Clearly, businesses need a website. Regardless of how prospective customers hear about your particular enterprise, many will check your website before deciding to purchase. In some ways, a website has become an electronic "business card." And if you don’t have one, your business may not be seen as legitimate.
At a minimum, you’ll want to make sure that your website covers the basics, meaning your company name, contact information (typically email, phone, and address) and a statement about what you do and for whom. Further, the URL should be easily connected to your business name and as concise as possible. Websites that carry the dotcom suffix are preferable, but you can use other suffixes such as dot net.
Beyond the basics, what you include should reflect what you are trying to accomplish. Here are several possible objectives.
1. Entice people to come to your retail establishment.
You will need to entice people to visit your site, provide them with an easy means to get there and, possibly, have them lock in an appointment. To build the desire to visit, many websites offer pictures and/or videos of the establishment and product or the result of the service. For example, restaurant websites often show pictures of the dining room and the food. Menus and wine lists are frequently available.
Once a prospective customer decides to visit, the business should make that step as easy as possible. At a minimum, provide an address. If getting to your place is tricky, explain the nuances. Use a well-known landmark if one exists. Show driving directions and link to a map app. Explain how to use public transportation. Make finding your establishment easy.
Finally, if an appointment or a reservation is appropriate, say at a hair salon or a restaurant, give people the opportunity to create it on your website.
2. Get prospective customers to contact you.
This may be done via a phone call, email or a “contact us” page on the website. Just as you might convince people to visit a retail location, you should make prospective customers want to call. Focus on the results you’ll deliver (e.g., weight loss, increased profitability, a more attractive appearance, etc.).
Prospective customers will want to know "what’s in it for me." Case studies that demonstrate how you have delivered value to others can be effective, as can testimonials delivered via quotes or videos. People want assurances that they are making the right decision to use your product or services.
3. Allow a business to contact prospective customers.
If you have an effective email marketing platform, getting prospective customers to give you an email address can be gold. This allows you to market directly. Sometimes, websites are designed to capture mailing addresses, to fuel direct mail campaigns or obtain telephone numbers that can be used for outbound solicitations.
Often, to get something you want, you’ll have to give something of value. For example, you might offer to give the results of a free diagnostic test in order to get prospective customers to provide an email address.
4. Facilitate the selection of a product/service.
Sometimes, websites will allow prospective customers to see enough information to develop a strong hypothesis regarding what they’ll purchase. For example, automobile dealerships frequently provide detailed specifications and even allow visitors to view their inventory. We found the last car we purchased online.
And, after a quick test drive, we bought it. Short of something unexpected occurring when we saw the car in person, we the buyers considered the sale closed at the online stage.
5. Sell online.
You will need an effective ecommerce platform. There are many to choose from at a wide variety of points. You’ll also need a way to deliver the product or service. Ensure that your offerings are easy to find, the benefits of purchasing are clearly described and the ordering process is as simple as possible.
Finally, you’ll need to drive large volumes of people to your website. Online marketing is a numbers game -- think thousands of visitors per month if not tens or hundreds of thousands.
When designing your website, then, start with the end in mind. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish, and design your website to deliver this result.