Website 101: Turning research into sales

According to the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, about 50 percent of people research their next purchase online before buying a product or service.

With consumers readily making purchase decisions based on the look, feel and functionality of a website, how can business owners be sure they’re encouraging customers to buy their products rather than deterring them?

Rishad Sukhia, a founding director of Brightlabs, says there are a few simple rules every business owner should know and follow when it comes to keeping customers interesting during the ‘research phase’.

“While it might be tempting to go for a cheap and cheery option, particularly when budgets are tight, cheapest is not always the best,” says Sukhia. “It’s cliché but you get what you pay for and poorly thought-out and badly implemented websites often cost you more in the long run.

“Several of our clients have come to us following disappointing experiences with cut price providers who have not met their expectations or failed to deliver at all. In most cases, an investment in your website will save you money in the long run because you won’t have to inject further funds into it when you want to change or update something later.”

According to Sukhia, appointing a staff member to manage your website is just as important as having one.

“A common mistake is building a great website and leaving it to die online. In order to keep your customers coming back to the website, the content must be constantly updated to encourage return visits and this means appointing a dedicated staff member to update content and respond to customer enquiries.

“There’s no point dedicating all your time and money driving customers to your website if the public perceives your content to be stale and unchanged.”

As marketers are all too aware, knowing your target market is paramount to success.

Sukhia says when it comes to building a website, it is essential that the person building it has an intimate understanding of your target public’s psyche.

“Even if your brand is well known, never assume the person building your website has the same level of understanding of your target market as you do. No matter how cutting edge your website is, designing and implementing something that isn’t right for your market will deter your customers.

“We all know a website that looks great, but is too hard to navigate or takes too long to download, and this move will cost you. Bad website functionality is e-marketing suicide.”

Sukhla says: “If it takes too long to download or is just plain difficult to find your way around, your customers will simply leave. Everyone is time poor these days and, in the case of the researcher, they are going to want answers and the quicker they can get them the better.”

By now, most of us know the splash page rule: don’t do it. But how do we know which online trends to adopt and which to put in the ‘do not touch’ basket?

“As a general rule, it’s best to avoid gimmicks or online trends altogether,” says Sukhia. He thinks splash pages and excessive flash functions slow your website down and date quickly, which means more time and money spent in the long run.

“They also place additional unwanted barriers between website users and the information they are seeking. The extra click needed to get users to the page they are looking for can deter up to 50 percent of your visitors.”

Top five tips for building a website that attracts customers

•    Engage a professional service provider to build your website
•    Appoint someone to manage your website
•    Ensure the people building your website know your target market
•    Make your website user friendly
•    Avoid gimmicks.

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  • Great article Jen,

    These days a CMS or Content Management System based website is essential to allow content to be update easily by staff or business owners.

    WordPress being an open source variety of CMS has really come into its own in the last 18 months as a cost effective CMS option with a very professional finished product.

    Some businesses now using WordPress are:
    eBay, Ford, Wall Street Journal, Sony, Playstation, NY Times, CNN, Ben and Jerry etc

    You also mentioned the website being user friendly and a great book I found covering this subject is:
    Don’t make me think by Steve Krug