Best Website Practices for Music Retailers
At the 2015 NAMM Show, Grant Billings of Steinway Piano Gallery hosted music retailers Anthony Myers of Ted Brown Music, Gabriel O’Brien of Larry’s Music Center and Brian Reardon of Monster Music for a motivating panel discussion, “Now What Do I Do About My Website?” Billings gathered this cross section of industry talent to look at one of the most important investments a music retailer will make: its store website.
“[Customers] used to search at home at night, but now they’re taking out their phone as soon as they have the thought,” Billings said. “The website has become every customer’s first impression of your business.”
Highlights from the session video:
Top 4 Signs You Need a Website Redesign
1. It looks stale. According to O’Brien, your website can’t look behind the times. “It needs to look fresh, now and new,” he said.
2. Hard to navigate. Meyers stated that navigation is important because your customer has to be able to explore the site intuitively. Most of all, it should always be easy to get back to the home page on your website. His advice is to start with the fundamentals and map out your navigation. Billings also counseled to keep in mind the growing use of mobile devices and how site navigation applies to them.
3. Your customers complain. O’Brien mentioned that your customers will let you know when they’re not getting their needs met on your site. For instance, they might say that your site lists out-of-stock products, features outdated content with an old copyright and misses basic information. And if customers can’t find your store when they Google you, address that immediately.
“It’s important that you get [your website] right and take the time and resources to plan, maintain, budget and constantly improve it,” Meyers added.
4. You’re here. Billings noted that if you think your website needs attention, you’re right. He gave the audience kudos for attending the session and wanting to make changes.
Start With a Strategy
What does your current site actually do? Billings urged retailers to ask themselves what their sites are actually doing for customers (versus what they think their sites are doing). O’Brien commented that his company recently redesigned its website to make it quick and easy to see items, to promote important things up front, and to give the site a clean look. A big part of that was centralizing the navigation.
What do you think your website should be doing? Billings advised retailers to think about what’s missing from their websites and what they want their sites to be doing, such as e-commerce or serving as a brochure. Meyers cited the overwhelming research that customers don’t want to wait, which can affect your e-commerce strategy.
What do your customers expect? O’Brien emphasized making sure that products listed on your website are always in stock because customers may come long distances to your store to buy the items. Not meeting that expectation isn’t an option.
Can I Really Do It Myself?
Design, coding and architecture. Meyers shared that Ted Brown Music is using outside help and in-house resources for the company’s website redesign, while trying to keep costs down. O’Brien shared that a small, local company aided in his company’s website re-launch, with the help of a former employee. Billings described the launch of three new websites using a designer and programmer he worked with regularly to keep the project consistent and cost-effective.
Pictures and graphics. Reardon noted that he began having his website photos coded, knowing that many consumers do image searches. He was able to generate a lot of traffic to Monster Music’s site by naming its product images correctly and coding their photo files. O’Brien set up a makeshift photo studio in-house and shoots custom photos for higher-end, limited-edition products. He combines these with stock photos of less-expensive products on his website.
“I think there’s nothing more important than accurate product photos,” Reardon said. “When you’re on our site, you see the actual instruments we sell. It represents our culture, who we are and what we sell.”
Meyers shared that Ted Brown Music, as a band and orchestra retailer, primarily uses vendor-supplied stock photos.
Copy. O’Brien stated that there’s an art to writing copy, but imparting your own personality is important and can help drive up your store’s search results online. Don’t just cut and paste manufacturer’s copy—go through it and rewrite it. Also, never copy content from other retailers’ websites. Reardon shared that copy is something Monster Music focuses on, but it’s also an area where his site needs improvement.
“Imagine that you’re speaking to a customer in your shop,” he said. “That will reflect how you sell and your unique message.”
Updating. Billings stated that updating your website is especially critical from a search engine optimization standpoint. O’Brien advised involving staff members to help with site updating. Reardon said it’s a function of carving out a little time every day to update content. He has a “What’s New” section on his website to keep it engaging. Meyers suggested that you ask your customers to write reviews on Yelp, and that will help with search engine rankings.
What Do Customers Expect?
• Relevant, current information that can be viewed on all devices.
• Basic info should be easy to find. Try including your phone number on every page of your website, especially for smartphone viewing.
• You’re easy to reach. Billings talked about the hamburger menu, which helps identify a user’s device and standardizes viewing, whether the user is on a tablet, smartphone or PC. He also incorporated menu prompts that make it easy to call his store with one click or send him an email using a keyboard pop-up. He advised retailers to ask their Web designers to make their websites responsive.
Reardon said he wanted to engage customers on his store’s website as if they were actually in his store. He created an “Ask Brian” and instant chat features that are now the most frequently used part of his website and have let him make sales he might not get otherwise.
O’Brien mentioned that it’s important to identify the areas on your website that you want to change, understand that your website is an ongoing process and know that it isn’t going to be perfect.
How Much Will It Cost?
Reardon commented that a website is a part of your business decision-making tied to profits, and budgets will vary for each retailer and business. “Whatever amount you can afford, it’s worth putting it into a website,” he said.
Meyers stated that the goal of a website will dictate the costs. He suggested talking with peers and contemporaries to get vendor recommendations. According to Meyers, local community colleges can be a great resource for graphic and Web designers.
O’Brien shared that Wix.com is a good free resource for website building. He also advised cutting your Yellow Pages advertising and spending that money on your website. Billings shared that he broke his website costs out monthly and amortized them over three years, so he could manage his budget more easily.