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Your website is your store. Treat it like one.

Your website is your store. Treat it like one.

Imagine for a moment that there is a potential customer out there, eager to shop and purchase the products they most desire. Now imagine that customer stepping foot into a retail store so labyrinthine and full of obstacles that just seeing it from the front door would make them turn and walk away. Perhaps the front door leads to a hallway that connects to indiscernible path after indiscernible path. Or maybe the display counters are full of unrelated products with no rhyme or reason to how they are sorted out. And worst of all, when they ask for help, there is nobody that is listening.

You might say this is absurd – and for many decades, you would be right. No business owner in their right mind would allow their store to be this obtrusive to the shopping experience. But it only takes one quick Google search to come upon a website so devoid of strategy and sense that by the time the page fully loads, most potential users are already clicking Back on their browsers to find the next business.

The 2016 holiday season showed that there’s no slowing down the rise of mobile shopping. Convenience is king and nothing is more convenient than crossing off your entire Christmas shopping list from the comfort of your bed. And while many retailers are finally coming to terms with this, they are still not putting in the effort to make sure their online store reflects the quality and care of their physical store.

Your website is your store to many consumers, and this only becomes truer with each passing day. In an e-commerce world, you may never meet your best customers face-to-face. To you, they exist only as an e-mail address in your database. But to them, you could be the store they would be lost without. That’s why now more than ever, hypervigilance is needed to ensure that your website is bringing you new business instead of driving it away.

Research in retail has always been exhaustive, and much of the available data only serves to cement the important fact that one bad user experience can cost your business significantly. For instance, 36% of those who participated in a web shopping experience survey indicated that they would outright abandon a purchase based on a bad experience. 30% would then never return to that website again. And, more concerning, 33% would immediately go to a competitor.

The worst part of it all is you might not even realize it’s happening. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, for every customer that bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. It can be notoriously difficult to identify what, if anything, is wrong with your website, and even more so to find out exactly how to fix it.

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Now that you’re thinking of your website as a digital store, consider what you do in store to make it a great experience for your customers. Your cases are likely stocked with a large selection, showing off all of your designers, styles, and products neatly organized in appropriate sections. In the same way, your website should contain as much of what you offer as you can. If your customers are looking for Brand X, and you carry it but do not include it on your website, they will never know. And if you do have Brand X on your website, but it takes a treasure map to find it due to poor navigation and design, you may as well have not bothered putting it online at all.

We all know customers are more price-conscious than ever and it’s simply never been easier for them to ensure that they’re getting the best price on whatever they purchase. Very few consumers would bother browsing your physical store if every price tag said, “Find out at the register.” If your website does not include pricing, they will assume that your prices are not the best, or worse, that you’re attempting to gouge them. Even if your product and service are exceptional, many consumers just will not give you the opportunity to prove it.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to create the experience that you want for your customers. It’s not enough to simply have a website – you have to maintain it just as you would your physical store. What passed as a good website experience two or three years ago has fallen behind. And what works today will not continue working in another few years. The only constant in the digital world is change – make sure you adapt before your competition does.

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