Online retail is a market growing massively each year – it’s estimated that by 2014 it will be worth a huge £37.3 billion in the UK alone. For those in the corporate clothing and workwear industry, this means that there’s never been a better time to think about how the online branch of your business can become more profitable – whether that means revamping an existing website or building a brand new online shop.
Building the site
When it comes to building a website, businesses have two options – they can either hire a website designer or can use a do-it-yourself package like Mr Site Storefront, which is tailored to businesses who need a professional, flexible e-commerce channel they can update regularly.
If you decide to go for a designer, shop around – ask for examples of their work, get references and get a very clear quote for the work. Often designers charge for any changes after the initial build, and if you plan to change the content or add new products you need to know exactly how much you should expect to pay!
The do-it-yourself route is a very good solution for companies who want an online shop that looks extremely professional, but don’t want to pay a fortune. Not only is it cost-effective, but such packages are designed specifically to be used by anyone, regardless of their technical expertise (or lack thereof!). They offer a far higher level of control and flexibility, and a good package should come with a wide range of features designed to boost sales – things like reward schemes, customer accounts and product reviews.
Whichever option you go for, take time to browse through the sites of your competitors and make a wish-list of the features you’d like to include – then when it comes to choosing a package or designer, you’ll have a very clear idea of what you want.
Using your website to boost your branding
Your website is a crucial channel for reinforcing your company’s branding. Surprisingly high numbers of companies fall down when it comes to their online marketing, putting potential customers off with sites that are just far too busy or devoid of personality. You don’t need to make the same mistake!
A good trick is to try to distill the message you are sending out about your company into just three or four words. Once you have those, you will be able to think far more clearly about how you can transmit that ‘personality’ visually and in the tone of your copy.
Make sure your logo looks amazing and go for neutral background colours – this will ensure that your products and company brand stands out. Surfers are extremely visual so your images need to be outstanding; stock photo sites like www.gettyimages.com are a great option to illustrate content. Finally, remember visitors respond best to a few choice, punchy phrases rather than reams and reams of text, so keep it short and sweet!
Boost sales through a great user experience
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have to throw everything at your homepage in the vain hope something will stick. You’ve lots of great products and you want people to know about them all – but a bit of strategic thinking is generally better in the long run!
A good rule of thumb is to have one large section on the page directing customers to an area you want to push – perhaps a new product line or promotion – with three smaller sections beneath to areas of interest, like a blog, featured products or articles of interest. Remember, you can change these sections weekly or even daily; in fact, regularly changing your content makes it more likely visitors will return. Even if you have a huge product line, you don’t need a main menu that shows customers every single area you cover. It’s best to stick with perhaps five or six main categories, which are then broken down into sub-categories – for example, the main category is ‘Accessories’ and then the sub categories are ‘Work Boots’ , ‘Helmets’ and ‘Tool Belts’. This makes the navigation on the site far easier for customers and so it’s more likely they’ll stay on the site.
A site search engines love
Once you have your online shop, you want to get new customers. Online shoppers will generally turn straight to a search engine to find what they are looking for, particularly those trying to source business supplies – the search terms they type in are known as ‘keywords’.
Surfers don’t tend to look past the first couple of pages that a search engine throws up, so getting up those search engine listings – known as ‘organic’ search results – is crucial. It can seem like a huge challenge, but it is doable.
Our top tip for a quick win? Don’t go for the most competitive keywords – for example, ‘corporate clothing’ throws up nearly three million results. Aim for specific terms that indicate a potential customer is looking for exactly what you offer. So, the work-boot manufacturer in Harrogate could get some really hot leads by targeting ‘work boots Yorkshire’.
Include your keywords in your content, particularly in the main titles; make it natural but get them in there. Next, speak to your web designer about getting those keywords into the coding of your site – or check that your do-it-yourself package has search-engine-optimising (SEO) tools included. Finally, refresh your content regularly, as search engines give higher rankings to sites that are updated.
And that’s about it…
Well, okay, that’s not it at all, but it’s a start, hopefully of lots more sales and a whole host of new customers discovering your business. Final piece of advice? Move with the times. E-commerce is an incredibly exciting sector that’s always innovating – businesses that keep an eye on the changes will be the best placed to secure their position in the market.