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How to set out your stall online

23 February
13:05 2012

Chris Brake, director, digital products, for Yell in the UK, provides some advice for independent c-store retailers…

Not all independent convenience stores have made the transition from corner shop to the internet.

Should you wish to extend your store into the online space, don’t make the mistake of thinking all you need to do is quickly bash out a website that declares you can “provide it all” and that you are a “leading retailer”.

This one-size-fits-all approach to your website should be avoided at all costs.

You must think carefully about what your website is saying about your shop in the online space, and whether it’s fulfilling its potential as a useful and practical tool for your customers.

There are five key areas you should pay particular attention to when planning a website:

1. Purpose

When planning your website, start at the beginning and think about the essentials.

What is the purpose? Do you want to sell goods online and create an e-commerce site or is the purpose of your website to provide an information service about your store.

It is essential you place contact details, as well as store opening times, upon the site somewhere where they are easy to find.

If the vital components are missing from your site, it is unlikely it will get off the ground.

2. Information

When considering what to populate your site with, try to remember that your customers are used to shopping in your store.

Expecting these customers to commit to a large order online is a big ask, especially if they can’t easily contact you.

Make sure your site includes a contact telephone number and an email address, and ensure both are as visible as possible upon your site, so that potential customers can reach you and be reassured by actual human interaction.

It may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but it is also important that your site includes basic details about who you are, what you are providing.

If you are not providing an e-commerce site, you may want to work on the information angle.

3. Presentation

Whatever you fill your website with, make sure it is presented well.

Think of your homepage as your shop window; make it as attractive as possible with enticing colours and an easy-on-the-eye design and font.

Chances are you have spent ages finely tuning your business model and stock, but unless your website looks neat, tidy and alluring, your customers will never get to find out what you have to offer as they will not be inclined to spend time browsing through your pages.

If special offers work in your store they will also work online. Flag offers on the homepage for a good reaction.

4. Usability

A website that is easy to use is just as important as a website that looks good.

In terms of securing an order, thus driving business, it is wholly important that your customers know where to click once they are on your site.

Avoid overly complicated and wildly creative formats. Instead, focus on making menus and functions clear and obvious.

If you think a large website is suitable for your store, make sure it has an easy-to-navigate user journey built in, which can be easily re-traced, so visitors know how they arrived upon a particular page.

5. Visibility

Unfortunately, even if your site looks great and works particularly well, if it fails to send the right signals to search engines such as Google your shop isn’t going to get very far online.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a technique employed by businesses to increase online visibility. It works by looking at the words your potential customers will type into Google when attempting to find a convenience store.

If your website is full of relevant content, explicitly showing which service your site offers, Google should pick it up naturally and make it visible in relevant search returns.

Additional things you can do to increase your online visibility include:

  • Making sure your site is well structured
  • Having a variety of good-quality links coming into your site
  • Adding title tags to each page
  • Opening up all the pages of your site to Google

Alternatively, if this all sounds a bit complicated, you can ask your web designer, or a separate SEO provider, to take care of this for you.

For more advice on creating a worthwhile business-building  website, or to find more detailed explanations of these points, please visit marketing.yell.com.

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