The following is adapted from Come Back to Bed.
In recent months when retailers across the country had to close stores due to the coronavirus pandemic, having an online store became essential to doing business. More and more, customers are coming to your website before they visit your store, if they even visit the store at all. Times have changed and today, your website is where a majority of customers will form their first impression of your business.
When it comes to the job your website is supposed to do, here’s the headline: be visible to shoppers searching for solutions, and make it easy to do business with your company. Another important thing your website should do is create trust. Jennifer Danko, founder of Site on Time and a division of Nationwide Marketing Group, says, “Ask yourself a simple question: based on our website, would someone shopping online have a favorable impression of our business?”
To accomplish these goals, your website should serve as your online store. It’s where customers can get a feel for your brand, learn your story and see what your business offers. By creating a website that acts as your online store, you’ll better market your business, increase visibility, and strengthen your customers’ experience with your brand. Here’s a few steps to take to turn your website into your online store.
Match the In-Store Experience
Your online store should replicate the experience you want customers to have in your store. Start by asking, are all the options available in-store also available online? It’s a simple question, but often difficult to investigate. Do the hard work.
For example, if you’re a mattress retailer, customers expect adjustable bases, remotes, and bed frames to be available for purchase on your website. Give shoppers the ability to purchase product protection. Let them easily buy and schedule white-glove delivery—if there’s an additional charge for shipping to a specific zip code, design an online experience that lets them pay that surcharge and schedule delivery. Make it easy. Every barrier to buying is a signal to consumers to bail and go somewhere that’s easier to do business.
There are two main ways to show inventory. First, you can show exact inventory. This makes some retailers nervous because inventory can turn quickly. If your site shows only one or two of an item left, it creates a sense of urgency. If you don’t want to show exact inventory, the second option is to categorize items as either in stock or quick ship.
When buying something they need right away, customers want to know what you have in stock. If a refrigerator breaks, the food will go bad. Someone buying a fridge needs one today and doesn’t want to view items that’ll take two weeks to get.
Inventory visibility increases sales and improves margins. If a consumer needs a product today, they’ll prioritize availability over price.
This goes back to mirroring the in-store experience. Online sales for many traditional retailers have been incremental. Years back, people never imagined buying cars online. Now it’s fairly common. There are even car vending machines.
Today, people are confident in making purchases online. Your job is to come up with ways to aid the customer by connecting them to the exact information they need to make the decision. For example, dimensions are a key factor for furniture and mattresses. The problem with online sales is that customers who are more apt to buy online are more likely to leave bad reviews. Call or communicate with the customer after they make larger purchases to ensure they have everything they need.
Many retailers overthink the website design and focus on inconsequential details. Most business owners want to make their site a little different. Customers want obvious and intuitive.
When looking at design, make sure it represents your company and matches your branding. Then make sure it’s user-friendly. Larger companies in your category have figured out designs that work. Don’t think so outside the box that people don’t know how to shop on your site. Don’t get bogged down in small details. Look at the overall experience. Some retailers want to do “daily deals.” People don’t visit independent retailers’ websites looking for daily deals. The customer wants to check if items are in stock; see current sales, rebates, and financing; and have a clear understanding of how delivery works.
Your online store should be priced to compete. Shoppers have options. Even if you feel your exclusive product commands a higher price, put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and find out if the online shopper would pay a premium. If you’re trying to sell $199 queen sets to compete against Amazon, you’ll likely lose—unless you create a winning strategy to upsell accessories and increase average tickets. Prices need to be competitive. And if you’re not offering the lowest price, make sure consumers understand the value added through service, delivery, financing, or other offers.
Be available in the channels where people want to communicate. Use messaging platforms like Podium to enable live chat and text capabilities. List a phone number on your website. Set up social messenger services. Give customers the ability to contact you in their preferred channels and staff those channels with people who respond immediately.
When customers set out to solve a problem, like the need for a new mattress, they want to solve it in the moment. They’re dedicating time now. The company that responds first wins.
Make the Shift
For retailers, selling online has long seemed counterintuitive because it’s not how they built their business. However, times have changed and today, having an online presence is essential to doing business.
Turning your website into your online store will enable you to better market your business and increase visibility. When your website is easy to navigate and clearly shows consumers what your business is about, customers will want to do business with you. Your website is a tool to establish trust and that’s what keeps people coming back.
For more advice on marketing your business, you can find Come Back to Bed on Amazon.
Mark Kinsley is President and CEO of Englander, a top-15 US mattress company founded in 1894. Furniture Today called him one of its “20 People to Watch,” and Home Furnishings Business recognized him as one of its “Forty Under 40.” Mark Quinn is the Co-Founder of Spink & Co, Farm-Grown Beds, and the VP of Key Accounts and Marketing for Sherwood Bedding. He’s a top industry blogger at Q’s Views and holds pioneering patents in biometric sleep-space technology. Together, they co-host Dos Marcos, The Galaxy’s Greatest Mattress Podcast (dosmarcos.co), with more than 195 episodes and hundreds of thousands of listens.