Although consumer confidence was up 15 points in November and holiday shopping increased 8.7% on Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year, consumers are still being cautious with their spending. Many businesses are searching for a way to attract customers, and establishing a competitive advantage online may be critical for their future success.
Start by making sure your website has the basics covered. As we tell our San Francisco web design clients, a good website is clear, concise, and clutter-free. Does your site load easily and fit the screen right? Are the graphics effective? Is the font easy to read? Is the text properly spelled, grammatically correct, and not the length of a novel? Is the website easy to navigate? Is contact information easy to find? Internet users will navigate away quickly if they don’t like your website, so make sure it’s a place that people will want to stop and stay awhile.
Your website should not look like an old MySpace page. (Hat tip to webpagesthatsuck.com for finding this gem.)
Then ask yourself this question: “What can I offer customers that my competitors don’t?” The answer isn’t necessarily offering lower prices; you can gain a competitive edge by simply having a better user interface, providing easy online shopping, carrying a wider variety of products and services, offering rewards for loyalty, and so on. Once you choose the thing that makes your company stand out, shout it from the rooftops!
When designing the website of Domicile, an interior design firm in San Francisco, Zen Den sought to take the idea of an online portfolio to the next level. After conducting some competitive research, we designed Domicile’s portfolio to display multiple views of each design, describe the major features of each project, and allow viewers to compare each type of room side-by-side. Far more than just a gallery of thumbnails, this online portfolio gives a far richer idea of Domicile’s extraordinary design capabilities than some of its competitors’ websites do.
Gold is a hot commodity right now, and the number of businesses offering cash for gold has grown exponentially in the past few years. Goldrush Stores stands out from the crowd by highlighting the environmental benefits of recycling gold. The website explains that gold mining deteriorates the surrounding environment and generates huge amounts of waste—twenty tons for the gold to make one ring!
“By recycling your gold, silver, or platinum jewelry you are becoming an active member in protecting the environment by reducing the amount of waste used in the commercial gold mining process. And the icing on the cake is that you receive instant CASH for your efforts!” explains the website.
Social networks are a powerful source of word-of-mouth advertising, so be sure to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for your company. Use contests and giveaways to help attract a fan base and spread brand awareness.
Of course, having a great website won’t really give you an edge unless people can find it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to your online success. For example, say you have a law firm in San Francisco that specializes in family law. If a potential customer googles “divorce lawyer San Francisco,” and your website shows up on page 12, they are never going to find you because people rarely look past the first few pages. If you want to be visible online, you need to take steps to make your website friendly to search engines.
SEO is an ongoing process, and can take some time to build. There are some things you can do on your own; links from Facebook and Twitter, using keywords in the content, and making regular updates will all help. But a big part of SEO is back-end content, and this should be done by a professional. See “3 Quick SEO Case Studies” for more information about SEO.
Contact us to schedule a free consultation on how to create a competitive advantage with your website.