Being that we are a branding and web design company located in Cleveland, Ohio, our team members often come in touch with local businesses in their off time. There are times where one of us will send out a “have you seen XXXXX’s website?” referring to a local Cleveland, or Northeast Ohio business several of us may regularly visit. As the link circulates, we’ll constructively critique everything from brand and messaging, to web design and user experience. What we often see from our local businesses is a lack of appreciation of web design and its impact on customer perception. Although many of the concepts discussed in this article apply to businesses across the board, as Clevelanders we feel the need to stress the importance of web design to our local businesses.
We regularly hear small business owners say “our customers know our business/company, what’s the point in investing in a better website/brand?” That statement/question may be partially valid. It is true that some existing clients will not be impacted by your company’s brand or web presence. This set of clients is comprised of loyal, repeat customers that will continue to be as such going forward. We’ll concede this for now, even though one could argue that ANY client is just one degree of separation away from being “taken” by a competitor, but let’s leave that for now.
Even if a small business owner believe in their ability to retain existing clients independent of how their brand is perceived by their target audience as a whole, it’s imperative to admit that a business is not likely to succeed without acquiring new clients. Over time, every business has a certain attrition rate. If that rate is not, at the very least. matched with new customers, a significant impact on a company’s bottom line should be expected.
Whether you’re a jewelry store, a clothing store, landscaping company in Cleveland, you are your website. It’s very likely that a potential new client does not know your history, does not know you personally, and very often HAS NOTHING BY YOUR WEB PRESENCE TO JUDGE YOU BY. If I encounter a brand/company for the first time online, I will extend my first impression of the website to my exceptions of the company.
If I search for “Men’s Clothing Cleveland Ohio”, I get a listing of everything from nation-wide chains to specialty, Cleveland-based men’s clothing stores. Behaving as a common web user would, I am likely to click on the first 10 or so results, until I find what I’m looking for.
What do you think will influence my decision? There may be many things that are important to me:
If I get a website that looks like it was designed in 1980, I will expect to find outdated clothes in the store. If the website is difficult to navigate, I will conclude that my experience at the store will not be efficient and pleasant. If a website is impressive, slick, and easy to navigate, I will translate that into a perceived positive buying experiences.
We previously discussed Decision Influencers in Web Design Architecture, identifying various factors that influence buying behavior. In order to get to the point where a potential client is making a buying decision, you must first engage them.
From our years of experience, we know that there are several element which are paramount to a successful and engaging website. We must have clear and concise navigation, keep the website simple – design for the lowest common denominator, highlight Calls-to-Action, provide valuable content and present it in a way that appeals to our visitors. If we do this, we know that we are more likely to create an engaging environment which allows us to convert a potential new client, into a real one.
Cleveland is a mid-sized city surrounded by many large suburbs. A rich history of personal relationships is intertwined in many small- and medium-size businesses. So the first step is to make your business website personal. Place a great deal of attention on humanizing the buying process and promote the personal aspect of your approach as a differentiator.
Many businesses place a strong focus on highlighting products. While shopping carts and product galleries have become a staple of many websites, it’s important to understand that presentation is at the heart of success. You may have great products, but posting cellphone photos of your products in poor lighting conditions reflects a certain value that may not match that of your offerings. A company that presents a beautiful website is promoting the high value of it’s products.
Finally, we must examine our target audience. Is our audience looking for a high tech, sleek product, or for something that is environmentally conscious and sustainable? Each target market will demand a different look and feel to be communicated by the website. The appropriate brand must be developed to appeal to the right target audience, and make them feel at home on your website. This “feeling” will increase the likelihood that they stay on your website and choose to buy from your local business.
What makes a small business website stand out and encourage buying behavior? There are certain fundamentals which should be incorporated into every web design layout. However, a templated approach is rarely appropriate as each brand requires unique considerations. Make your website personal, highlight your products or service’s value and consider your target audience in presentation and you will have a better chance of engaging your website visitors and promoting buying behavior.