The brick and mortar store is the embodiment of American capitalism. A thriving main street has been a staple of the economy and small business ownership has raised the standard of living for millions of people. And yet many times when you turn on the TV, you hear phrases like, “Main Street is DEAD!”. The truth is that people have been saying that for years. First it was big box stores that were driving out mom and pop. Then it was overseas competition. Now people are saying the same thing about the internet. But it seems that every time, main street bounces back.
Main Street is NOT DEAD! And the Internet is a Big Reason Why…
The history books and newspapers are littered with photos of boarded up shops and deserted towns that occurred when the US economy shifted away from its industrial base a quarter century ago. This was a period of transition, but the image remains strong in peoples’ minds today. It is true that many cities, towns and communities were hit hard by this. But statistics show that small business has been a consistent life blood throughout our country’s history.
Today, we live in a highly competitive world that in many ways has been created by globalization and fueled by the internet. But with this increased competition also comes a HUGE increase in opportunity. Businesses big and small now have access to markets that they once could only dream of reaching, and for a fraction of the cost. The challenge is learning how to harness them. Here are 7 ways that your traditional downtown store or home based service business can benefit from having a website.
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1 – Drive more Foot Traffic
Your website is often the first stop that new customers make when they’re learning about your business. Even before they step foot in the store itself. That’s why it’s important to prominently display your address and contact information. Make sure it’s prominently displayed on every page, ideally in at least two locations: the header and footer.
2 – Stay in Touch with Your Customers
If you’ve already got strong foot traffic, you can focus on increasing your customer engagement. Encourage people to sign up for your newsletter when they’re checking out. You can support this by having an email list and offering promotions and announcements about new products and services that you offer. This keeps people informed and encourages them to stop back in.
3 – Drive more Phone Calls
If a big source of your in-store sales are driven by phone calls, such as with restaurants or other service based businesses, then you can promote and track conversions from your website by using a unique 800 number on your webpage. Companies like ClickPath, eStara and Google’s Pay-Per-Call all offer unique solutions that allow you to measure website conversions based upon how many people call the unique number on your website.
4 – Gather More Customer Feedback
You can learn more about your customers by adding feedback forms and surveys onto your website. This can be a great way to improve your products or services as well as gather testimonials that can be added back onto the website. Staying engaged with your customers can keep you one step ahead of your competition and help your store stand out.
5 – Mobile Responsiveness and Engagement
There are no doubt many people that walk past your store but may not typically enter. You can promote your website on your storefront or on a sidewalk sign. This will let customers know that they can find out more information about your company right away. Since they’re likely walking by when they see this, they will most likely visit your website on their phone or mobile device. You want to make sure that your website is mobile responsive so that they can actually reach the information easily.
6 – Add an E-Commerce Component
This one might be a no-brainer. In-store purchases are great, but customers like to have options. Giving them the option to buy online and either ship your products directly to them, or allow them to pick up in store saves both you and them time and money. Options such as dropshipping or warehousing agreements can reduce the need for you to hold in store inventory. This frees up floor space for other products that customers prefer to purchase in person, such as large or heavy items.
7 – Grow your Social Media Following
Having a strong social media following can help you let customers know instantly about sales, promotions, or other events that may be happening in-store. Much like the newsletter mentioned in our second item, you can also encourage people to follow you online while they’re in the store or waiting in the checkout line. Many people spend a large portion of their day on social media, so therefore it is a great way to reach them without putting in a ton of marketing time or effort.
So is main street really dead? Hardly. If you embrace the online world and use these simple tricks, you can increase the visitors to your store and your sales. The internet is a tool, and you just need to learn how to use it.