Telling a small business owner to "assume the perspective of your customer" is one of those classic easier said than done problems. It's not for lack of trying, but owning a small business isn't just a job, it's a way of life. And when you put that level of passion and dedication into something, your unique experience with it can be hard to shake.
Yet this is the easiest way to quickly optimize your website. By deeply considering your customer's perspective and buying journey, we can make decisions that put everything in the right place for the consumer to easily and quickly finish their interaction with your company and perhaps even leave a good review to boot.
While it's definitely essential to have each of these factors be part of your site, the specifics of their presentation need to be in consideration of your particular customer demographics. Most notably will be the difference between information on an online store, where the priority is to drive sales, versus a traditional brick and mortar business, where the top priority is to obtain them to come to you.
The Must Haves
Much of your web traffic will be coming from consumers looking to use your site as a tool to communicate with you. Whether by email, phone or in person, the information that helps them accomplish this needs to be a top priority. Placing an easily found "contact us" link in the top right corner of your website is never a bad move. But if your customers aren't internet savvy, consider putting your address, phone number and hours of operation directly on the home page. Also, if your business location is a little off the beaten path, consider using a map application on your site to help customers better understand your location.
This is a growing priority for small businesses online, as a huge number of searches now occur on mobile with the intent of "in the moment" product research, sometimes even in-store. This means that the more specific information you can have online about what you offer, the better. This might also lead to customer conversions while they are in a competitor's store.
Maintaining an up-to-date and functional product catalog online can be a lot of work, but it is most definitely worthy of consideration given the potential value. This is especially important if your demographic skews younger and more web savvy.
Give a quick, easy-to-find snapshot of your business and history available for people interested in knowing a little more about you. Keep in mind, if people are looking at this part of your website, they are likely close to purchasing. Be sure you put in a little marketing effort here to help seal the deal. Make it concise but include things like business history, location, relevant achievements and philosophy. It's also not a bad idea to include customer testimonials if you have them.
Quick links to social channels
Social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all great tools to help foster a direct line of communication between your business and its biggest fans. Your site should prioritize getting those follows and likes as easy as possible by installing a quick link widget into the footer or header of your website. That way, no matter where you customer goes on the website they are always one click away from connecting with you on Social.
It's becoming more and more common to see small businesses feature active content strategies and it's easy to see why:
- Content is authentic-- No one likes being sold to, and content is an excellent way for a business to develop a connection while leaving the hard sell on the shelf.
- Content is made for local-- A good content strategy can help a company establish itself as grounded in its area with genuine stories that are for and about their community.
- Content is hyper-targeted-- Based on how you responded to the first three questions your website, at least a little, is likely targeting consumers at a specific part of the sales funnel. Having a fully realized content strategy enables you to add balance to your website. For example, if your website is made to drive new sales, maybe the content can be targeted towards customer retention by adding value to those consumers already in the fold.
Easy content strategy win = how-to videos
These can be extremely effective and easy to make. Plus, producing how-to videos gives you the platform to demonstrate your expertise. Double-win if it's related to your business.
Putting it all together with design
When considering design and layout, it's totally appropriate to look at it as a chance to infuse some of your business's personality into your site's look and feel. But heed this warning: design is where it's most vital to consider the customer's perspective. Too often small business owners design a website that functions completely for themselves while forgetting to consider how it will work for their customers.
Here are two top level considerations when picking a design.
Mobile functionality is king
This has to be top of mind at every stage of design. While most modern design templates are mobile functional, it's worth taking second looks at the ones that do it best. And if you have not updated your website since the beginning of the smartphone, you may want to consider a redesign.
Keep it simple
You might have noticed that this article really pushes the need for priorities. With that in mind, think about putting only the most crucial information on the home page. Your home page should include easy links to: contact info, product information and business description. After that, it becomes really dependent on your goals and objectives. But when considering the point of view of your customer, oftentimes less is more.
Build for speed
By keeping things simple and prioritizing mobile functionality you are probably also building for speed. But this point is crucial enough that it bears repeating. Your website needs to be fast! According to a study from Forrester Consulting 40% of customers will wait no longer than 3 seconds of load time before leaving a retail site. As well, Google uses load time as a factor in determining your search rank so a slow website might also be keeping customers from finding you when they search online.
Overall, it's a pretty good time to be creating a website for your company. Hosting is affordable and secure, design templates have never looked better, and there is a lot of great content available to help guide you through the process. But if you are ever curious if your site is serving you well, just follow this tip from Kevin Lao at Google: take out your phone, pull up your site and ask yourself "do you like what you see?" Now visit your closest competitor's website and ask yourself the same question. Your response will tell you all you need to know.