How to ensure your website is ready for the GDPR

This was posted on March 8th, 2018

 

From May 2018, small business owners like you will need to ensure your website is GDPR compliant, or face some pretty costly consequences.

If you haven’t been sleeping under a rock for the past few months, you may have an idea of the what this means and how it will affect you website. But, just in case you have been creeping with the crustaceans, here is our guide to ensuring your website is ready for the General Data Protection Regulation:

 

What exactly is the GDPR?

Over the last four years, the EU has been working to bring data protection legislation into line with the way in which data is now used.

Although we’re currently still covered by The Data Protection Act 1998, the new legislation introduces tougher fines for non-compliance and breaches, and gives people more say over how and when companies can use their data.

The changes are designed to give people more control over how companies like Facebook and Google swap data for use of their services.

The current legislation came into being long before social media found new ways of exploiting our personal data, therefore these changes are very much required to reflect the new ways in which we share out personal information.

 

Who needs to be concerned about the new GDPR legislation?

Both ’Controllers’ and ‘Processors’ of data need to abide by the new GDPR rulings.

To break that down further, the data Controller states how and why personal data is processed, while a Processor is the party doing the actual processing of the data.

The “Controller” could be any organisation, from a profit-seeking company to a charity or government, and your “Processor” could be an IT firm doing the actual data processing.

 

Will your website be ready for the GDPR?

From 25th May 2018, simply asking visitors to your website to familiarise themselves with your data protection policy will not be enough.

That means no more “click here to read our privacy policy” warnings; instead you will need to ensure that your website, form submissions and storage all fully comply with the new GDPR legislation.

In preparation for these huge changes, make sure you have your bases covered.

  1. Review your website

Before you can make any changes to your website, you’ll need to review your current strategy, and identify exactly what you’re using data for, where it’s being stored and how long you are storing it for.

You may also need to fine tune or completely change the way you conduct your business to ensure you policies are in line with the new regulations.

  1. Update your privacy notices

It’s all very well changing your privacy policies behind the scenes, but in the interest of transparency, you will need to explain clearly what information you will be collecting and how you intend to use it, on any web page that asks for user data.

  1. Update your associated policies

By this we mean you will need to look at and  probably change your data retention policy as well as your terms and conditions.

A copy of the same policies must be easily accessible on your website and should be concise and transparent. Your terms and conditions will also need to reference the GDPR in their terminology.

  1. Review your data capture functionality

This will include all of your databases, systems and resources that you currently have connected to your website so that you can be 100% sure you’re keeping all personal data safe and effectively managing communication preferences, including the use of third party tracking software (think Google Analytics or Facebook’s ‘pixel’).

  1. User account functionality

You’ll need to review and amend the user’s ability to update their own consent and communication preferences on your website.

This means you’ll need to ask visitors to opt in to your data capture, as opposed to asking them to opt out (no more pre-ticked boxes!). This will apply to any information you want them to subscribe to, and each aspect must be consented to separately.

 

Wrapping up

We should point out that the above is purely our own guidance on where to start with the process of making your website GDPR compliant.  This is not legally binding, and if you have any concerns we recommend you seek additional advice from a GDPR expert well before May 2018.

Big changes are coming to the way we capture, use and store our website visitors’ information.  Failure to abide by the new legislation could result in heavy penalties, so start taking steps to make your website GDPR compliant today!

 

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3 golden rules to get more website enquiries

This was posted on July 10th, 2017

If you were asked for the overriding reason your business has a website, the answer would probably be “to get more enquiries”.

“More sales”, “greater brand recognition” and “a replacement for our old fliers” are all valid reasons to have a brilliant web presence as a business, but generating quality enquiries is where the meat of its responsibilities lie.

Perhaps the number of enquiries you’re receiving via yours have stagnated, or you’re just starting out – whatever the reason for wanting more contact form completions, here’s the three golden rules by which you must abide:

  1. Keep it simple – really simple

Give people what they’re looking for – instantly.

If you stumble across a book with a great title but find the first couple of chapters mind-numbingly tedious and rambling, why would you bother to finish it? The same goes for your website, only in the digital space, you have even less time to keep people engaged.

Cut the waffle out of your web copy, go easy on the number of images and navigational elements you include and keep everything short and punchy.

Most of the people who visit your website are time poor – they want answers as fast as you can give them.

  1. Create multiple calls-to-action (CTAs)

A common misconception about digital marketing is that you need to have just one, clear call-to-action, when, in fact, the opposite is true.

Ask three website visitors what they want to achieve, and they’ll probably give you three different answers. The first might want to download a brochure; the second has heard about a great eBook you’ve written and wants to download it – quickly; the third wants to buy something – now.

For this reason, you need to add as many CTAs to your website as there are potential outcomes.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the common interactions people will expect to have with your website:

  • Find a number to call you on
  • Email you directly
  • Download something
  • Request a call back at a time that’s convenient to them
  • Obtain a quote
  • Arrange an on-site visit from a member of your sales team
  • Send you something (e.g. a photo or spec)

Multiple CTAs aren’t just acceptable – they’re the done thing.

  1. Don’t just make it technically mobile-friendly

Google now operates on a ‘mobile-first’ index. That means they take far more notice of the mobile version of your website; its desktop counterpart now takes second fiddle.

That means you need a brilliantly mobile-friendly website in order to rank well on Google and receive as many enquiries as possible.

There are of course plenty of technical things you’ll need to do to make your site mobile-friendly, but never look past the user aspect.

How many times have you visited a website only to be continually frustrated by having to zoom in and out to see content and find yourself jabbing at interface elements that don’t appear to respond?

Don’t be that business.

Pay attention to the way you design your mobile-ready site for those that will use it. Employ white space judiciously, keep it simple, and focus on avoiding the following common pitfalls:

  • Buttons that can’t be easily pressed with a finger (because they’re either too small or tightly packed – or both)
  • Text that is tiny
  • Big images that take forever to load
  • Long-winded forms that take forever to fill in and navigate

You can perform a quick test yourself, by loading up your website on your smartphone and seeing how easy it is to operate. How quickly do you get frustrated and why? Make notes and take them to your web developer!

Wrapping up

Relatively simple, isn’t it? Follow our tips above, and you’ll start to build a web presence that delivers when it comes to new enquiries.

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Bad news about your website – you’ve got the content all wrong

This was posted on June 23rd, 2017

We’ve got some bad news.

 

People don’t visit your website to find out how great you are. They’re not interested in your business, it’s history or how many top awards you have sitting on the mantlepiece.

 

They care about one thing – themselves. We all do.

 

The visitors to your website are looking for an answer to a problem they have or a product that provides a solution to an ongoing challenge.

 

You may have exactly what they need or the answer that solves their problem. The content on your website should therefore address their pain and explain in plain English how you can help.

 

Here are six things you can do to your website content to make it more seductive and bring in more leads:

 

  1. Put your big idea front and centre

Whatever it is that you have for your customers, put it front and centre.

 

When you visit Apple’s website, for example, their products hit you straight between the eyes. That’s because Apple knows they’ll grab the most attention. You can do the same with a bold image or big, captivating headline.

 

  1. Work on the readability

Take a look at this blog’s intro. We’ve focused on short, sharp sentences and paragraphs.

 

Your web content needs to do the same to ensure readability and the ability for visitors to quickly skim for the info they want. Few people will read it all, so…

 

  • avoid chunky paragraphs;
  • promote the use of bullet points.

 

  1. Include soundbites

A sound bite is a nugget of wisdom – a piece of text that is easy to remember and perfectly quotable. They often come in the form of straplines, and you can’t have enough of them on your website.

 

Stick to the rule of providing information in groups of three, for example “the thinnest, lightest, most beautiful device we’ve made”.

 

  1. Create stories around your products and business

Head to most company ‘about us’ pages, and you’re met with long, drawn-out histories of how they came to be and their commitment to ‘constant improvement’.

 

That’s all a bit dull, isn’t it? Instead, tell a story about your business. What drives it? Who are the people behind it (the characters in this plot, as it were)? Give it a beginning, middle and make the customer’s role the end (i.e. the purchase!).

 

  1. Present features as solutions to their problems

Let’s say you’re looking for a new tablet. You discover two manufactures who both offer bullet-pointed feature lists.

 

Manufacturer A:

 

  • 10” screen
  • 8gb of RAM
  • Stylus support
  • Keyboard case included
  • 10 hours battery life

 

Manufacturer B:

 

  • Work on two apps at once with a 10” screen that improves productivity
  • Enough memory to ensure you’re never left waiting for a process to complete
  • Ditch your pen and paper and do everything with one device
  • Make the transition from laptop to tablet and simplify your tech setup
  • Work all day without ever having to hunt for a power outlet

 

Which one would you go for?

 

  1. Overcome objections before they’re made

Your product or service isn’t perfect – that simply isn’t possible – but you can go a long way to reducing fear in buyers by overcoming objections before they’re made.

 

For example, if you’ve developed a new phone case that is glass-like in appearance, you could dispel fears about it’s durability by saying: “Even though our case is as smooth and clear as glass, it’s actually toughened plastic, so won’t shatter”.

 

Wrapping up

Follow our tips above, and you’ll quickly create a web presence that is both seductive and ready to turn passers-by into brand advocates – rather than boring them to death.

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7 Things people hate about your website

This was posted on March 20th, 2017

 

It’s time to ask yourself some very tough questions about your business website.

When it was built, you loved it. The design was of its time, the customer journey was well thought out and it reflected your brand values perfectly. Things change, though; web design trends and best practices evolve, and can outdate websites – fast.

For example, it was only recently that Google switched to a mobile-first index, placing the previous king of the search result jungle (the desktop-optimised website) firmly into second place. As a result, any website that has failed to take small screens seriously is likely to see its rankings drop significantly.

If your website isn’t receiving the volumes of traffic it once enjoyed or if your analytics tell regular tales of people dropping out of the visitor journey at crucial points, there’s a good reason for it – but you’re not going to like it.

People hate your website.

Sorry.

 

Here’s seven reasons that might be the case:

 

  1. It isn’t mobile-friendly

It bears repeating: the mobile-first Google index is now live. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’ll disappear without trace.

It’ll also frustrate visitors. If you’ve ever cursed a website’s inability to display correctly on your smartphone, you’ll know exactly what we’re referring to. You have seconds to make a good impression online, and the first one you make will almost certainly be on mobile device these days.

 

  1. Google says it isn’t secure

Google is now making its dislike of insecure websites obvious to users. If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, it isn’t secure – and Google knows it.

Online security is something that is at the top of everyone’s minds in the digital age – make sure you give the people that browse your website ultimate peace of mind by implementing HTTPS encryption (it isn’t as expensive as you might think).

 

  1. It features a laborious slideshow

We’ve all seen and been frustrated by them; the seemingly endless slideshow that sits atop many business websites will make or break the user experience.

Slow load times and acres of text and imagery don’t make for an engaging slideshow. Stick to three slides max and keep both the copy and images punchy and relevant. No one will sit through eighteen slides of War and Peace.

 

  1. There’s too much waffle

As previously noted, you have mere seconds to catch someone’s attention online. Spend forever getting to the point, and you’ll lose them after the first paragraph.

Every word, sentence and paragraph on your website should tell an engaging story and have a purpose. Keep it short, concise and focused on the target market.

Which brings us onto our next point…

 

  1. You’re saying “we” too much

Customers only care about themselves. They don’t care about your heritage, countless years of service or the cabinet full of awards in the boardroom.

What can you do for them? What questions do your products and services answer? What’s in it for the person visiting your site?

Focus every element of your website on the user and stop staying “we” – naval gazing business websites simply don’t work.

 

  1. The calls-to-action are weak (or non-existent)

What do you want the people who visit your website to do once they’ve finished browsing? Without the right calls-to-action (CTAs), they’ll simply leave without making any form of contact, making the whole episode a rather pointless exercise.

Bearing in mind that every visitor will have different needs, you need to offer as many relevant CTAs as possible. Some will want a quote, others will want to download additional content, while many will just want to contact you.

Provide visitors with multiple options for completing their journey and they’ll make a decision that will offer you a vital insight into their position within the buyer’s cycle.

 

  1. You’ve used too many tacky stock images

Stock imagery has its place, but use too much of it, or skimp on the low quality stuff, and you’ll quickly turn off website visitors.

Investing in unique imagery that is relevant to your business is smart. A day with a photographer might feel lavish, but it will result in images that will make your website jump off the page and fully reflect your business’s brand values.

Close that Google Images window!

 

Wrapping up

The dawning realisation that people hate your website isn’t particularly pleasant, but it’s a crucial step in building a web presence you can be proud of and rely on to attract quality traffic.

From quality traffic comes pre-qualified leads – so, ask yourself each of the questions above, and make changes where your business website falls short. Now.

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How to get engaged online

This was posted on February 13th, 2017

 

What says “I love you” more than web design that draws in an audience and keeps them engaged long enough to foster an emotional connection?

Ok, a romantic spa break or unexpected marriage proposal may come close, but in business, nothing quite cuts it in the engagement stakes like a well-designed web presence.

Over the years, we’ve seen all manner of web technologies come and go. With each one, there has been a web design bandwagon aboard which many a marketing agency has jumped. Few stick around, though, due to the fact that many are more focused on technical prowess than usability and engagement.

Thankfully, those days appear to be behind us. What we’re left with now is a bunch of ever-advancing web technologies, which enable web designers to make business websites engaging and easy-to-use.

So, how can you set hearts pounding with your business website?

We’ve decided to highlight five ways any website can win the affections of your target audience:

  1. Homepage videos

As far back as 2012, it was reported that 87% of marketers relied on video for the majority of their content creation.

There’s one very good reason for this – video is incredibly sticky. Pop a video on your homepage, and you’ll almost certainly start to drive higher engagement from visitors.

The video can be anything (within reason) – a behind-the-scenes tour, team intro or simple ‘to-camera’ piece about the history of the business.

Give it a go!

  1. Proper CTA placement

What do you want visitors to your website to do?

Once they’ve read and digested the content on the website, where should they head next?

The answer might be to contact your sales team, sign up to a newsletter or make a purchase, but whatever it is, you need to make it an obvious next step.

Placement of the call-to-action is vital if you’re to win the attention of potential customers. By-and-large that means placing it prominently within the upper third of the website and ensuring it is a common element on all pages.

  1. Off-grid elements

It shouldn’t be forgotten that entire sections of content and areas of user interaction can be hidden from view until needed. It’s why we regularly see ‘burger’ menus at the top left or right of a web page.

The most common element to hide in this way is the main navigation, which works fabulously in the modern age due to the fact that people are spending more of their time using smartphone apps that employ similar techniques.

  1. A fixed header

An oldie, but a goldie.

Fixed headers have long been a staple of great web design because they provide simple, intuitive navigation for users, no matter where they happen to be on the page.

If they fancy jumping to a different section, the route will always be immediately obvious.

  1. Subtle animations

We’ve seen all manner of fancy animations hit the web, from early implementations of resource-hungry Flash to the more recent incarnations of parallax scrolling.

The trick with animation in web design is to only use it when it offers a genuine benefit to the user. If it’s only there for show, an animation is nothing more than a distraction.

By instead implementing subtle animations that only make themselves known as the user scrolls down and interacts with the website, you’ll draw them in further and encourage interaction.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget the metrics (to measure engagement!)

Let’s say you follow all of the tips in this post and end up with a beautiful yet functional website. How will you set about measuring engagement?

Failing to do so may put your hard work to waste, and it’ll certainly prevent you from spotting opportunities to iterate and improve the design.

Avoid the common mistake of leaving a website to do its job in the belief that you’ve carried out the hard work required to make it a success. Install Google Analytics and pay particular attention to bounce rates, page interaction and time on site.

By doing so, you’ll quickly discover whether or not you really have set hearts aflutter with your lovingly-crafted new website.

Chances are, if you follow the tips above, you’ll almost certainly win lots of new admirers!

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How to avoid the wrath of Google and add an SSL certificate to your website

This was posted on February 1st, 2017

Add SSL article to IHM blog

Google has got a bee in its bonnet about insecure websites. And it’s a rather big bee.

So big, in fact, that it’s now shining a very bright spotlight on any website that doesn’t have an SSL certificate.

“HTTP, we’re readying to call you out for what you are: UNSAFE!” tweeted Parisa Tabriz, manager of Google’s security team last January. She was referring to an upcoming change to Google’s Chrome web browser that would make it ultra-clear when websites aren’t secured via HTTPS.

What is HTTPS?

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, to give it its full name, is simply the secure version of ‘HTTP’, which is the industry standard protocol over which data is sent between a user’s browser and the website they’re viewing.

Websites that use HTTPS benefit from encrypted communication between the browser and web server. From a user’s perspective, the presence of HTTPS is usually denoted by a padlock symbol in the address bar of modern web browsers, but ‘https’ will also be present in the URL (e.g. ‘https://www.ihm.co.uk’).

So, what is Google doing, exactly?

The change to Google Chrome adds a prominent red ‘X’ to the padlock symbol whenever a website that doesn’t use HTTPS is detected. Previously, it simply displayed a blank white page symbol for such websites.

Originally announced back in 2014, the rationale behind the change was obvious – Google wanted to make it blindingly clear to the user when a website was using insecure methods to transport data to and from their device.

Insecure websites increase the opportunity for hackers to snoop or intercept communications – a threat that is more prevalent than ever in the digital economy and a key concern for anyone using the web. The presence of a red mark against a website, therefore, is likely to be taken seriously by most people.

“The goal of this proposal is to more clearly display to users that HTTP provides no data security,” Google’s Chris Palmer accurately summed up in an open forum back in 2014.

What’s an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is a small file stored on a web server which adds a cryptographic key to the data. When installed, it automatically activates the HTTPS protocol and enables the aforementioned secure transfer of data to and from web browsers.

 

The benefits of HTTPS and SSL for business

There are few threats online greater than hackers looking to steal vital personal or business information. If your business website has a valid SSL certificate installed, you’ll have taken a huge preventative step against hackers and those intent on intercepting your communications.

Without SSL and HTTPS, both your business data and that of the customer is at risk. The potential consequences of a breach simply don’t bear thinking about, and with Google Chrome now making it very clear indeed when a website isn’t secure, the brand damage and potential loss of business for those without SSL encryption could be significant.

Equally, and although not explicitly mentioned during Google’s announcement of the new Chrome feature, there’s always the chance that the search giant could begin penalising websites that are insecure by dropping their ranking within search results.

With relatively low cost of SSL certificates and the odds stacking up against insecure websites, investing in HTTPS is advisable for businesses of all sizes.

How do I add HTTPS to my business website?

So, you understand you need  to add HTTPS to your website. Great! But how do you go about doing so? Thankfully, the process is relatively straightforward.

Just speak to us and if you use our hosting services we have the expertise required to get an SSL certificate up and running.

It’s time to get secure and avoid the wrath of Google.

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Contact forms – don’t neglect yours!

This was posted on July 18th, 2016

contact-forms

 

When you’re setting up a website for your business, there’s a huge amount to keep in mind. We all spend days agonising over the appearance of our sites. The colours have to be just right, reflecting the tone of your company. The layout has to be carefully thought out, ensuring the site is easily navigable. The rise of high speed broadband has seen the increase of all sorts of extra whizzes and bangs, from video backgrounds to robotic assistants and animated components. Without a doubt, there’s a massive number of questions we all have to ask ourselves, to make sure our sites are a positive reflection of what we do, and to encourage our customers to fill their trolleys.

However, there is one part of many business’s websites which is regularly lacking attention and care. The contact form on your website is one of the most important pages in your arsenal when it comes to targeting customers and turning intrigue into closed sales, and yet it is one of the components which is most commonly neglected. This could be for many reasons – a lot of people are so distracted by pimping up the rest of the site and making sure it looks flashy and tempting, they forget about the importance of the contact form, which is, after all, often the last page potential customers see and thus vital for forming those closing impressions. Perhaps we’re so used to seeing uninspiring contact forms, we forget how much better they could potentially be. Perhaps, because of the nature of the form and its purpose, we assume that anyone clicking on that page are already interested enough not to warrant extra effort.

We shouldn’t underestimate how important and how useful a well designed, carefully constructed contact form can be. As I just mentioned – they can create a lasting final impression, and this can be equally powerful as a first impression. Furthermore, contact forms are vital for the success of your business. They allow visitors a quick and simple method for expressing interest and getting in touch with you, and this is most likely to be the first contact you’ll have with your customers directly. They may be enquiring about your products and services, which you can easily turn into sales, and they may also be contacting you directly to make suggestions or ask questions which could lead to the improvement of your business and customer relations. As such, they are hugely important, and should be treated and designed with this importance in mind.

So, let’s take a look at why this part of your website is so vital for the growth of your business, and a few ideas of how to improve them to make the most of your contact with your customers. After all, who doesn’t like receiving fan-mail?

What does a good contact form do?

Contact forms are not just for potential customers. They are the primary way all types of people are going to get in touch with. Existing customers may want to send you words of praise or constructive criticism, jobseekers may want to enquire about getting involved with your business, and other companies might be interested in working alongside you. A good contact form keeps things simple and direct, and handily directs all these type of people to the same inbox. For almost any business, they’re the best communication tool you have. Here’s why:

  1. They’re dead quick and simple. Customers don’t want to have to search your site for an email address, copy and paste it into their email server, or go through any extra effort to get in touch. Competition online is ferocious, and this has led to the attention span and patience levels of the general public shrinking rapidly. A contact form can be filled quickly, and with a click of the mouse, customer’s messages can be with you in an instant.
  2. They help you know your customer base. This is really very important for your business. A good contact form should allow you to know where your customers are coming from, what type of people your business is attracting online, and what the denizens of the internet are looking for. From this, you can streamline your business to attract more of the same, and develop useful ‘frequently asked questions’ sections of your site. Good contact forms on new-style websites also tell you how your enquirers found your site – through social media, google, etc – something which is becoming increasingly important in the world of online marketing.
  3. Contact forms positively invite enquiries and suggestions. Not all of your customers are going to be instantly converted to your products or services, no matter how wonderful they may be. A contact form gives them the freedom to quickly ask questions or seek advice, thus allowing you as a business person the opportunity to dispel any fears or hesitations, or offer your own suggestions.
  4. They help generate leads. What business doesn’t want to close more deals? When people log onto your website, you don’t have a clue who they are, you don’t even know they’re looking at your information. Contact forms convert the anonymous into the known, and when somebody enters their personal details into the form, they are demonstrating a level of trust that you – as a salesperson – can build upon to form a relationship with them.

With all this in mind, don’t you want to include your own contact form, or take another look at your contact form, and ensure it’s doing its job properly?

Make sure your contact form follows these basic guidelines:

  1. It must follow the design of your site. You don’t want your form to look as though it has been tacked on at the end, as an afterthought. Make sure the design components of your site are carried through into the contact form, whether this means sticking to a colour scheme, keeping the same fonts and headings, or including some related images.
  1. Make sure it contains all the relevant components. You’ll need a space for their name and email address, and plenty of space for questions and comments. Lots of good sites nowadays are coming up with creative ways of making this seem like a less intrusive process. For example, instead of putting just ‘NAME’ next to the text box… why not try something friendlier, like ‘My name is…’?
  1. Put in a confirmation message. This is reassuring for the customer, they want to know that their message is getting through. So after they’ve clicked ‘send’, make sure they see a quick message telling them their message has been sent, and an approximate guess as to how long it will take for you to get back to them. This will leave your customers feeling comforted, and these sort of impressions really count.
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Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Online Shop

This was posted on July 11th, 2016

improve-shop

 

 

My, how the world has changed. Many of us still remember the scepticism and snide jokes that were bandied about when online shopping first became available, with many claiming it would never catch on. They said the same about mobile phones. They said the same about jazz and rock n roll. They probably said the same about the television, soap and the wheel, too. The fact of the matter is that more and more of us are relying on online shopping for an ever-increasing percentage of our purchases. Groceries, clothes, children’s toys, wine… you name it, there’s an online shop providing it.

While this has had an adverse effect on the high street – we’ve seen the slow but inevitable death of bookstores, record shops and travel agents, to name but a few – this has surely been an overall positive trend. For the first time ever, the normal consumer no longer has to rely on what is locally available, and has more choice than ever before. Global competition for more or less every product and service has made companies lower their prices and make their services far more efficient and customer-friendly than ever before, and we’re all enjoying the benefits this has brought.

If you’re the owner of a business or the manager of a website which deals with online shopping, and you aren’t feeling the same benefits other similar businesses are enjoying, there could be a number of reasons for this. To be a player in the world of online shopping, it is of vital importance to keep up to date with new trends and the latest fashions for online shops. It is all too easy, in this fast paced, competitive market, to fall by the wayside. To be even a year out of date is drastic and potentially fatal nowadays, so take into account these five simple steps to ensure you’re doing all you can to bring success to your business. As is always the case in these matters, it’s often the little things that make all the difference. Even by updating your product photos (make them sharper and more professional looking) will massively improve the image of the company your customers receive.

  1. Offer the extras

It’s all too easy to offer the bare minimum nowadays. Because of the competitive nature of online shopping, somebody is always waiting to undercut your prices and offer something which you are not. Customers are not as loyal as they once were, and your competitors are nothing more than a mouse click away. As such, small extras such as free shipping (which everybody everywhere appreciates enormously), loyalty rewards for return customers, and free advice and consultations can make a world of difference, and will bring customers back to your site time and time again.

  1. Keep your customers up to date

This one should go without saying, really, but so many people fail to take this simple and effective step. It takes little more than a monthly newsletter to maintain interest in your products and services. Most website providers and site building companies now offer incredibly cheap and easy solutions to communicating directly with your customer base. Spend a little time every couple of weeks writing attractive, tempting newsletters, informing your clients of progress in your company, offers and discounts, or new ideas, and directly invite your existing and potential clients to click on your links and see for themselves what they’re missing. People appreciate the personal touch, and it is a great, warm way to invite people back who’ve visited in the past.

  1. Encourage reviews and feedback

This one can’t really be overstated. You’re proud of your company, and you know you’re products and services are great. But in this age of youtube comments, tripadvisor star ratings and ebay reviews, consumers expect and demand to know the deal from existing customers, not from the boss. Open up a feedback page on your site, or regularly publish positive reviews and thoughts from your happy customers. You can then highlight what people love about what you do, and this will encourage new customers to see how you can make them happy, too. You can never please absolutely everyone, but the consumer knows that a majority of positive reviews is more likely to sway their decision than anything else.

  1. Make sure your website is looking good

First impressions make a huge difference, in life and in business. Websites that look old fashioned, uncared for or badly designed have a massive impact on how long a customer stays on the site and browses your products. A bad looking website raises a lot of reasonable questions in the head of the consumer. Questions like: if they can’t manage a modern website, how well are they going to manage my money? It isn’t unfair to assume that because a website looks shoddily put together, your services and products would be the same. Would you buy your dinner in a dirty restaurant, even if the chef tells you the kitchen is clean? Of course not.

  1. Clearly state your returns and refund policies

At the beginning of this article, I said that online shopping was originally met with some hostility and scepticism. For many people, this feeling remained. There is always an element of risk with online shopping, as after all, you haven’t had the chance to see the product in situ, haven’t been able to touch it, see it from all sides, or try it on. There is an increased likelihood, therefore, that it may need to be returned at some point. For customers with this worry in mind, they need to be clearly reassured that should they be unhappy with their purchase, the returns policy is simple, straightforward, trustworthy, and written on your site in plain black and white. The chances are, they’ll be delighted with their purchase, but this little extra bit of security is likely to give them that final push in the right direction.

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