In the world of Netonomics, getting to know your customers can be critical to survival or failure. Building relationships online can be derived from traditional retail marketing strategies.
Your site can build a profile of each customer via questionnaires or tracking their clickstreams. The information is stored in a database and is used to identify patterns of behavior that are transformed into assumptions or rules, used to predict the shopper’s future likes and dislikes. This information can allow e-tailors to customize content, sales, and advertising efforts accordingly.
This personalization of e-marketing means you are getting to know your customers, which in the end, is designed to make the browsing and ultimately the purchasing experience friendly and simple for your customer. But you have to be aware of their needs to facilitate this dynamic and robust contact with your brand.
There are no set standards for personalization but if you think about customer relationship principles for a brick and mortar store you can deduce what principles can come into play on your e-store.
Let me give you an example. When I managed a man’s clothing store, many years ago, the owner would always look at the weather forecast the night before. If rain was in the forecast he would move the raincoats and umbrellas up to the front door. He might even have a sale on raincoats. He would manually go back through his records and the salesmen would call anyone who bought a raincoat 2-3 years ago and tell them about the sale. Like I said it was a long time ago. There was no email. This is a simple example of personalization. You make it easy for the customer to buy based on their needs or an external simulation.
Here are some simple business items that your website should have in order to personalize the buying experience.
• Greet guests by name when they enter your site.
• Start people off with a generic version of your site and allow users to customize it gradually as they see fit.
• Watch what users are doing and actively recommend personalized ideas.
• Combine personalized services with a generalized segment where readers can keep in touch with the rest of the community, read about new ideas or products, and get recommendations based on past purchases.
• Offer “wish lists” which are registries that allow others to make pre-selected purchases for your viewers.
There are a lot of companies that can offer to help you personalize your e-commerce website or you can do it yourself. As you think of your personalization strategy, answer these questions to help you decide what is best suited for your web marketing plan:
• How much do I know about the visitors coming to my website?
• How much information am I comfortable asking those customers for?
• What do I plan to do with the information after I receive it?
• How much money can I spend to track visitors?
• Will I be able to implement a database system?
• Do I want to keep the process simple, or can I afford to be more elaborate?
• Am I going to program it myself or can I hire someone to do it for me?
Users are increasingly expecting company websites, products, and services to be tailored to their individual preferences, past experiences, and what they happen to be doing at this very moment. This puts the demand on business and IT leaders to create a personalized and engaging experience for end-users across all channels, both online and offline.
Business owners are focusing on making their communications more timely and relevant to e-store customers. To do that, the need to build communications around the interests and preferences of each individual customer is paramount to website purchase conversion success.
Sell! Sell! Sell! This is the mantra of every business. And it is the gospel of any company that makes money solely through e-commerce. Effective website design encourages your visitors to take the next step. It combines good layout with page copy that induces customers to buy products or take some kind of action.
Here are some “Do’s” of E-Commerce:
- Do include a link to the order page on every other page of your site.
- Do have the products on display in the right fashion with clear information and strong calls to action.
- Do tell the customer you are offering any post-sell service like free shipping and money-back offer.
- Do build in as much consumer choice, freedom and control over the process as possible, and include ample opportunity for them to bail out of a transaction before they are locked in.
- Do offer customers a choice in privacy matters. Ask them whether or not it is all right for you to send them emails on special sales or to share their e-mail address with your marketing partners.
- Do wait until the end to request credit card information.
- Do tell the customer your site is secure.
- Do wait until the transaction is complete to request survey data.
- Do cautiously recommend related items to go along with their purchases like a leather protection crème to go along with a pair of expensive dress boots.
- Do give the customer all your contact information and be sure to include a phone number.
- Do let them “like” you on Facebook.
Doing the little things can create an online purchase venture that is safe, informative, and customer friendly for viewers and will certainly go a long way to help your customers Buy! Buy! Buy!
The internet can be a scary place for a small business entrepreneur, especially if you are accustomed to doing business face-to-face. A number of studies show a well-built website will generate better customer traffic, lengthier landing times, and a well designed user interface will increase conversion – generating new business at an exponential rate.
Designing a website should tie into brand recognition. This will allow your customers to recall your competitive advantage and any relationship they have built with your company. The same consistency that you designed into your business cards, brochures, labels, etc. should be incorporated into your website.
The design of your website therefore should be an extension of the corporate brand including colors, logo, and the overall look and feel. Don’t forget to include your corporate slogan if you have one. Branding builds trust and recall among your customers, and it’s not just for big businesses.
Effective website design can, in some cases, project to the customer the quality of your business. If it is user friendly, clear in its value proposition, consistent in its layout and visuals, and uses color to generate emotions then it is quite possible the customer can be subtly convinced that your company provides a quality service or product superior to competition.
Here are some ideas for you to consider when designing your website or freshening an existing one:
- Set up your website with white or very light backgrounds with black or other dark colored text.
- Use Verdana or Ariel fonts.
- Navigation bars should be horizontal; typically running across the top of the home page.
- Links should run down the left or right hand side of the page.
- If you do not have a specific color associated with your company, then do research on colors and the corresponding emotions they elicit. Colors have the ability to make one feel happy, sad, uncomfortable, nervous, trusting and a lot more. And if the color is not given enough thought, it may put across a wrong image about the company.
- Make all your pages consistent with the Home page. This should include layout, colors, logo, and font.
- Do not try to provide a lot of information and a call to action on one page. It is better to have an extra tab than to force a customer to read an overload of content before asking for the order.
- Make sure your site is designed to load quickly.
- Complete a spell check!
- Solicit feedback about your design.
Finally, here is a link to a site that provides a list of bad design features. http://www.ratz.com/featuresbad.html
These are basic ideas and by no means are they the opinions of a professional web designer. But one thing is certain; designing a website is not a one-time event but rather an extension of your corporate brand development. As your brand evolves so should the brand’s website. The proper design of your website can communicate quality, professionalism, the benefits of doing business with you, and a call to action. The design of your website can have a stunning impact on how your customers view your company and make it easy for them to recall the message your brand is communicating.
The purpose of every website is to stimulate action from the reader. In many cases it is to sell something. The reader can possibly order online, call for an appointment, or come to your shop with a coupon. Yet not every website is developed to sell something. But it does have a distinct purpose and should inspire a desired action from your reader.
Before developing a website you should sit down and think about what it will do for you and the reader. Will it sell a product? Will it sell a service? Will it provide useful content as its main purpose? Will it offer users a sense of community? You may offer both products and services and deliver useful content and provide a community – the question is – do your visitors understand clearly what it is that you have to offer them?
Navigation is critical when developing and planning your site. The layout lets viewers easily determine how to get from page to page and from product to order form. If it is difficult to navigate, then it will discourage visitors from returning and it will frustrate them. Just like in a brick and mortar store, you may never get a second chance to make a good impression on the web.
One way to start the navigation thought process is to think like your viewer. If possible, consult with users during the development of your website. Go and take a look at the competition. How easy is it to navigate their site? Are load times quick? Can I understand all the pictures and graphics? Is the menu intuitive? Do all the links work?
Here are terms to help you build a website that makes navigation a customer friendly process:
Toolbar/Menu- Typically a horizontal navigational bar running across the top of a web page enable the user to easily jump directly to specific departments or pages.
Icons- Small pictures or vignettes that designate and link to different areas on your site. This is an easy way to add interest and simplify navigation when used sparingly. Choose icon images carefully so that users will intuitively know what they mean.
Search engine- A search tool that enables viewers to pull up specific documents or products by key words or phrases.
Pop-up/Drop-Down menus- Allows viewers to choose from multiple options. Lists the items they want to view or purchase.
Frames- A design format that allows multiple pages (each with distinct URLs) to be viewed on a single screen. However, some viewers dislike frames because they divide the viewing areas and limit some of their navigational control.
“Most Popular Areas” listing- Shows new visitors what your top viewed pages are.
Glossary- Offers a brief explanation of terms found on your site.
Site Map- A fully expanded listing of the features in hierarchical order.
Image Maps- Large clickable graphics and pictures, sometimes making up the entire home page, that allows users to “click and go” to certain areas of the site. Sometimes image maps have very slow load times which can be customer unfriendly.
If your visitors grasp what you’re talking about and see links that help them move with ease around your website, then they will stay longer and come back more frequently. So for your website to be profitable, and that’s what being in business is all about, the viewer must be comfortable with getting information and taking action. The value of customer friendly site navigation then becomes quite evident.
Doing business on the web presents a whole host of issues and challenges. Creating a successful website is a process that requires patience and constant monitoring. Just like your business, a successful website includes business principles that define your target customer behaviors and lead them to take action. The fundamentals of launching a business are applicable to launching a website.
The first step is to answer the question: “What do I want my website to do for my business?”
Sell products or services? Increase awareness of my product or service? Provide content and information on a specific topic? Service my existing customers more effectively? The answers to these questions will generate your website strategy.
Sell products or services- You will have to establish an online store.
Increase awareness- Then you’ll want an informational website.
Content and information- Your website will be data driven and you’ll need to establish a content management
infrastructure and design.
Customer service- You will need an infrastructure and support team to respond to customers 24/7.
Here are some business principles that can make your e-commerce website professional and effective:
• A defined target audience that wants or needs your product or service
• A competitive advantage that sets you apart from your competition
• A marketing plan to let your audience know how to find you
• A business model and pricing plan that enables you to earn a profit
• A strong operational plan that manages such things as inventory, payment options, and customer service
Develop a strategic plan and think like the people who will visit your site. If possible, consult with users during the development to evolve it into a user friendly site.
Here are some items to consider when developing your site:
o Load Speed
o Ease of use and navigation
o Scope and quality of content
o Level of professionalism
o Special links
Visit competitor websites or businesses that are similar to yours. Find out what they do right and what they can do better.
A website should align with your business goals and each section should have a clear purpose. The world of virtual reality can become an extension of your business model and build a relationship with your customer. Just as you developed your business plan, a well thought out plan can assure you build a professional and effective website.
A good website entices visitors to return often to see what’s new. Encouraging your customers to bookmark your site is one way to get them to come back and make your website a Favorite.
Here are 6 things winning websites have in common:
• Websites are run by people who know what they want. Small business marketers who have successful websites have clear strategies, goals, and priorities.
• Websites use technology that’s appropriate to their mission. The options range from simple product illustrations to You Tube videos.
• Websites streamline design. The most important ingredients are clarity and ease of use.
• Websites make it easy to learn about the company. This is accomplished with two key pages: “About Us” which is a brief history and mission statement; “Contact Us” which should have a mailing address, e-mail, fax, and phone numbers.
• Websites change because the owners focus on marketing innovation. The innovations range from digital newsletters, online forums, and blogs to contests and relevant activities encouraging customer participation and loyalty.
• Websites are evaluated based on the ROI for the business. It is important to know just what you’re getting from all the time, money, and labor you invest into your website.
Another important action to implement when marketing on the internet is to stay up to date on your competition. Take a look every once in a while at the marketing message being displayed on your competitors’ website. Does your website match the ease of use and pertinent information the competition is displaying?
The visitors to your website are seeking information on the benefits your company can provide to satisfy their needs. Whether you are selling a service or a product, provide the pertinent information that will make it easy for them to buy from you.