Why Offline Stores and Small Businesses Need to Embrace Online Shopping and Build Better Websites

I recently wrote a story How Brick and Mortar Stores Can Use eCommerce to Drive Sales about tips that eCommerce stores can use to drive traffic to their brick and mortar locations. However, what really needs to happen is offline stores and small businesses need to grow up and  stop hiding in the corner from online commerce bogeyman. They need to give up their antiquated who moved my cheese mentality. It’s a fact that consumers’ preference for eCommerce stores will continue to grow, smart phone and tablet shopping will continue to rise, and merchants who don’t recognize this trend will fail. The first will be the small local stores followed by strip mall tenants but, at the end of the day, no one including big box retailers like Best Buy is immune. No one is too big to fail.

So what do small local businesses going to do to need to compete:

offline stores  and small businesses need to grow up and stop hiding in the corner from online commerce bogeyman…

 Make sure your website is mobile friendly. In fact, if you don’t have a mobile website, IMHO you need to make having a mobile website your number 1 priority. You need to do it properly with a one URL implementation strategy. Mobile subdomains and mobile sub folders create more trouble down the road than the time you save at the beginning, so don’t go down that route. If you do you’ll be contacting me–or someone like me–to clean up the mess you inadvertently created because you wanted to save a little time in getting up-to-speed as fast as possible.

Your website has to be more than a 20 page brochure-ware website. You can’t show up to the Indy 500 in a stock, off the floor Toyota Camry and expect to compete or ever win. Be smart. “Find your spike” that makes you stand out from everyone else and embrace it:

Don’t strive to be a balanced, well rounded merchant; embrace your uniqueness and the customers who are looking for it. Studies have shown that people on dating sites who embrace their unique beauty and set themselves apart from what is considered traditionally attractive do much better at finding dates and long term partners.

If your website isn’t important enough for you to pay attention to it, why do you think Google’s ranking algorithm will compute that you deserve to show up in a search engine result… 

Do a content audit on a regular basis. Create as much evergreen content as possible and update evergreen content as needed. Engage in predictive SEO spot and jump on trends. Write, add, build, and create new content on a regular basis. Don’t add content to meet a quota; add content because you have something of value to add to the conversation. If your website isn’t important enough for you to pay attention to it and help it nurture and grow, why do you think Google’s ranking algorithm will magically compute that you deserve to show up in a search engine result … for anything.

Engage in social media … regularly. Social media is a time consuming aspect of marketing. Unfortunately, small businesses can’t afford to ignore it anymore. You don’t need to spend all day on Twitter: look for tools that allow you to spend less time on social media sites and be more effective with the time you do spend.

Don’t get in a position where you are dependent on Google to survive. Diversify your income stream and pipeline for traffic, leads, and customers. While I’m a zero inbox type of person, and creating and sending out email messages fills me with overwhelming level of self loathing, the depths of which you will never understand, I firmly grasp that it’s a necessary evil to survive. It’s simply impossible to make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Just do it in a way that adds value for your customers and doesn’t clog up their inbox with useless drivel. By building a firm social media fan base, cultivating your customer engagement, and implementing a proactive outbound marketing channel strategy, you will be sending Google the social validation they are looking for, and you’ll be immune to Panda Updates, Penguin updates, or whatever naming structure Google finally gives its algorithm changes.

photo credit: BigStockPhoto/Olly2

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