Here are some tips on how to build a website that will provide the customer appeal and accessibility that your customers want—in short, a knockout web page that will pull in the maximum number of good customers.
First of all, remember that web users are not known for their patience. Whatever web design you choose, make speed of access a number one issue. Experts say that any process of entering the web that takes more than ten seconds of a user’s time will drive away the majority of potential customers. Research also shows that 60 percent of all people who buy online buy from only a small number of web pages they feel they can rely on. In other words, web customers form loyalty patterns just as certainly as do customers in other types of business.
Here are some other factors to consider:
1. Make your site easy to locate. Did you know that the web already contains over three billion pages? The challenge of standing out among such a vast set of resources is becoming increasingly daunting. Do you think just being listed on a browser is sufficient? Consider this: only around 22 percent of users will actually put a web address into a browser. The rest are more likely to use search engines, even when they already know the universal resource locator (URL). So, use good search engines; the amount you will pay to be listed will most likely be returned many times over in terms of customer numbers.
2. Choose a domain name that “works” for your company. Your URL is at least as important as your business name. It should be brief and easy to remember. It also must be consistent with the image you want for your company. Perhaps most importantly, it should be easy to spell. Stay away from words that are hard to spell–even if you find them “catchy.”
3. Provide customers with a method of tracking their orders. Giving the customer this service reduces customer dissatisfaction and competes with other sites that have such a service. One simple way of doing this is to provide an e-mail confirmation when the order is placed, followed by another one when it is shipped.
4. Let your customers know that their orders are secure. Of course, you can’t tell them this unless it is true. Be certain that your site is equipped with appropriate security and encryption devices.
5. Think maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Keep your website as up to date as is humanly possible. If you are still running your “Easter Special” in July, you’re turning off a significant number of customers.
6. Stimulate customer loyalty. As mentioned above, web users develop loyalty patterns just as other customers do. One of the best ways to establish repeat customers is by offering incentives that will draw buyers back to your site. Another would be a frequent user program that would reward patterns of purchasing. A recent study showed that more than half of Web site customers stated that they would return to a site if offered an incentive to do so.
7. Put a “frequently asked question” section on your site. Doing this not only adds to customer satisfaction, it also reduces the number of time-consuming e-mails and phone calls from puzzled customers. Be careful in choosing the questions, and be sure your replies don’t simply create more questions in the customer’s mind.
8. Seek out a professional. Unless you are already an expert on web construction, hire either a web builder or a consultant. Central Oregon has quite a few Web page experts who charge a variety of fee levels for their services. A professional can respond to your creativity. Thus hiring one doesn’t mean giving the whole project up to someone else. Also, a professional will be faster, getting your site into use much sooner than you are likely to achieve on your own.
Whatever your business, you can profit from having your own web page. Always remember that better and more effective marketing is your primary purpose in creating and maintaining one. Make your company stand out from its competitors. Use the principle of market differentiation just as you do in your business as a whole. Build a website that will truly represent your business and the products and services it provides. The payback will be greater than your investment.
Lowell Lamberton is Emeritus Professor of Business at Central Oregon Community College. You can access him at firstname.lastname@example.org.