At 2015 Summer NAMM, Mike Ross of Sweetwater Sound presented a big-picture session on making the most of your website—an issue that affects every music retailer and business owner, small and large. He encouraged retailers to take a closer look at their websites as a vital marketing tactic for continued success.
Here are website best practices from the NAMM U session. (And make sure to watch the end of the session video for more information from the Q&A.)
How do you know your website is good, working and worth it?
Ross urged retailers to start by asking themselves some key questions about their sites.
• Are you willing to invest in your website? “If you’re in, get all the way in,” Ross said. Using an example of a puppy that you have to feed and walk daily, Ross stated that you can’t keep a website alive if you don’t do something every day.
• Are you learning from companies you like and trust? If you’re an Amazon customer, for instance, ask yourself what its website does that yours doesn’t.
• Are you investing in professional input and support? Take advantage of professionals. You need to get it right, or it could cost you down the road.
• Are you asking for and paying attention to customer input? Provide a place for customers to give you their feedback online, listen carefully to what they’re saying and what they want, and respond.
• Are you tracking results? Go to Google analytics, and learn it very quickly.
Responsive design is critical.
Mobile phones are driving 30 percent of website traffic. Google favors sites optimized for mobile smartphones and tablets. It’s absolutely key to your website design to build this in. Ross reminded retailers to make store hours readily available on the home page. (Don’t bury it in “Contact Us.”) Check that your contact information, product information and checkout process are easily viewable and accessible via mobile devices. “Where you are weak, someone else will be strong,” Ross said.
He then touched on seven website fundamentals that will help you succeed.
1. Make content king. Content is everything. It’s your brand when people go to your website. “If you’re not willing to create unique content, you’ve lost the race before it’s even begun,” Ross said. Content is also the way you earn domain authority and rise in the Google search space. He shared that roughly 50 percent of people come to sweetwater.com through an organic search—and it’s free. Sweetwater has 285,000 pages on its website, thousands of videos, enhanced pages, buying guides and more. Ross recommended investing in someone who can write unique copy, including rewriting manufacturer copy. And he added that “video is the future.”
2. Lower the barriers to selling. Convenience is an ultimate success factor. Amazon, for instance, is winning with its one-button checkout and more. He advised letting customers check out as a guest (without a time-consuming sign-up process. More importantly, give them a reason to be a member of your business family. How many methods of payment do you take? PayPal is growing every day. The more you offer, the more likely it is that someone will do business with you.
3. Add value. What do you do to make your customer your customer? Pricing, free shipping and same-day shipping are no longer special or added value. Sweetwater puts candy in its shipping boxes. What’s your idea for adding value? It can be something simple.
4. Leverage customer behavior and data. What are you doing to engage customers and build your opportunities to do business? It starts with collecting data. “Captured data is an important part of a good website,” Ross stressed. Customers will let you capture their data when they’re buying, but what about when they’re just shopping? Figure out how to get people to give you their email addresses, and do it. Get familiar with and use Google Analytics, including key words, ranking and demographics to leverage your marketing efforts.
5. Invest in stability and reliability. Ross suggested testing your website’s functional codes and programming against the operating system (OS), and keep up with the technological changes to the OS, such as Chrome, Safari and Fox. Ross stressed that new OS releases require your immediate attention. “Customers will find the problems on your website,” he said. Be working ahead to head off problems.
6. Invest in security. Data breach is no longer something that happens to someone else. Ross shared that Sweetwater has a dedicated person who watches the back door to protect customer data. He urged retailers to take this seriously. For smaller businesses, Ross commented that there are software packages, such as Norton, that may be sufficient.
7. Invest in speed. You must accept that we live in an attention-challenged society. Customers will move on if they’re frustrated with your website. Invest in professionals and providers to boost your Internet speed, or you’ll be left behind. Ross shared that his company constantly does real-world checks on the delivery speed of its content.
Ross’ final words of advice: What is it that you do fundamentally in your business that makes your customer your customer? If you can answer that and create unique website content around that, you will succeed. You can’t develop a website, improve a website or improve the customer experience unless you know your end result. You must be able to give an elevator speech that communicates this. Now, go make your website do that.