By Doris Valade, Business & Leadership Coach, April 2021
Fourteen months in and the pandemic continues to affect the way we do business. As a business owner, you faced many challenges through 2020 and this continues in 2021. At first, the big question was “will my business survive?” As vaccines slowly arrive, you’re probably shifting your focus to look at how to grow your business in the new normal. One of the most dramatic changes during the pandemic has been the end of in-person sales calls. Since in-person activities will likely be slow to resume and travel will remain restricted, who will promote your brand? Who will reach out to your customers? How will you maintain those important connections? One of the most valuable members of your sales team is one that some
of you may have overlooked or underestimated for years. It’s not a who, however; it’s a what! It’s your website. Today, a business website is more important than ever.
Historically, retail was a brick-and-mortar location with walk-in customers. The advent of social media encouraged a gradual transition to online shopping. During the pandemic, this growth has accelerated as social restrictions forced a rapid move to online shopping and curbside pick-up. In 2021, as we move toward a new normal, it will pay dividends to think of your website as your digital storefront. Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44.0% year over year, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. That’s the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth in at least two decades. It’s also nearly triple the 15.1% jump in 2019. New figures from Statistics Canada show online retail sales rose 110.7% year-over-year in January 2021 compared to January 2020 in accounting for 7.8% of total retail trade. So it’s time to ask yourself … is your best virtual salesperson ready for business?
When’s the Last Time You Showed Your Website Some Love?
Many business owners put up a website, then give it little thought and very few updates over the years. While social media should be part of your integrated marketing strategy, your website remains your calling card. Social media’s job is to drive customers to your website. When they land, your website provides the content they need to make buying decisions. Your website is a vital connection to your brand and its business. Just like with an in-person sales call appearance matters, and you don’t have long to make a good first impression. Ask your sales team and a few of your best customers to provide feedback on your website. Here are a few key things for you (and them) to consider:
Is your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) working well?
How do you know if it’s working? In a web browser, type a few key words that describe your products or type of business and location (e.g., deli, butcher shop, meat products, Toronto). Does your business show up on the first page of the search? If not, you need to improve your
SEO. This will increase visibility of your website. If your customers do a google search, you want your business and its products or services to show up if not first, at least ahead of most of the competition. Here’s a great link to learn more about SEO: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-101/
Is your website visually attractive?
Is it well branded? Does it look current or is it outdated? Think colours, fonts, images, content.
Is it easy to move around on your website?
Websites must be customer friendly. Pages should load quickly and when customers move from page to page there should be no error messages. Is your home (landing) page uncluttered and easy to read? Is the navigation menu intuitive? Does your opening page tell a story about your company — one that engages visitors and draws them in to learn more (see Content comments farther below)? Equally important, is your website compliant for customers with disabilities?
Is your website mobile friendly? In 2020, the number of unique mobile internet users stood at 4.28 billion, indicating that over 90 percent of the global internet population use a mobile device to go online. Make sure that your website renders cleanly across all devices — laptops, mobile phones, iPads, tablets.
Don’t neglect the “Contact Us” page!
This is an important page. Does it work smoothly? Is it friendly to use? How quickly do you respond when a customer reaches out to you? Superior customer service can be a key differentiator between you and your competition.
In real estate it’s location, location — on websites it’s all about content.
Make sure every piece of content on your website is high quality. Not only is this important for engaging customers, it’s also crucial to your website’s page ranking (SEO). There are loads of sites on the Internet to help you write good content. Read their tips or hire a professional copywriter.
Engage with customers in the ways they like to engage
Are you using SMS (short message service) marketing? SMS uses text messages to send promotional campaigns or transactional messages for marketing purposes. According to a statistics report from G2 Learning Hub₁, 42% of millennials check their text messages ten or more times per day on average. 50% of consumers say that they would opt into an SMS loyalty program if they were offered flash sales, deals or coupons. Learn more about SMS marketing: ₁
The pandemic has changed how consumers buy and how businesses sell. An engaging website opens the door to potential new customers and ensures lasting connections with current customers — this is true at any time, but will be particularly important going forward. Isn’t it time you showed your best virtual salesperson a little virtual love?
About Doris Valade
Doris has been involved in the meat and poultry industry for over 35 years. She has sat on the boards of Food & Beverage Ontario, the Canadian Meat Council, and the Canadian Spice Association. Doris has been included on the list of Profit magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs from 1999 – 2005 and again in 2016. Meat and Poultry Ontario recently awarded Doris the Lifetime Member Award for her outstanding contribution to the industry. Doris mentors and supports small business owners and entrepreneurs through the challenges of running their business.