The 4 Fundamentals of a Successful Retail Website

From the start, Mason Music’s website has been the centerpiece of its marketing strategy. The site has generated numerous leads for the business, helping grow its lesson program to 650 students per week. At 2016 Summer NAMM, owner Will Mason encouraged retailers to do four things to ensure an effective website that engages customers and generates sales.

Here are highlights from the session. (Watch the video for the full session.)

The Four Website Fundamentals
1.  Content: The stuff on your website—text, images, videos, etc.
2.  Function: What a visitor can do on your website—navigation, registration, purchase, sharing, etc.
3.  Design: What your website looks like—fonts, colors, layouts, themes, etc.
4.  SEO (search engine optimization): How you get the right people to your website.

Successful Content
The power of story. Mason shared advice he received when he first opened Mason Music: He who tells the best story wins. Create an Our Story page on your website versus an About Us page (which is more informational). Everyone has a story to tell because everyone is unique. Find a way to make your story engaging, and people will read it. Mason also shared that, according to Google Analytics, visitors spend more time on the Our Story page than on other pages of his website.

Testimonials. Getting other people to tell your story can be more powerful than you telling it. Customers want a second opinion before they buy. Collect key testimonials from customers at regular intervals, and post them on your website. They should appear on your home page. Let your customers brag about you.

Calls to action. Take this opportunity to get better at persuasive writing with your calls to action. “You don’t want to just inform, you want to invite, or make the ask,” Mason said. Find a way to sell on the points that are priceless—the intangibles that customers receive from doing business with you, such as how music lessons build student confidence. Put your call-to-action buttons above the fold (at the top or close to the top of the page) and in red, so people don’t have to search for them and can easily find and click on them. You can have more than one button. “If someone’s ready to buy, go ahead a capture that sale right then and there,” Mason said.

Images. An image can create an emotional connection in a millisecond. Brain chemistry changes when you see images, and people are more likely to engage with the story and the text if you have a great image. Use custom images when possible. Take candid shots with your phone. Visually communicate your story with likeable photos.

Videos. They’re an engaging means of creating emotional connections and stories because they include audio. Think about movie trailers, and use that model to tell your story. Put some great music to it. Mason showed a professional, high-quality promotional video for his company’s Rock Band League program that he produced for very little money.

Successful Function
Flow and SEO. If you have a well-thought-out website flow that works for your customers, it’s going to increase engagement with your site. It’s also going to help your Google rankings because it will lower your bounce rate. (When a customer visits and leaves your website quickly, Google counts it as a bounce.)

Intuitive navigation. Menus should be labeled correctly and not have excessive categories and drop downs. Make sure your menu buttons are big enough on mobile, or Google will penalize you. Also, can site visitors easily get back to your home page? Mason Music uses its logo as its home page button on every page of the site. Open new page links should be used carefully and for outgoing links only, such as to a manufacturer’s website. Make sure users return to your site when they’re done. Use internal links to guide users to other relevant content on your site and to go deeper into your site. “It’s like a tour guide to help users walk through your site and find the pages that have something meaningful to them,” Mason said.

Speed. How long does it take your website to load? Mason cited a recent survey that indicated nearly half of all users expect a site to load in less than 2 seconds. He offered resources to evaluate website loading speed: and Page Speed insights in Google Webmaster Tools. If your site runs slowly, speak with your developer, server host or domain registry to find out why. You’re going to need to get outside help to address this.

Actionable. What can your customer do on your site? Whether it’s submitting a form, registering for lessons or making a purchase, make it easy. Also, make your website interactive, especially if you have a blog, so visitors can like, comment and share.

Successful Design
Don’t let ugly website design discourage users from visiting or interacting. Mason has created a helpful acronym, FOCUS, to guide website design.

• Fonts: Two or three are fine. Be consistent.
• Obvious: The point of your page should be immediately obvious and not confusing.
• Color strategy: Neutral backgrounds make images stand out and guide visitors’ eyes to your target. Use red call-to-action buttons.
• Use images sparingly: Less is more.
• Space is your friend: Long blocks of text need to be broken up into paragraphs with white space in between. It’s fine to have a lot of text, but you need to break it up.

Successful SEO
How to get found. Having great content, design and functionality doesn’t ensure you’ll get visitors to your site. “You can’t build your website, and then hire someone who doesn’t know your business to do your SEO,” Mason said. “It doesn’t work that way.” Organic search rankings are eight-and-a-half times more likely to be clicked on than paid advertising. If you’re not showing up on the first page for a given keyword search, your website is going to be invisible to potential customers, so you need to know if you’re ranking for the keywords that matter to you.

Keywords. Make a list of the keywords that you want to rank for, and create a strategy to achieve high rankings for those keywords. Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool for research and make a list. Set a target keyword for each page on your site.

Best practices. Mason shared a number of points he discovered about Google algorithms and covering their bases on SEO for keywords. Watch the video for the list.

Inbound links. These links tell Google that your site is relevant, and that others are sending people to your pages. Make sure your manufacturers are linking to your page. You can also go one step further: Build a page about that brand, and place that link on the manufacturer’s site. Connect with other high-traffic websites that may be interested in what you’re doing. Also, check out these resources:
• Fetch as Google tool
• Google Keyword Planner
​• Yoast SEO for WordPress