Treat Your Website Like a Second Store

Building an effective website requires the same professionalism and expertise as building a physical store. So why leave it to amateurs?

Words by Ryan Atkinson

As a retailer, you know how significant your decisions are when selecting a location for your store, planning the interior layout and design of the space, and choosing the right people to help you bring your vision to life.

In today’s retail environment, these choices are just as critical when you’re setting up and maintaining your website. A recent report indicates that more than 70% of shoppers engage with multiple channels on the path to purchase. The overwhelming majority of your customers are checking out both your online and your physical store, making your website buildout as important as your brick-and-mortar buildout.

Choosing Your Neighborhood
Where you’re going to start laying bricks is the first decision that you need to make when opening a new store. When choosing a location for your physical store, you consider everything from the quality of your neighbors to the safety of the neighborhood. You want neighbors who are thriving businesses that are likely to bring potential customers to your area, and you want to be in a neighborhood that allows your customers to feel secure when visiting you.

Choosing your neighborhood is like choosing your online platform. Does your service provider position you to generate quality traffic? Is your service provider partnered with like-minded businesses in your industry, giving you access to expert advice from a collective knowledge pool and valuable cross-promotional opportunities? Is the environment secure, allowing your visitors to patronize you with confidence?

The Buildout
Once you’ve settled on the perfect location, it’s time to plan your buildout. Your list of decisions includes:

  • What kind of fixtures do you need or want? Are you happy throwing a coat of paint on the existing cash wrap, or do you want to rip it out and build something brand-new that’s unique to your business?

  • What products or brands are you going to stock, and how should they be merchandised?

  • What services are you going to offer? Where will these services be located in the shop, and how are you going to explain them to your customers?

  • What kind of signage do you need? Do you want to design a few custom pieces that highlight your brand identity, or should you start out with standard wayfinder signs to help your customers find the basics?

These questions are very similar when you’re planning your website buildout. In the physical space, this planning takes the form of blueprints and paint samples. In the digital world, these steps involve content outlines and design mockups.

Just as you’d hire an architect to draw up your blueprints, digital content strategists and designers are best suited to planning your website (and, in fact, we have a team of them standing by, ready to learn about your business priorities in order to plan and lay the foundation for your online store).

Under Construction
Okay, so you’ve got a plan. Now who’s going to build it?

While you may be tempted to install those new light fixtures or try your luck with those “interesting” plumbing issues, your time and effort is probably better spent on business operations, like purchasing new product, training your staff, and growing relationships with your customers.

Similarly, the best thing that you can do for the efficiency of your business is to work with a team of marketing professionals who can handle the details of installing a website template, configuring your site settings, and building your content rather than spending your valuable time on these tasks.

By delegating to experts in their respective fields, you’ll end up with a professional looking space, in your store and online, and you can focus on the things that you do best as an independent bicycle retailer.

Ongoing Maintenance
You have a beautiful new or redesigned space. Now what?

In your shop, you have daily, weekly and monthly tasks for your staff, including basic cleanup and restocking to remerchandising your displays as new product arrives and aging product moves to the sale rack.

Your website requires the same attention. From maintaining your integrations to ensure the best shopping experience for your online visitors to refreshing your homepage content to feature your latest arrivals, a professional marketing team (hint: we have one!) can help keep your online storefront as tidy, timely, and welcoming as your local brick-and-mortar store.

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This post was authored by Ryan Atkinson, President and Co-Owner of SmartEtailing. SmartEtailing provides website, marketing, and data solutions to help independent bicycle retailers compete in an evolving retail world.