Ann Marie Van Den Hurk: With Retail Undergoing Big Changes, Good Websites More Important Than Ever

By Ann Marie van den Hurk
Lexington Herald-Leader

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Developing an e-commerce presence, like building a bricks-and-mortar storefront, requires thought and planning. PR expert Ann Marie Van Den Hurk has a few tips on how you can get your website ready to attract and retain customers.

Lexington Herald-Leader

A shift in America’s shopping habits is continuing.

And as a result, there are big opportunities in e-commerce, or online shopping, for small retail businesses, especially those in small or rural communities. E-commerce can help specialty business such as those that sell regionally specific products or those that might not have a storefront.

For your small business, my advice is to look before you jump. Think about your business goals. Developing an e-commerce presence, like building a bricks-and-mortar storefront, requires thought and planning.

You need to start thinking about the following questions and answer them thoughtfully:

-What are your business goals?

-How does e-commerce fit into that?

-Who is your ideal customer?

-If you were your ideal customer, what would you look for when visiting the website or getting a message from you?

-When customers land on your page, what do you want them to do?

-With what methods can you reach customers?

-What products are you selling?

-If you run an online store, what shopping cart solution are you using? How do you accept payments? Charge tax? Ship?
A website is indispensable for businesses today.
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Remember, it’s your digital storefront that’s open 24/7. It can answer your customers’ questions and it’s cost effective. But you need to do the following to have a truly successful site:

-Be visually appealing to users.

-Share great content above the fold.

-Include a call to action, contact information, and a frequently asked questions, or FAQ, section.

-Load each website page in less than 4 seconds.

-Be mobile-ready.

-Have a secure e-commerce platform ready with product listings, shopping cart and payment options.

-Include a regularly updated blog.

Once you have developed a solid website, decide how you are going to promote your online shop. You can use emailing or text message marketing to get your message out.

To do this well, here are two terms you need to know: open rate and click rate. Open rate is the percentage of recipients who open the digital correspondence, while average click rate is the percentage of recipients who act on your call to action. The average open rate for retailers is 22 percent, and the average click rate is 3 percent.

A word of caution regarding your email or text marketing: It must be permission-based. Spam is illegal. Your business can lose customers and, worst case, be fined for spamming. Every message you send must include an opt-out. It is best to go with a reputable provider like MailChimp or SlickText.

You can also use social media to share information and deals with your customers.

Your customers are online. Make sure you are too.
Ann Marie van den Hurk, an accredited public relations professional, is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations and author of “Social Media Crisis Communications.”

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