You can have a great store that no one comes to. And a wonderful website that no one finds. How come? Do you know why both store and website aren't found? It's about searching. That's how you know that a store or website exists.
We used to have the Yellow Pages. Who uses them anymore? Now, we type search terms into Google, and consider the results. Perhaps your website appears - maybe not.
More often than not, your store does not appear. Does it really exist, then, in the mind of the consumer? If she is looking to find you in the physical world and you aren't there in the digital world, then you don't exist.
So when people try to find your business, entering search terms relevant to you, do you come up first? If you don't, then don't be surprised when someone else takes your place not only online, but also in the REAL world.
My point is that you have to take steps to be found and discovered when people search for you online. And, then, you have to take steps to cement the connection and establish a relationship that carries seamlessly from your digital presence to your physical brick-and-mortar presence and back again.
Here are ten tips to be found and connect:
1. Eliminate your online flash applications. Content within a flash application is invisible to search engines. If you can't, make them as unobtrusive as possible. Don't have your content within that flash application.
2. Focus on content, specifically relevant, informative, and unbiased content that has your customers' benefit at heart.
3. Make sure your relevant keywords - the ones that people would search - appear consistently in your content.
4. Start a blog and post frequently, consistently and relevantly about your business, your presence in the marketplace, and how you connect with your community. Tell your story and be genuine in sharing valuable information.
5. Make all of your content unique to you. That means don't copy it from another site; don't have the same content on your website that another website carries. Make it totally relevant to you and your geographic location. Tell your story.
6. Listen. Listen some more. Listen in your store. Listen to what your frontline employees say about your customers. Listen to what's happening in your community. Figure out how to be relevant to what you hear. Listen online with freely available tools like Google alerts and Google Analytics. Then, address what you hear via your blog and web and in-store via your sales associates and marketing tools.
7. Forget the hard sell. Forget about it within your store; don't dare do it online. The hard sell prevents you from connecting; it scares customers away and it drives negative word-of-mouth.
8. Look at your brick-and-mortar experience. What does it communicate to a first time visitor? Does it welcome and invite? Is it clean and inspiring? Now, look at your website. What does it communicate to a first time visitor? Is it difficult to navigate? Is it all about you or all about what your visitor might be searching for?
9. Promote your digital presence in your store and on brochures, business cards, ads, email signatures, etc. Be sure to promote your store location, phone number, etc. on your digital site.
10. Invite visitors to opt-in to your regular email newsletter communications. And then deliver an email newsletter that will wow your readers with the valuable information it contains.
This article about ensuring that your retail experience can be found online as well as in-store appeared in the October 5/12, 2009 issue of Floor Covering Weekly.