There are specific challenges for a web designer who is trying to figure out how to develop a retail website that is different than most other websites. When the web first began to boom, the methods that people thought would make money, like advertising, failed miserably. However, there were other endeavors, like MySpace, that no one expected being successful, which ended up as a fairy-tale success story. The days of "if you set up a website, you'll make millions!" are over, mainly because, not only can anyone set up a website, everyone did. At the same time, it quickly became a business necessity to set up a presence on the web, and for a retail business, that means that it needs to be a commercial website. So what makes one commercial retail site stand out from the rest?
How to Develop a Retail Website That Works
The development of a retail website falls into three approaches: Advertising, Front-End, and Back-end. Each of these areas requires different specialties to work well. Also, each of these areas are all required for a successful retail website - what good is a site that looks fantastic, and delivers product in a timely and efficient manner, if no one knows about it because of crummy advertising? Here are some things to keep in mind when planning each area of your retail website:
- Target your markets - The web is a huge place, which means there is room for every niche group and special interest to have their own space. Identifying one particular group and then letting them know, through targeted advertising, why your product will be useful to them, is a key tool in advertising a retail website.
- Consistent Branding - Taking the time to create a logo, color scheme, and tag phrases or ad copy that can make your product instantaneously identifiable, is essential in a medium where people can easily dismiss you with a click.
- Google Tools - Google has many tools, such as AdWords and Analytics, which can help you identify who is (and, often more importantly, who isn't) coming to your site. This can help identify the right markets, phrasing, and other aspects of your advertising campaign. Knowing how to use these tools is key to proper use of advertising dollars.
The front end of a retail website is the very first thing the customer sees. It is also the online version of customer service. On your website, there is no one available to tell the customer that they can find what they want in aisle 7, so it's that much more important that the site is easy to use and informative.
- Navigation - Simply put, ease of navigation will make or break a website. Many stores will put so many links on the first page that the customer really doesn't know where to look first. Other sites make the mistake of putting too little information on the first page, leaving the customer with no reason to stay. Finding the right balance is the job for good web designers and user interface specialists.
- Brand consistency - In conjunction with advertising, site design needs to be identifiable with the same format and content that the customer saw in whatever ad brought them there. This involves color palettes, logos, fonts, and even more, the "feel" of a site - elegant, playful, or whatever it might be.
- Ease of use. It is every designer's dream that users will come to a site and be so overcome with the wonder of it all that they spend hours exploring the images, admiring the clever copy-writing, and exclaiming at the amazing CSS. The reality is that customers come to a commercial site for one reason: to buy something. Converting all of these visitors into paying customers as quickly, efficiently, and easily as possible is paramount to having a good retail website.
- Accuracy - Once a customer places an order, the details need to go to the right places - the factory, the shipping department, etc. This is known as "parsing" the data, and it requires the services of programmers to create the efficient mechanism by which the data entered into the "front end" goes to the right place.
- Security - In the era of the internet, people are very protective of their personal information. Making sure that their data is not shared with anyone, without their express permission, is critical.
These are only a few things to keep in mind when you are trying to determine how to develop a retail website, and these needs highlight why commercial website owners should opt for the most professional designers, programmers, and advertising specialists a business can afford.