11th November 2014
The Time Of Easy Success Online Is Over
So while today it’s possible to create a DIY business website from a free web design service, or at least get a new website at bargain basement prices, there are sound reasons to be wary. Sales and growth do not miraculously appear any more in the now mature World Wide Web, without strategy and expertise.
Google says that the web now has 30 trillion individual pages, that’s up an amazing 30 times in five years, and according to Alexa there are over 180 million active websites. What’s more, the number of new websites appearing is rising exponentially due to the increasing ease of creating websites. What this means for businesses is that the World Wide Web is, and will, become more and more competitive. The job of selling your goods and services online, unless they are very niche, is getting much harder.
No Short Cuts
From around 1999 until 2009 it was relatively easy to have a website that helped you grow by driving enquiries, or online sales. All you had to do was undercut the RRP of the product a little and you would sell units. Lots of businesses grew dramatically during this ‘golden era’ just because they were early adopters of the internet as a marketing tool – not because they knew what they were doing or had better products than the competition. Before I started Varn, I set up an online shop and did make hay while the sun shined with cheap outlay on a website and high returns.
Since that time, the business of selling online has matured. Competition has increased and also become smarter. If you enter an online market today you can expect to fight for your customers, tooth and nail. There is no easy ride any more. Consumers will type in a query, on a search engine, and at that point will be presented with a huge amount off results. To be in view for selection you need to invest and you need to manage your website in much the same way as you would manage a physical shop.
The Web Is A Crowded High Street
The internet, as a business tool, is now more like an established high street in a big city – one that is over-crowded, hyper competitive and uses every marketing method to attract consumers. You don’t find small badly managed shops in such a high street – not ones that survive.
If you are the manager of a bricks and mortar store, you have to pay staff and spend money on upkeep and marketing. You have to make sure customers get the service they require in a friendly, accessible environment.
Similarly, if you don’t have staff monitoring your website, social media and interacting with users all the time and you aren’t refreshing your homepage and value proposition (your shop window), your competitors will syphon away sales that could have been yours.
Unfortunately many Start-Ups and mature businesses think they should pay as little as possible for hosting, website design and build and on-going marketing. In reality this is akin to opening a run-down looking shop in a back-alley with a front door that is stiff! It’s a truism that if you invest nothing, you will have little tangible return – ‘free’ is rarely best policy, as the cost of lost custom comes later.
Do You Understand Your Customer Journey?
Many large retailers constantly analyse how shoppers walk round their stores, and how they interact with products on different height shelves or in different locations, so that they can get the highest value of sales possible. That’s why milk is always at the back of the supermarket – you have to walk past and browse everything you don’t need, to reach the one thing you do, in the hope you will be tempted to buy extras. Website managers need to do the same, analysing and optimising all parts of the website and every page. Shop managers talk about sales per square foot and know where the most profitable positions in their shops are. So, ask yourself, do you know your website’s most profitable areas? Do you understand how the consumer views your site, at what point they are converted to spend money and would they be interested in other aspects of your service offering / or other products?
There is no longer a shortcut to setting up or running a profitable online company or having a website that supplies quality leads and enquiries. Apply the rules of good shop-keeping to your business website: invest, market, analyse and manage your business closely or, simply put, risk losing it. We have come across too many business owners who think the times of low spend and high returns will continue and can’t understand why their website traffic is reducing year on year – leaving them with a loss making business. Don’t fail – invest intelligently, invest to win business.
Blog written by Tom Vaughton, Managing Director, Varn.