We often hear that the internet is killing off the high street and there is no doubt that it’s certainly had an impact on how people shop but the demise of certain parts of the high street can’t be laid at the feet of one particular source, rather it’s a combination of many things, including:
- The historical focus on out of town shopping (location)
- An emphasis on using the motorist as a cash cow to offset austerity measures through ever increasing car parking charges
- Poor town planning
- Many retailers failing to adapt to the changing behavior of shoppers and carrying on with “business as usual”
- Lack of investment in refurbishment and design
- And of course the rise of online shopping opportunities
However, there are many successful businesses plying their trade out there in the high street and online marketers can learn a thing or two from these skilled operators.
We’ve highlighted 8 areas in particular that online marketers should be looking at.
- Treat your website like a high street shop
It doesn’t matter if you’re operating offline or online, you’re still in a competitive environment where you need to attract visitors. The high street is full of potential shoppers and provides many different spending opportunities. Smart stores make sure they’re in the right location, entice passing trade through the door by using their shop windows as a sales tool. If the window is dressed badly, we walk past, if it looks inviting then there’s a good chance that we’ll enter.
It’s the same with website design, you need to make sure it’s working for you. Firstly you need to get found by those browsing for what you have to offer and then you need to persuade them to click through via an appealing meta description. When they do click through the look and feel of your website plays an important part in whether visitors proceed deeper into the site or bail out. And various research shows that we only have a very short period to make a positive impact.
If your site was designed years ago, is very text heavy with poor imagery and doesn’t quickly convey how you can help, then perhaps visitors will “walk on by”.
- Don’t rely solely on your shop window
To maximize the opportunity of potential customers discovering where shops are and what they offer, many stores look at other marketing channels such as advertising, directories, direct mail, Google My Business and online marketing.
To attract visitors to your website you need to ensure it’s properly optimized to help the search engines find you but you should also be looking to pull searchers through to your site by using schema microdata mark up (talk to your web developer about this), taking a content marketing approach and blogging, creating articles, distributing that content across relevant social media platforms or advertising through Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
- Understand your audience
That sounds like a no brainer but I speak to many businesses and ask the question “who’s your ideal client”. Many reply with “We sell to anyone (with a pulse)” and of course they won’t turn business away but smart companies understand that they can achieve higher conversion rates with reduced marketing spend through appealing to a specific audience. So they concentrate on what they’re good at and position themselves as specialists in a specific sector.
Your website home page and landing pages need to be able to explain what you do and how you can help within a few seconds. The services you offer should be focused on your core competencies. Don’t spread your resources too thin, concentrate on your niche and strive to be the best. If you need to supplement services through a complementary offering it may be best to outsource it directly or via a white label agreement.
- Tell don’t sell
When we enter a store generally a salesperson will approach and ask “can I help you” and normally we say no, just browsing. On the occasions when we’re interested in a purchase and would like more information we’ve all been put off by the heavy emphasis on buying the additional warranty package.
But if when we entered the store and the salesperson approached and said “Hi great to see you, thanks for visiting, have a look around, help yourself to the coffee it’s set to free vend. If you need any help just come over and see me. Then we’d all feel more comfortable as we browsed without any pressure and would probably hold the store in high regard (and come back).
Most visitors to your website won’t be in buying mode, they’ll be browsing or researching your products and services. So don’t try and get them to make a purchase as soon as they land on your home page. Make sure to provide the information they need at all stages of their buying journey. Yes, they may want to purchase immediately so make it easy for them to buy or to get the information they need but don’t push for a sale at every opportunity.
- Make things easy to find
Stores come in all shapes and sizes but most offer good lighting; clear passageways and prominent signage to help visitors quickly find what they’re looking for.
Your website navigation needs to be clear and concise, don’t hide information away or make visitors jump through hoops to get to their destination. Make sure your colours, fonts and banners stand out and convey the appropriate messages.
- Cross sell and up sell
MacDonalds make a lot more profit from asking us “do you want fries with that” or persuading us to “Go Large” and many retailers take the opportunity to cross sell and upsell at point of sale (ever been to Sports Direct?). In addition they create other opportunities to pull us in by providing complementary services such as in-house coffee shops and restaurants.
Online stores such as Amazon are great at this by creating bundles, showing us what other shoppers bought together with the item we placed in the basket. In many cases the bundled items are discounted.
We don’t all sell online but most searches made on the internet are for local enquiries. Many of these are to find store or company location and 80% of these searches are actioned within an hour. In the search results Google pulls additional information from our site and highlights this as shown below. We can take advantage of this through Google My Business and Google+ reviews. We can also make the web visitor aware of other complementary products and services we offer by providing links to those web pages within the page content.
- Take advantage of all touch points
When leaving the shop (whether we purchase or not) the shopkeeper may call out “please call again” and remind us that if we want to be kept up-to-date regarding their special offer events then we can fill in the form including our email address. A shop I recently visited took this to the next level when they asked me if I wanted my receipt emailed to me.
On your website it’s important that you take the opportunity to explain to visitors what you’d like them to do next through a Call To Action (CTA). They may not buy but you can offer them the option to sign up for your weekly blog or regular enewsletter. The provision of their email address allows you to continue the engagement process. I offer this option through my Digital Journey sign up.
And don’t forget to take advantage of any sign ups by having a Thank You page that provides additional opportunity to engage.
A colleague of mine, Chris Menlove-Platt is forever telling me that it’s not about what you tell people, it’s about how you make them feel. This is what they remember. Not everyone buys on a first visit but we want them to come back again so it’s important that we provide a great online experience.
- Remember it’s no longer business as usual
The behavior of shoppers is rapidly evolving driven by easy access to digital technology and the ubiquitous mobile device most people carry. People search online to buy but also to find shops and businesses to visit. Canny marketers understand that people searching for solutions to their problems flit between the offline and online world and maximize the opportunities to touch those prospects wherever they search or visit.
But at the end of the day it’s a busy world out there and businesses need to stand head and shoulders above the competition. The businesses that are thriving don’t offer “me too” products, services or experiences, they’ve established their own voice, culture and service ethos and understand that they need to invest in the buyer evolution. Every business needs a plan that creates the balance between the offline and online marketing world and offers a platform to help them stand out from the crowd.
The best way to do this is through a content marketing approach.
So find your niche, raise your voice, create your content and get heard through a mix of traditional and online channels. If you don’t have an opinion, why should we listen?
To find out more about how a content marketing approach can help your business grow, get in touch. Call 01803 413481 or email email@example.com