Guest blog for Norfolk Chamber of Commerce: October 2016
Your website is often the first interaction you and your customers will have. But they are not just checking to see if you sell what they want. Your customers are exploring. They are gathering information about a product, but also about you. Before they buy, your customers want to feel happy about their purchase, more importantly, they want to feel that they can put their trust in you. But if your website is hard to navigate or too slow to load, then you could be putting off your customers, or even causing them to abandon their searches altogether – costing you vital business.
We’ll run through some easy steps you can take to make sure your website is helping rather than hindering your customers.
Make things easy and quick to find
One way to instil trust and make your customers’ lives easier is simply to give them what they want. Make it easy for them to navigate your website. Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what you like to find when you visit other businesses’ websites. What information do you want to find quickly without having to search the entire website? Try and place the answers to common queries people have about your business, such as your shop’s opening times, delivery options and customer service support, in prominent and easy to find locations that don’t require too many clicks to get to.
Think about how you can streamline common activities in order to get your customers in front of the products they want to look at quicker. Does you site include a search bar? Can you search for products by brand name, colour or size? Avoid visitors having to scroll through long boring lists. A good exercise is to have a friend who has never visited your website before try to find some of your most popular products. Ask them to rate how easy or difficult they find the experience and identify the steps or processes that frustrate them. If you have a few more friends repeat the same test and they encounter the same problems, then you know which areas need work. Alternatively, you can use online services, such as: www.whatusersdo.com and www.usertesting.com. This real user feedback will help you to make your website easier to navigate and boost your online sales. The very last people who should be checking your website for its responsiveness is you or your web developer, as you already know it inside out.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
For the past two years, more Internet searches have been conducted on smartphones than on desktops. Your customers can now be virtually anywhere when searching your website. However, all this new-found mobility and ever faster smartphones, means that those using their phones to browse the Internet now have higher levels of expectation. They expect to get the information they want quickly and easily, no matter which device they are using, or where they happen to be. That is why it’s so important to have a website that is ‘mobile-friendly’, especially if you are a local business looking to increase your footfall traffic. Simply adding your business to Google Maps will make you visible to anyone searching a map of your local area, regardless of what they are looking for. If a customer is looking for a particular product and spots your business on the map, then the chances are they will stop by. People on the go should be able to easily use your site and quickly find simple things like your address or opening times. Sending your customers through hoops just to find basic information will only frustrate them and perhaps even put them off your business altogether.
You might seem like you are casting your net in a very large ocean when it comes to attracting smartphone users, but people often prefer to deal with local businesses because of the personalised service they offer. Customers trust a local business more than a big corporation. But they won’t be able to drop by your shop if your business doesn’t show up in web searches or if your site is too frustrating to use due to poor design.
Is your website too slow?
Imagine a potential customer checking your website for the availability of a product. They are really keen to buy. They have come to town for the day to go shopping and they are currently browsing your site from a coffee shop down the street. However, your site is getting in their way and they are becoming frustrated. It takes ages to load and they have to scroll through lots of pages just to get to the product they want. Now think to yourself, would you bother with all that hassle, or would you just Google somebody else? Now your potential customer might pop by the shop anyway, but they also might decide that your poor performing website is a reflection of your business and its customer service and go elsewhere.
A slow loading website can cost you dearly – 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. But it gets even worse because a rather stunning 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with a website’s performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again. That’s a huge amount of people that are being put off your business simply because you haven’t considered your site from your customer’s point of view. Remember less traffic to your website means fewer customers.
How to speed up your website
Your business need not be a casualty of these horrible statistics. There are some simple steps you can take to make sure your website is up to speed. Firstly, you will want to check the speed of your website. You can do this by using some free online sites, such as Web Page Test or Google’s Page Speed Tools. These will provide you with a break down of what needs to be rectified to speed up your site and how high a priority these issues are. These tools are quite technical so you might want a web developer to take a look at them. They will also be able to do more complex things like compress files and tweak servers to gain more speed. But these tools give you a good general idea of what might need attention and where to focus your efforts. Businesses need to put quick websites at the top of their plans for the future, as these days it’s a critical factor in turning traffic into business. A poor performing website is costing you money.
Now you are aware of a few simple things you can do to make your website more attractive to your customers. Remember, a good website should make it easy for your customer to quickly find what they want. Now you are aware of what to look for, why not test your own site and see how it fares? And get in touch if there are any issues you need to resolve.