While big-box retailers spend millions to grab attention with sales and promotions, many small business owners struggle to keep up. But having a strong online presence and a strategy for driving traffic to your brick-and-mortar store is an affordable and effective way to stay competitive. First, start with a strong, professional website you can manage on your own. The importance of this simple step is many times overlooked. According to a recent study by Pew Research, 44 percent of all U.S. consumers research businesses online before purchasing items, making a strong online presence more important than ever. From there, take the following steps to quickly and cost-effectively increase website traffic and, subsequently, foot traffic.
1. Clean design. Do not clutter pages with unnecessary information, as it will just confuse potential customers and drive them away without giving your company a chance. This is especially important with Google Instant, which enables consumers to see a small preview of your site within their search results.
2. Optimize your website for search engines. Have searchable words, images, and page titles for search engine optimization.
3. Make sure customers know how to get to you. Store location and hours need to be up-front and clear on your website. Also make sure your address links to Google Maps so the user can receive quick, easy directions.
4. Shoppers love coupons. Use your website to post coupons that are only redeemable at your store to incentivize new and existing customers. If coupons are a regular occurrence on your site, people will continue to come back again and again.
5. Create an event. People want to interact in an authentic way, but face-to-face community can’t be achieved in cyberspace. Use your website as a springboard to events at your store such as hosting appetizers or hiring live musicians.
6. Use the entire Web. Although your website may be your primary marketing piece, make sure you use the entire Web to drive traffic to your shop using tools such as Facebook and Twitter. This gives your customers multiple opportunities to hear about your business. The goal is to use the entire Web to create a culture around your company, and inform clients and customers about what is happening.
Newbury Park, Calif.
Want to improve the way you run your business? Entrepreneurs, academics, and consultants from diverse industries offer practical advice on a variety of topics each business day.
To submit a tip for consideration, first check our archive of previous tips to make sure you're not repeating a tip someone has already contributed. Then send the tip to Small Business channel contributor Michelle Dammon Loyalka. Because of the volume of material she receives, she may not respond to each individual.