By Pam Neely
In the online world, your sales competition is just a click away. What’s worse is that your shopper is impatient, and you have but seven seconds to convince him or her that your website is different from all the rest. Despite these challenges, there are several simple things you can do to convey your store’s brand and attract customers. The following six strategies will help ensure your website is appealing to consumers:
1) Define your unique selling proposition. When you were creating your business plan, you probably wrote a short description of what was going to make your store different. A unique selling proposition, or “USP,” is a one or two sentence description of what makes your store unique. Your USP is basically the DNA of your brand, and it will build your audience. In turn, knowing your audience will help determine the look of your website, its content and functionality. For example, whether you show your store’s phone and fax numbers, or its Facebook page, will be decided by your USP. Stay true to your USP and you’ve won half the battle of branding your site.
2) Optimize the navigation. The items you list in your site’s navigation convey a lot about who you are. Keep your navigation lists to three to seven items. Any more, and your visitors’ eyes will glaze over. Any less, and the items will look unattached. The most popular web pages on your site should be listed higher in the navigation bar. Look at your website’s analytics reports for this information.
3) Convey your brand identity in the naming of your navigation elements. Some pages, like “Contact,” “About” and “Privacy,” should use conventional names. Other pieces of copy, however, like the prompt to sign up for your email list, can have some personality. Whether that wording should be playful, serious or simple will depend on your brand. Remember, if you get too creative, people won’t understand, and will find it difficult to use your site.
4) Don’t use generic images or too much stock photography. Sure, it’s easy to grab some public domain photographs and put them up on your site. Despite how attractive the models look, photos of your store and your employees will have a far stronger connection with your visitors than picture-perfect models.
5) Post a video. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be worth a million. Your videos do not have to be television quality, and some lack of polish may actually make them more believable. An iPhone is perfectly acceptable for taking videos. Test different backgrounds in your store and try different lighting. A few bright floor lamps strategically placed and blended with some natural light is all you need. Take several different shots and pick the best one. Talk to the camera like you were talking to a customer. You don’t need a script. The experience you’ve gained by all those hours helping customers will come through. If you can, include customer testimonials.
6) Avoid lengthy content. Web shoppers know what they are looking for, and they don’t want to wade through wordy paragraphs to find it. Be pithy and to the point. Your website copy is critical. Ideally, your copywriter should have strong search engine optimization (SEO) skills, and write copy that is persuasive, not pushy. You must have a consistent voice in all your branding. You can use all the materials you’ve created for your social media sites, direct mail and other marketing materials. In fact, it’s best to consider those other channels as you brand your website. It will give you a constant brand image, and save time and money.
Once you’ve addressed these six items, you will have a website with a strong selling proposition that stands out from the competition. An Internet retailer’s website is a key branding opportunity, and by incorporating the best practices outlined here, you’re sure to have a profitable outcome.
Pam Neely is a copywriter and content strategist for Internet retailers. She is a huge fan of email, and likes to split-test everything. Learn more about Pam at PamNeely.com, or follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.