Chuck Levin’s Online Reinvention (2016 Summer NAMM)

Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center gave its website a complete overhaul in late 2014. Soon after, the company’s online sales more than tripled, and in-store traffic spiked. During the “NAMM Retail Summit” at 2016 Summer NAMM, Adam Levin, the retailer’s third generation of leadership, explained his website revamp and what others could learn from the process. He spoke with NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond.

“Word-of-mouth isn’t you and me talking anymore,” Levin said. “It’s a Tweet. It’s a Facebook post. The conversation is happening online, and if you don’t have something online that can be a part of that conversation, then you’re not a part of that conversation.”

Here are highlights from the interview. (Watch the video to see the full segment.)

Establish a dedicated online team:
Levin explained that he’d deliberately created a team to manage the company’s website. That decision was “what really enabled us to take this to another level,” he added. Levin enlisted an employee in his drum department to lead the team of four people. “These guys are only working on the website.”

Partner with the right third-party developer:
Levin mentioned that his mantra from the start was, “I sell musical instruments. I don’t build websites.” He found a small third-party web developer that demonstrated dedication to Chuck Levin’s website. “They were a boutiquey, small sort of shop that came in, took a month to understand us, what our soul was about and took that online. Without someone that knew what they were doing, we would have been lost.”

SEO considerations:
Commenting on search engine optimization, Levin said, “The way that Google and Facebook have changed is they’ve taken it away from guys that are gaming the system. You have to have original content. You have to be producing it frequently. You need to be building your site from the beginning with search engine optimization in mind because that is the real way that a customer is going to find you.”

Create original online content:
According Levin, his web team spends significant time creating online content—and keeping search engine optimization in mind. “They’re writing custom descriptions,” he said. “We’re taking our own pictures. We’re doing all kinds of things to make sure that we’re making ourselves unique. Because now, Google’s actually rewarding you for being unique. So you don’t want to be cookie-cutter. You don’t want to copy what the other guy does. You don’t want to have the same descriptions as everyone.”

Adapt to the e-commerce culture:
Levin faced the challenge of getting longtime employees to buy into an online retail culture. “But they’re starting to see that it’s bringing business in,” he said. “It’s giving them tools to sell to customers, sharing links, things like that from our own website. And they’re proud to share it from our website. So I really see it as being an omnichannel future for us.”