The Zen of Successful Business Websites
In this article we’re going to talk you through what makes a successful business website and how to make yours the best it can be: to outstrip your competitors and ensure your products and services are seen by your potential customers.
It’s easy for web development companies to offer the world, promise top search engine rankings within a short timescale, whilst cutting corners and not optimising your web presence. So having some knowledge up your sleeve will mean you’ve got the edge when it comes to choosing a web designer and negotiating a contract with them.
We’re going to talk you through what a successful business website is, what it can mean to your business to have a website that is easy to use and update, and how to ensure your website can stand the test of time.
What is a Successful Website?
There are many possible definitions of ‘success’ when it comes to websites, but most web developers and business owners will agree that it comprises some or all of these factors:
- A website that generates more enquiries, leads and ultimately sales: all the other factors we will discuss feed into this. In the end, the ultimate goal of any business website is to encourage those who visit to commit to a purchase. So if your website achieves everything else in terms of success but doesn’t deliver on this, it’s back to the drawing board.
- A website that enables you to develop great relationships with your customers is a success
- Websites are considered to be successful when they encourage those who visit to do something while they’re there: for example, download a document, sign up for a monthly newsletter, subscribe to the blog, or engage with the advice forum.
- If a website misses golden opportunities to collect data and information about visitors / subscribers, such as their contact details, their preferences and interests, it is not as successful as it could be.
- A website is considered to be successful if it works to enhance or promote your company brand, and is congruent with your other channels of communication (printed material for example)
Leading Customers to Enquire and Make a Purchase
The key to this is navigation: if your website is easy for customers to move round and find what they are looking for, you’ve done half of the work for them and it’s easy for them to follow through and make a purchase. Things that could hold up this process include a poor link structure, lack of a site map, unclear product descriptions, lack of information about delivery charges and returns policies, and accessibility issues for those who have disabilities. Addressing all of these things systematically can give your website the edge you’re looking for and make it a breeze for customers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to buy your products online!
Relevant, up to date and accurate information on products and services: the key to getting people to buy online is reducing their reluctance. It’s still seen as a slightly risky business to buy online unless it’s with a huge global company. Ways to reduce customer reluctance to follow through with a purchase include:
- Accurate product descriptions
- Clear, high quality photographs of products to make them seem more immediate and ‘real,’ clear
- Easy to find information on returns policies and shipping costs (offering free returns, postage and packaging is a great way of encouraging people to buy)
Testimonials / customer reviews and social proof: another effective way of reducing people’s ‘fear’ of buying online is to include meaningful customer reviews. Don’t be tempted to make them up, but instead ask your customers for feedback and tell them you’ll enter them into a prize draw/offer them a % off their next purchase, to encourage them to post.
Make sure your forms are accessible and easy to use: forms where new customers fill in their details, their passwords and address, must be easy to use and show errors in real time, so that if, for example, there is an error such as a password that is entered incorrectly or is too short, a notice appears to guide the visitor and help them correct the error. Forms are vital because if they are not easy to use, customers may abandon a sale, no matter how far along they’ve come in the purchasing process.
How to Develop Relationships with Your Customers Online
Offer clear and tangible benefits: in your product descriptions, make it clear (preferably in a bullet list that is quick and easy to read) how your product can benefit the customer. Anything that saves them time, money or promotes the health and happiness of themselves and their friends / family is going to be a clear winner.
Make your contact details easy to find and enable customers to get in touch in a variety of ways, especially out of hours: nobody shopping online expects a company (especially a small to medium one) to be answering the phone at 11pm, but make it clear on your website that if customers email you with an enquiry or fill in an enquiry form, you will get back to them as a matter of priority.
Get to know them: cross selling and upselling : it’s good to get a balance here: customers don’t like to feel that they’re being ‘spied’ on but they often do appreciate you taking an interest in their likes and preferences. So for example if you’re having an offer on certain items that you know they have bought before (or similar), they may appreciate you dropping them an email and letting them know.
Make them feel that they are valuable : offer loyal or first-time customers something that is genuinely useful and no obligation. A voucher for % off their next purchase, a promotion code, an invite to a free event, anything to keep them in the loop and turn them from a potential to a loyal customer.
Introduce your team so that they can put a face to a name : it’s a great idea to get professional photographs taken of your team (depending on the nature of your business) so that people feel they can relate to you more easily.
Make it personal: if customers subscribe to your newsletter or updates, it’s a good idea to address them personally in your communications: instead of ‘Dear Customer’ use their first name.
How to Make Your Calls to Action Clear
We said earlier that websites which encourage visitors to do something while they’re there are successful, so how do you ensure they follow your lead?
The clear answer is calls to action.
Calls to action are best the bigger, brighter and bolder they are generally: the visitor should be in no doubt which route you wish them to take. Calls to action such as ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Sign me up’ are good examples.
Reduce the risk with your calls to action: if your call to action relates to a newsletter, for example, give a clear message next to the call to action for them to ‘sign up’ that you guarantee you will not send SPAM or pass on their details to third parties.
Signpost calls to action with clear benefits: ‘Sign up now’ (for your free voucher), for example. This maximises the chances that you will get more visitors to follow your suggestion.
Collect Valuable Information
This can be a tricky one but if you do it right you will generate more leads and more loyal customers. Remember that people when signing up or subscribing as a new customer do not wish to spend hours filling in questionnaires and forms online.
Make your sign up quick and simple: just get their name and their email address: having these two details means you can then send them upcoming offers etc, and until they trust you as a company they will be reluctant to give more than this initially.
Make sure it is clear that you won’t pass on their details to any third parties unless they have opted in.
Having a clear data protection policy on your website can help to forge trust and make customers more likely to share their details with you.
Enhance Your Brand on Your Company Website
Did you know that the ‘About Us’ page on any business website is the one that is viewed the most? Use this opportunity to communicate who you are, what you stand for and what your company history is in a clear and informative way.
Make sure your company logo is visible on every page of your website and especially prominent on your home page.
You can communicate your brand effectively with the style of content you post. Depending on the nature of your business, you can gauge the formality or informality of your writing style and how you address your customers.