Not too long ago, websites were shrouded in mystery. Web designers wanted them to be mysterious, too, since building a website in the early days of the Internet was a cash cow. I should know. Since 1996, I’ve built more than 300 websites for companies large and small, and even the site you’re reading this on now.
Some of these sites were for businesses that are long gone. Others are still out there, such as a famous cosmetics brand that’s now selling in Sephora. I built their first e-commerce website back in the crazy days when everything had to be hand-coded in <html>, and the online store was built in an Access database.
If this all sounds foreign to you, it should. Sites aren’t built this way anymore unless you are a total geek who still enjoys punching code into the wee hours of the morning.
Thanks to tools like WordPress, most sites are extremely easy to build, almost plug-and-play. They don’t have to be fancy, either. A website isn’t a status symbol. It is meant to connect you to your customers, demonstrate why they should buy from you, and then get them to do that very thing – BUY!
Yes, you want to build relationships and sales funnels. But that can come with time. Your website can be changed completely to fill a number of marketing, sales and advertising roles, especially now that artificial intelligence is finding its way into the website world. Things that used to take hours, like customer support or email campaigns, can be automated using AI with just a few simple sentences. But more on that later.
– Robb Zerr
The numbers don’t lie…
Let’s start with the basics. Even after a pandemic where everyone had to find alternative ways to shop, 40% of businesses still don’t have a website. Of the remaining 60% that have a website, many are woefully outdated or have been completely forgotten.
Worse, 75% of those websites don’t allow visitors to shop or order online. That’s not to say that every website should offer e-commerce, but it’s amazing how many that should, don’t.
Customers have changed in recent years. You can thank a global pandemic and being housebound for a large part our changing preferences as consumers.
Today, roughly 80% of Americans do research online before they make a purchase.
I’m one of those people. I always do my research online before I contact a business. I always check business hours before heading to a new store. I can’t tell you how many times I think someone opens at 10, only to find that on Saturdays, they don’t open until 11. Or look at their menu before I decide I want to eat there. I certainly do my due diligence when I need someone to fix something at my house, including reading their reviews.
I’m not even the exception. An estimated 230 million potential customers are using the Internet to make buying decisions, from comparing prices and deciding who to buy from to doing their entire transaction online without stepping in the front door of a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
That’s just the United States, by the way. Ninety-five percent of all customers and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power lie overseas. Customers are looking for someone just like you. A website lets them know you’re there for them, and e-commerce lets you meet their need with something you have to offer.
Before we jump into the process of building a new website or updating an existing one, let’s start with the basics.