SO. YOU’VE BEEN telling yourself for months — maybe years — that you would update your website when you had time. But now suddenly everyone is staying home, and you’re wondering what to do next. Here are some guidelines to help you maximize your digital presence fast, and keep your engagement high with your customers.
First, now is not the time to make big decisions about revamping your website. It’s not the time to spend a bunch of money doing something new. And chances are, you wouldn’t get any of the benefit of a big website update before this crisis has peaked. Instead, you need to take a few steps that will help you stay close to your customers and provide them with virtual service. Here are a few ways to do that.
Social Media Presence
During times of stress, people gravitate to social media, so this is an important time for you to step up your social media attention. Before you let that groan all the way past your lips, let me clarify. I’m not talking about more social media posts and promotions – I’m talking about conversations.
Start monitoring all your social media channels. When customers comment, like, and share your posts, thank them, and engage with them. These are rich opportunities to build relationships, and should not be missed.
Check your social media profiles, and make sure they are complete. Each social media platform is different, but will include space for information like:
- Contact details: email address, phone number, even a mobile number for texts. Consumers love using text for communication.
- Links to your website
- Photos of your store-shop-studio, yourself, your team, and your products. These don’t have to be professional photos. Don’t get me wrong -I’m a big fan of professional imagery. But right now, just make sure you have plenty of pictures of more than just product. Pictures help people make a stronger connection with you and your brand.
- Business description
- Business categories
- Physical address
This may also be a good time for you to explore additional social media environments and see if any of them are good places to engage with your customers.
If you don’t have a website yet, you do need something, and you need it fast. For the moment, do not commit to spending more than $500 on anything. The truth is, you can have a WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, or Shopify site set up in a matter of hours. Will it be fabulous? No. Will it be an e-commerce wonder? Certainly not. But what it will do is give you is an instant, simple, attractive (just use the templates) online presence. You can do this yourself, or you can get some help. But do not get stuck in the mindset that now is the time to design the ultimate website. If you’ve waited this long, you can wait a few more months. Just get your basic presence up so you can take advantage of the following suggestions:
Why do you need this? Because customers love it. According to eConsultancy, live chat has the highest customer satisfaction levels (73%) of any customer service channel. Live chat helps your customers communicate with you in-the-moment, when they have come to visit your website. You can answer questions, set up appointments, and build relationships with people you may not have ever spoken with otherwise. These systems are simple to set up and very affordable — most charge by the month.
When you are available to monitor (from your desk or your smart phone), these systems will alert you and put a customer through to you. When you are unavailable, the systems will ask for a message and promise a response according to whatever response-times you have set up.
Here are some systems for you to consider:
- Chaport (just for WordPress)
You may not be concerned about meeting in-person, but some of your customers are. So why not offer video conferencing? Unlike Facetime, which only works if both parties have an iPhone, video conferencing systems allow people to chat face-to-face no matter what system they use. You can access most of these systems from your smart phone, or you can buy a simple camera-and-microphone device from Best Buy, Amazon, Target, or Walmart for $20 – $30. Feeling particularly techy? Buy two cameras, and point one at your desktop — all the better to sketch a custom idea while chatting with your customer!
Video conferencing systems range from very basic systems like Skype to more complex systems like GoToMeeting — and the price range is pretty broad too. In addition to basic video conversation, nearly all these systems will facilitate desktop sharing (great for CAD designers), chat features, and session recordings. Here are some virtual conferencing systems to check out:
- Google Hangouts (yes, it’s still a thing!)
- Microsoft Teams (easy setup for Office 365 users)
- Cisco Webex
Trust-Building Through Testimonials and Reviews
Here are some more important statistics for you:
- 97% of consumers search online for products and services
- 70% compare prices and/or read reviews
- 88% are influenced by online reviews
- 91% have visited a store because of an online review
- 37% use the internet to find a store at least one time per month
Wow. Online reviews are truly important. But it’s not helpful if your reviews are scattered between Google, Facebook, Yelp, TrustPilot, and other review environments. You need a way to aggregate all that customer feedback, display it on your website, and ask them for more. A referral/testimonial system can be the answer.
Referral/testimonial systems streamline online ratings and testimonials by allowing you to integrate with the various review environments (Facebook, Google, etc.) and import your existing reviews from a spreadsheet. Then, the reviews can be displayed on your website on a page of their own, or on dynamic popups and widgets throughout your site. Most of these systems also give you a link to a form for requesting more testimonials and reviews.
One of the most well-known review systems is TrustPilot, but you should also check out Endorsal, Testimonly, and UserVox.
Online Product Listings
Do you need ecommerce on your website? You really do. Consumers today expect to be able to browse products, consider prices, and even buy online if they want. So far, less than 12% of consumers are buying fine jewelry online, but they expect it to be an option, and this number is likely to increase during this time of social isolation. Right now, e-commerce may be the only way you can share product information with prospects and customers.
First things first: Know your supplier requirements. Some brands have rigid rules for how their brand can be portrayed on your website. Make sure you know your suppliers’ guidelines for online presentation and sales.
I Have a Website, but No E-Commerce Capabilities
What if your website has no e-commerce capabilities? There are still a few things you can do.
First, make sure that’s true. If you have a WordPress site, it’s not difficult to add Woocommerce to your site, and voila! Instant e-commerce. But what if you have an older HTML site, you lost track of the original developer, and you’re not sure how to add anything to it? Believe it or not, there’s still a short-term solution for you.
Consider setting up a Shopify account and selling your products there. Host it on a subdomain (for instance, if your website is on the domain HOMETOWNJEWELER.COM, then a subdomain would be SHOP.hometownjeweler.com). All you will need to add on your main website is a button to link to your Shopify address. You can be sharing product information and ideas with your customers within days.
Is this something I would recommend on a normal basis? No, it’s really not. But if you’re worried about doing something for your business right now, this is a reasonable, quick-and-dirty way to get your product online while still looking professional.
How to Get Quality Product Photography … Fast
If your e-commerce environment is sparse or nonexistent, the big challenge to ramping up fast is photography. A poorly lit or staged photo can be worse than no photo at all, and it’s difficult to get a customer back once they’ve been turned off.
In the short term, you may be better off asking your vendors for photographs than trying to shoot them yourself. Nearly all brands and many independent designers and manufacturers invest in good photography. But how can you get them fast?
Here are three suggestions:
- Call them! Well-prepared suppliers will have a library of images available to send you.
- If your supplier isn’t responsive, check out their website. They may have online images of the items you are stocking. Worried about copyright violation? Call and ask your salesperson first. If you have purchased the items and are reselling them, it’s in both of your best interests for you to have the photo. Do make sure you only show photos with the specific product listing, and give photo credit to the vendor.
- What if the supplier website has the photo, but they’ve blocked copy or download capabilities? Screenshot services like CloudApp and Droplr make it easy and fast to grab the image you want from any web page.
Is this the ideal way to get photography for your website? No, it’s not. But it’s fast, and if done thoughtfully, it can give you a timely product presence. Longer term, you need a photography strategy for your website, which should include working with a professional photographer or purchasing a very good lightbox setup and learning how to use it. But both those excellent options will take some time to get rolling. These ideas will allow you to have some results a bit faster.
Digital advertising is not something to just throw money at, unless you have money to burn. A good digital advertising strategy can drive customers to your website and your store, but that takes some time and planning. So I’m not going to give advice on how to get started with digital advertising here.
Instead, a few thoughts for people who are already engaged in digital advertising. During times of crisis, your tone and messaging are very important. People need comfort and reassurance. The messages you send may not be remembered in a few weeks, but the feelings they trigger will be. So scrutinize every banner, every popup, every promotion, and consider how they play in this moment.
Online retail is about to take center stage in an unprecedented way, and consumer commitment to digital purchasing and services will reach new, enduring heights. You really will need a strong digital marketing strategy, including an excellent website with loads of virtual engagement and social features. But building your long-term digital platform will take longer than a few weeks.
For now, I hope these tips have given you tangible, affordable, and immediate steps you can take to meet today’s challenges and start preparing for the digital environment you plan to build for the future.