I was reading a Chain Store Age magazine news blurb (you’ll need to register but it’s free) about the internet which stated that over 50% of consumers go online and conduct research before making the trek to buy the product(s). Surprising? Yes…Surprising that the number is so low.
Yet, according to an Business Week SmallBiz article, “35% of small business owners with internet access don’t have a Web site for their company.”
In our crazed two kids/three sports each, ipod toting, eating in the car while talking on the phone and simultaneously applying makeup or “blackberrying” (not to mention driving) world, we’re busier than ever. And that means there’s not a moment to spare. Time constraints are the reason we spend a couple minutes online before we head out the door – to make sure we don’t go someplace that won’t have what we need (and waste time we don’t have).
In the simplest words, if you don’t have a website for your store, you’re losing sales.
I am not advocating an ecommerce website – the resources needed [in time and money] to get the thing up and running are counterproductive to, and will take your focus away from running a successful bricks and mortar store. Until you get a couple locations under your belt (or you are immensely profitable with your first location), I would keep your web presence strictly informational. Include information AND photos about your store(s), products or brands you sell and other basic information so your potential customers can get the full picture of what your experience is all about.
I was pretty disappointed as I started searching for some of my favorite boutique stores in LA, only to find their online presence didn’t represent what their store experience was all about. Check out a great little boutique called OK – no need to explain why this site is deficient. Also check out le sanctuaire. This site has a feel that’s consistent with the store experience, but it doesn’t really give you a sense of what’s happening inside the store other than to mention a few of the product categories – it just doesn’t do justice to the experience that truly is one of a kind. Even more disappointing? My search for a site that did a good job of representing the store experience was not to be found — and I looked through about 20 of my favorite boutiques.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY: Web presence today is a must. Not only should your store have an online presence, it should be the first thing you do to market a new location. The minute the deal is signed and you take over the space, signs should be in the windows directing potential customers to your website – call it advance press. Key areas to focus on for your website are:
1. Merchandise you carry – product categories, samples of products within categories or brands
2. General Information – location, hours, phone number, etc.
3. About Us – who you are, the story behind your concept
4. Contact Us – phone, email, etc. so you can create a dialog with your customers
5. Press – positive public relations about your concept says you’re legit – post it online
6. Sign up for email – this is the most efficient and cost effective way to market