, intuitive, and at the forefront of the shopping experience.
Some strategies to simplify your buy flow are:
- Incorporate on-page pop-up or fly-out carts that show all products currently in the cart to avoid navigating people to a separate cart page each time they add something to the cart
- Quick Checkout pages for return customers to easily repurchase products
- REORDER buttons next to past orders in the user account so users can easily repurchase the exact same order as last time
- Simplify the checkout process as much as possible - don’t ask the user lots of questions or force them to create an account to checkout
You want to create a seamless experience that reduces the amount of time where people are confused or change their minds, which will improve their buying speed and your revenue.
3. Up Your CX Game With Live Chat
Before COVID, customers could get the support they needed in person via sales associates. That same concept still applies during social distancing. Though they’re shopping online, they’ll still have questions that need to be answered - especially if you’re selling a complex product or service.
Chatbots aren't cut out for your customer service for two reasons:
- They can't lead your customers down a path towards a purchase, and AI is mostly in beta testing
- People prefer to talk to other humans versus technology because it's the fastest and most empathetic
Since many people prefer to talk to others when they need help, live chat is an excellent way for you to create another touch point to express your brand voice, compassion, and enthusiasm when you are helping or educating your customers.
Live chat is shown to increase conversion rates to about 2%, which is a lot for businesses and is income that could make or break their ability to make payroll right now. One of the big reasons live chat improves conversion rates is because you can learn why people are leaving your site before they buy, and capture them before they bounce. For instance, if someone is leaving, a live chat pop up can be triggered to give them a special discount or coupon code.
Ultimately live chat is all about tapping into triggers, data, and intelligence to convert more customers and make more informed business decisions.
For help setting up your live chat, check out our article, "Everything You Need to Go Live with Live Chat."
4. Optimize Your SEO
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” Boiled down, SEO is all about optimizing your site in ways that will improve your search performance on Google. Ideally, a well-optimized website will land on the first page of Google's search results page, which will drive tons of organic traffic to your website.
Erin summarizes Google’s MO: “The bottom line is that Google is a business, too. And you have to remember that Google wants to deliver the best search results for their customers. The best search results mean sites with fast load speeds, updated information, and content that holds the answers Google’s customers are looking for.”
There are tons of SEO strategies to learn, and quite frankly, for many SEO can feel like a black hole of information.
But don't worry, because we're going to give you the most simple yet effective strategies here, then you can dive into deeper strategies in our article, "SEO Tips to Drive Your Organic Website Traffic."
You can also check out Side Kick Web Studio's SEO for dummies series:
1. Insert all Your Metadata
Metadata are the tags and descriptions that pop up when you do a Google search. Every page and product need to have metadata so Google can appropriately categorize and list that page in search results.
2. Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console & Setup a Google Analytics Account
A sitemap is a file that holds all the data about your website’s pages, videos, and products and the relationship between them. Google uses sitemaps to analyze, crawl, and index the information on your site. To make sure that Google discovers and understands what your website is about, you should always submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. It will increase the chances your site pops up in the appropriate searches. Google Analytics is the tool you will use to track what keywords users search in order to find your website.
A site map is a file that holds all the data about your website's pages, videos, and products and the relationship between them. Google uses sitemaps to analyze, crawl, and index the information on your site. To make sure that Google discovers and understands what your website is about, you have to submit your sitemap to Google Analytics. It will increase the chances your site pops up in the appropriate searches.
Related: How To Set Up Your Google Analytics Account
3. Reduce Image Size
“Big images drastically increase site load speed and functionality.” Today we live in a culture of instant gratification. People don't have the time or patience to wait for a website to load. Your site needs to be lean and fast to create a great user experience.
The best way to do this is to optimize your picture size and make sure that none of them are more than 1600 pixels wide for full-screen images, and no more than 600 pixels wide for product shots. A great rule of thumb is all your pictures should be smaller than one megabyte to ensure your site speed isn't bogged down by imagery.
Again, these are some of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your SEO today.
5. Outline Your Online Marketing Strategy
We get that online marketing can feel overwhelming if you've never relied on marketing to generate revenue for your business. This is why our online marketing strategies are simple and straightforward, so you can walk away from this article today, feeling confident that you can implement marketing and see returns on your investment.
Every week create one new blog post that serves your audience and spreads your central message. Not only does content go a long way in terms of building your authority, trust, and getting your customer into the marketing flywheel, it also helps improve your website's SEO.
2. Social Media
Once you create your content, you need to get as many eyes on it as possible. Social media are great platforms where you can build and generate lots of free traffic for your site. We recommend taking your content in your blog and breaking it down in small chunks of social posts. That way, you're not scrambling in the eleventh hour trying to figure out what to post.
Keep in mind that social media is not a platform to have a one-way conversation about your products or services.
These channels give you a unique opportunity to create conversations and connections that engage your audience outside of trying to sell them on your products and services.
And we guarantee you if you focus on hard selling on social media, your campaigns are going to fall on death ears. Always lead with value, whether it's entertaining or educational, first!
Email is a fantastic platform to push the need from a sales perspective. Every week, touch base with your audience via email. It's a great place to share your weekly blog posts, new products, sales, and upcoming promotions. You can optimize your emails with shop buttons and calls to actions.
“Email is also a powerful tool to improve your customer experience. Order confirmations, shipping, tracking, and delivery all need to be addressed to make sure you keep in touch with your customer and provide them help where necessary.”
If you're not quite sure which strategy to start with, ask yourself this:
Do you have a current email list you can email to? If so, great! Start with email marketing. If not, then focus on creating content and capturing emails with lead generation content (think a coupon code in exchange for signing up to your newsletter, or a free ultimate guide book in exchange for their contact).
Moving Online is One of The Best Investments You Can Make For Your Business
Online channels are a powerful way not only to increase your brand visibility but to start creating a conversation with your audience. In these pressing times, improving communication and sparking engagement should be strategies we're all doubling down on right now.
No matter what, when you go live online, remember the secret to online success is to create dialogue. To spark connections and generate engagement outside the hard sell.
We know that moving online can seem tricky and feel overwhelming, especially if you are trying to scramble and protect your business's bottom line.
But we’re here to reassure you that you can do this and it's within your reach—and we're here to help you.
Remember, you're investing in your online presence - it's going to be a lasting investment that will bring you ROI for the foreseeable future. No doubt, being online is going to help you move through and beyond this crisis in a way that allows you to adapt to the modern world.
If you have any questions about how to execute these strategies, then reach out to us.