Why do you need an online storefront in 2021?

Originally published on LinkedIn, December 17, 2020.

An online storefront is the online face of your enterprise. The past year has forever changed the way we do business. Your website is often the first and only contact consumers have with you. It is more important than ever for entrepreneurs to have a high-quality, professional website.  

In today’s ever-changing business environment, it is necessary to think outside-the-box in order to meet the needs of your customers or clients. Everyone from retailers to restaurants to service providers have rushed to modify their business plan to include an online sales and service option. Many entrepreneurs have either added an online storefront to their existing business or replaced their brick-and-mortar store entirely with an online storefront. 

Whether you are designing your own site or hiring a design firm, keep in mind that your website will be most people’s primary point-of-contact. You wouldn’t want your brick-and-mortar storefront to be dilapidated, with peeling paint and leaky plumbing, nor do you want your online storefront to be second-rate. Just as you invest money in the upkeep of a building, you should invest in upkeep of your website. 

In today’s global economy, you are no longer just competing with the guy across the street. Your website is compared to everyone in your industry worldwide. Even if you are a local or regional business, customers who Google your keywords are going to get hits nationally or internationally.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to build, own, and maintain a high-quality website that can hold its own in the online marketplace. Hundreds of website development companies are competing for your business. These companies know that the easier their software is to use, the more likely people are to choose them over one of their competitors. This is a win for entrepreneurs seeking to create or update an online storefront.

If your company already has a website, this is a good time to give it a review.

Here are a few areas to consider:

1) Is your content consistent with your current mission, values, programs, and/or products?

You don’t want to advertise products you no longer carry. Nor do you want to have old marketing copy or an outdated mission statement on your website.

2) Are the staff bios on your About page current?

Has someone in your company retired since your website went live? Have you expanded your staff? Are the photos dated? In a time when we are all feeling a little disconnected with other people, seeing a face and sharing a human connection, even if it’s only a photo and a brief bio, helps build relationships with online customers or clients.

3) Are your blog posts up-to-date?

It’s so easy to write a blog post, then walk away from it forever. But keep in mind, a new visitor to your site is seeing all of your content for the first time. If you haven’t revisited your blog since 2016, it might be a good idea to update your posts. Once a post has been updated, you can note an “originally published” date, as well as an updated date. This indicates to your customer that your business is current and thriving.

4) Are your photos a current representation of your products or services?

Having outdated photos is an immediate turn-off to potential clients and customers. Photos should compliment your content, be consistent with your branding, be modern, and accurately reflect your business.

5) Is your branding up-to-date?

Did you change your logo and/or color scheme since your website was last updated. It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses hire someone to update their brick-and-mortar storefront with new signage and interior decorating, but they neglect to update their website. Your virtual storefront should mirror the experience your customers or clients have in your in-person offices or store.

6) Is your contact information correct?

Another common mistake is failing to update your website when you change business locations, phone number, or email address. If a customer or client can’t reach you at the information provided on their website, they are likely to move on to one of your competitors.

If you don’t already have a website, now is the time to invest in one.

In 2020, we all learned that it is entirely possible to almost never leave the house. We can order food, clothing, and household supplies online. We can meet therapists, watch worship services, and have drinks or play board games with our friends online. In many instances, we can even visit the doctor online.

Now that we’ve realized the possibilities, the move towards online services and commerce is only going to increase. Certainly, we can expect an increase in in-person group activities once the pandemic is behind us. But in many industries, the days of running a business as a strictly in-person enterprise are over.

In almost all cases, the day has come where a lack of website, or a sorely outdated or sloppy website, is a serious detriment to your business.

If you are overwhelmed by the prospect of building a website, hire a professional.

It’s time to start treating your website like any other crucial element for the success of your business. Unless you are really handy with tools, when the pipes blow in your brick-and-mortar storefront, you call a plumber. Unless you are a marketing professional, an experienced writer, an SEO specialist, and a website designer, you need to hire an expert to build your online storefront.

Whether you need your current website updated, or you are starting from scratch, I’d love to work with you. Not sure if your website needs an upgrade? I’d be happy to look it over for you and make some suggestions.

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