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Standing out from the crowd – Sustaining an effective online digital shopfront

The Talk Business team met up with Dan Hill, Head of Dot London, to look at the importance of retailers having the right online digital shopfront.

Traditionally the high street shopfront has been a way for retailers to show off the best of what they have and to entice customers through their door. From fashion boutiques displaying the latest seasonal trends to patisseries pitching their finest and most delicious cakes, the shopfront display is synonymous with the retail experience.

There is however a more cost-effective, wider-reaching and more targeted way of getting your products on show to potential customers – the online digital shopfront. This can come in the form of a website or a social media platform which gives smaller retailers a voice amongst the big hitters, as long as it’s well thought through and well executed.

With 90% of British businesses planning to sell their products online by the end of 2018, according to Capital Economics’ SME Growth Tracker, it looks like it’s time to go online.

Be targeted

Independent retailers compete with large superstores as they spend varying sizes of budgets on shouting about their latest sales offers. They try to tell people what they need by dressing their shopfronts in what they feel the passing trade, or a certain segment of society, will want to have. But how accurate can they be? How much of their budget is being wasted on a guess or a whim?

If you’re based in a certain area you might think you know what your customers want, but going online allows you to be more effective with behavioural data that can make you better at driving conversions. It’s easier to tailor your website to improve user experience and make it more relevant to them than you can with a physical shopfront.

Be relevant

Getting your customers to your website and cutting through the crowded wider web is the big challenge facing any business. So how can you make your digital shopfront stand out? The key thing to do is include content that your customers would find engaging and useful. You want them to see you as a source of authority and expertise, and the best way to do that is to invest in effective content marketing.

Content marketing can take on the form of blogs, videos, product reviews, pictures, case studies, social media activity, whatever you think your audience might find engaging. When creating the content you need to ensure you have a unique voice that supports your brand identity and expresses your company’s spirit and mission statement, as well as be relevant to your customer’s needs. The right content can help with your SEO and search engine placement so including keywords increases the chance of people finding your website when searching for specific products or queries.

Rise Bakery, a social enterprise run by London-based homeless charity Providence Row, sells brownies through their website, and has an effective content marketing strategy. Their striking digital shopfront includes enticing pictures of brownies, up to date blog posts and good sales points for corporate or one-off purchases. It has a professional and slick feel and still carries a strong local charity message, from images of the local area to using a Dot London web address.

Be basic

Thinking about the user experience is paramount to a successful website. Keep everything simple and as straightforward as possible. Make your messaging clear so that customers can easily see who you are and what you’re offering them. Regular changes can make all the difference – from refreshing images on your homepage, to tweaking copy for any seasonal changes and adding a new page for a one-off offer or event. These simple changes will keep people engaged and help your website look up to date and current.

The London-based photography agency, The Miss Jones Agency, keep it nice and basic. Their priority is to shout about their clients, so they update their homepage with the latest commissions that they have fulfilled, include easy to access portfolios and testimonials about their agency. It’s stylish, easy to use and gives you a good feel of what you might get from working with them.

Be dedicated

Most independent retailers are time poor, so you might feel that you don’t have the resources to create or regularly update your website. To stay ahead of competitors you need to find the time and treat your online digital shopfront as you might treat one of your employees – develop it, nurture it, regularly review its performance and keep it as up to date as possible. As you invest both time and money into your employees, you should do the same with your whole website. Like with an employee, your website is your spokesperson to potential customers.

Stationery experts, i am a, really let their digital shopfront do the talking. Regularly kept up to date, their colourful range, from greetings cards to weekly planners, are displayed in a stylish and fun way that gives you a good idea of what their work ethos is like. Their website is user friendly for both consumer and trade buyers, making it an open and cost effective way of promoting their business.

A good digital shopfront adds credibility to your business and is the first thing prospective customers will see. People will visit your website as part of their research and it can influence their decision on whether to use you or go to one of your competitors. An independently run survey commissioned by Dot London found that over half of Londoners (54%) prefer to shop online and that 73% admitted to having bought an item online after browsing for it in a shop.

Though it’s nice to have some physical presence on the high street and dress up your shopfront the best you can, it’s no longer a necessity for success. On the flipside, having a fresh, efficient and targeted online digital shopfront is becoming a necessity and a way for you to express your unique identity and help your business stand out from the crowd.