Web Design

Your website is your modern day shop window

By Mark Ainsworth

Picture the scene; it’s the mid-80s, the night before Christmas and snow is slowly falling. You’re in your store, all alone because everyone else has gone home to wrap presents and start the celebrations. You’re manhandling a mannequin into a red ‘sale’ outfit, putting up new posters across your store front and trying to get your shop window ready for the Boxing Day sales. Once that’s done, you need to get your price gun and physically add a ‘sale’ sticker and new pricing to hundreds of products. You might get home in time for turkey.

Fast forward a few decades and you’re comfortably ensconced with a box of mince pies and your second Christmas drink at home in front of the tree. You’ve had your sales banners loaded up and ready to show on your website slider for weeks and your price discounts were programmed, promotional mail shot scheduled and seasonal offers sorted last week. With nothing more than the stroke of midnight, your homepage will magically transform from Christmas gift ideas to New Year bargains, with prominent discounts, compelling calls to action and all new sales branding. Welcome to your modern day shop window.

If you haven’t ever thought of your website in those terms, it could be that you’re also missing out on a lot of the potential your virtual shop window brings. In years past, you had to rely on someone physically walking past your shop, being drawn in by your window display and tempted in-store by your branding. Only those who were present, in-person at your place of business made a purchase.

Today, the opposite is true and you may not even have a shop window to pass by. The high street as we know it has changed beyond all recognition in the past 12 months, with a host of brands shutting up shop for good. Many factors have been given as the reason for this struggle but one consistently crops up – the competition from online retailers. In 2019, you don’t need an actual shop window to showcase your wares, you need an optimised, engaging, high-performing website to do that for you.

Consumers expect to find what they need on your website

This past Cyber Monday was the largest online sales day in history, with Adobe Analytics data showing American shoppers alone spent $7.9 billion online in 24 hours, a 19.7% increase year-on-year. More than half of those visits came from a mobile device, with smartphones also accounting for over 26% of revenue.

What’s clear from this is that shoppers are voting with their technology and more and more, are making purchase decisions based on internet research and brand websites. The so-called death of the high street shows that a large number of sales are now transacted online rather than in person with many brands simply not able to survive on in-store purchases alone. What’s more, shoppers expect to be able to buy from you online, whether that’s from a desktop device or more and more, from a smartphone.

It suits the always-on mentality of the modern shopper

An additional finding by Adode Analytics is particularly pertinent to the case for a website as the modern day shop window. It says that the three hours between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. ET on Cyber Monday were expected to drive $1.7 billion in online sales. Shoppers no longer buy on a 9am-5pm schedule and they expect the brands they do business with to be available on demand.

For most brands, a 24 hour store is simply not realistic – and shoppers don’t want to leave their homes to browse your products either. As the Adobe data shows, they expect to be able to find what they want and buy from you at any time of the day, without having to set foot in store, at their own convenience. For this, your website is a primary tool and one that shoppers use in the same way previous generations would navigate a physical path to purchase in-store.

It’s prime (virtual) real estate

According to Google data, 90% of smartphone users aren’t committed to a particular brand when they begin a search for a product. This means they’ll research different options, often by visiting a brand’s website, before they land on a decision. A typical shopper can record as many as 140 brand retailer interactions in a one month period – returning to your site or checking out other channels to learn more about you, find product ideas, compare shortlisted products and eventually, make a purchase decision based on that information.

For these shoppers, your website is prime real estate and your main vehicle for converting that search user into a customer. It tells the undecided shopper everything they need to know about you – from your brand values and company history to showcasing special seasonal offers, such as Black Friday deals, Bank Holiday bargains or even sporting event and national holiday specials.

A survey of 3,100 US, UK, German and French shoppers also revealed that 36% of consumers are likely to visit a retail website when searching for product ideas and information before they make a purchase. With millions of brands and search results to browse, your website is your only chance to set out your stall and stand out from rivals. It is therefore as vital as an eye-catching shop window on a busy high street.

Substantially more consumers are seeking out your website

BBC News business reporter Daniel Thomas says, “Online giants such as Amazon have had a huge impact on the high street as more consumers see online shopping as cheaper and easier than going to the shops. And while overall retail sales growth is weak, online sales continue to shoot up.” Paul Martin, head of UK retail at KPMG told BBC News: “With the overall market not growing, it is all about market share, and 20% of that market is held by online players. If you don’t have the right online offering, again, you will struggle.”

Because online shopping affords convenience and empowers shoppers to look around and ensure they’re getting the best value for money, your website is just as powerful, if not more so, than the traditional shop window. More so perhaps because an online shopper will arguably spend more time exploring your site, in much more detail, than a traditional shopper would peering into a shop window.

The annual Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal further underlines this, with this year’s findings showing that 27% of shoppers looked online daily for a local business – this figure is more than double what it was last year. 69% of shoppers now look online for a local business monthly (an increase from 54% last year) 56% make it a weekly habit (compared with 41% last year).

The bottom line? Even if you don’t think of your site as your shop window (whether or not you have an ecommerce web design) consumer attitudes have shifted even past this point.

With 9 in 10 shoppers trusting an online review as much as personal recommendation, we have witnessed a wholesale shift to online. With that, your website is naturally used as the barometer for your brand. With more people than ever shopping online, it’s much more likely someone will see your site than any physical store you may own, giving it a whole new level of importance.

If your website isn’t up to the task, speak to us about our web design services now.

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