When was the last time you thought about your customer base? Using personas to tune in to your customers can have a long-term impact on your physical shop as well as your online business. We show you in three steps how you can easily create such personas to identify who your customers really are.
The “About Us” page is a great way to offer a closer look to your brick-and-mortar business and thus gain the trust of your customers. Along with other factors such as high-quality product photos or detailed descriptions of your products, a well-crafted “About us” page can have a lasting influence on your customers’ buying decisions. In this article, we will show you why this is the case and how you can fill such a page with relevant content.
What makes the “About us” page so relevant?
When potential buyers of your products visit your online shop, they may be interested in several pieces of content beyond your products. For example, the story of your company or an introduction to your brick-and-mortar shop may be important to customers. Merchants can benefit from presenting the background of their company, the idea behind it as well as the faces behind their online shop. Online shoppers often look for more information about a shop – for example, to make sure it is trustworthy and that the products are not counterfeits. An “About Us” page creates a solid foundation and builds the necessary trust in your shop and the products.
Compared to companies that only sell online, you have a big advantage: You can present your brick-and-mortar business and its story. Some of your online customers may already know your physical store or may have already bought something from you. If prospective customers do not know you at all yet, for example because they found your website through search engines, the “About us” page is a perfect platform to present yourself, add your personal touch, and thus gain trust in your online shop. Additionally, you may use this opportunity to give visitors a virtual tour of your brick-and-mortar business with visually appealing pictures of your store and your team.
How do other shops do it?
First of all, check out other websites, for example your favourite online shop. How does the company position itself? What information does it present? It is also worthwhile to look at competitors in your sector for inspiration and to figure out important aspects – such as how the categories and pages are structured. If you want to find out more about how to find the right categories for your website, visit our blog article.
What questions do customers have?
Think about the customers from your brick-and-mortar shop. What topics come up in conversations with them? What questions have customers already asked? Focal points for your customers already emerge here, which you should include on the “About us” page.
What is your background?
Behind every business there is a story that moves the team behind it and motivates the customers. Tell them your story! What inspired you to start your business? What were your first products and how did you grow? What were the milestones in the history of your business? The “About us” page is just the right place to talk about these experiences and give consumers a brief overview of who you are.
What makes you stand out?
Find keywords that make you and your products unique. What makes you and your shop stand out from similar shops in your area? Perhaps it is a wide range of products or the many years of practice you have in your field. What else is important to you about your business? Note down criteria that you pay special attention to in your products or in your shop. Do you sell local products? Does the tradition of your business mean a lot to you and why? Such information gives shop visitors a rounded impression of your business. This shows prospective customers why exactly you are the right choice for them. The “About Us” page is the right place to highlight these factors.
How to find the right structure for your text
The W-questions offer good inspiration for the structure of your “About us” text.
For example, you can ask yourself the following questions about your business:
- When did you open your physical store?
- What other branches are you involved in?
- What makes your business stand out?
- What makes you different from the competition?
- Why did you open your online shop?
- What products are available in your shop?
- Who is your product range aimed at?
- What kind of relationship do you have with your customers?
- Why should a prospective customer buy from your shop?
- Which products do you only sell online and why?
How to structure the site for your online shop
You may already have some initial ideas for your own “About Us” page. For the right structure, it is best to first think about all the additional content elements you want to include – for example, texts, images and videos. You can experiment with these elements until you have an idea of how the page should be structured. Not only will you be able to coordinate content and text a lot easier, but it will also be much clearer and smoother for visitors to read.
On your website, we recommend displaying your “About Us” page in the main menu, so that prospective customers can find it at first glance.
Alternatively, you can link to the page in the footer of your shop.
These and other tips may have inspired you to create your own “About Us” page and give your online shop the unique feel of your brick-and-mortar business. We look forward to hearing from you and your story!
Are you looking for the right structure for your website? An intuitive category structure can significantly improve visitors’ impression of your website by allowing them to easily find what they are looking for. Even if websites differ considerably in what they offer, there are practical approaches for structuring online presence – websites as well as online shops – that you should know about. In this article, we share best practices for deciding the right categories for your website and demonstrate these methods using the example of an online shop.
To find the right structure for your online presence, the first step is to put yourself in the shoes of the website visitor. How do you as a visitor quickly find what you are looking for? Regardless of whether the content is more or less broadly spread out, the needs of visitors sometimes vary widely. The focus here is the task of satisfying all interested parties, the solution is user-friendliness.
Categories as a guide
Imagine the following thought experiment: You are on holiday and want to go on a cycling tour. Which guidebook tours do you tend to focus on? At a glance, tours with too many stops seem confusing and those with too few, uninteresting. An ideal tour should catch your interest and allow you to quickly find the places you want to visit.
It is similar with your website categories. Your categories should provide enough information that there is a good overview – but not so much that it overwhelms visitors. Because if your online shop is not easy to navigate, you risk losing customers.
Get the big picture!
What all websites should have in common is a smooth communication with the visitors: This means the website’s categories and options should be able to guide them optimally through all the more detailed content you provide.
To ensure this user-friendliness, think about your overall concept first. Collect your ideas for your website and what you want to achieve with it. If you want to set up an online shop, you may already be able to derive a strategy from your brick-and-mortar business in sense of product line and creating a branding. Or maybe take the online shop as an opportunity to redesign the overall concept. If you are interested in a pure online presence without an online shop, even then you should consider an overall concept for your storytelling.
Another tip is to look at the structure of competing websites. You can sometimes find surprisingly simple and intuitive solutions for categories that you could adopt for your website. Categories in online shops now have a certain pattern. For example, imagine an online shop for fashion, where the first level is usually sorted by men, women and children.
Step-by-step: Creating categories with Card Sorting
You can create your website or product categories in four steps using a method called ‘card sorting’. An advantage of card sorting is that you can first visualise your ideas and then flexibly move them around until you have created a selection and structure that suits you best. It can be helpful to share these ideas with others (ex. associates, friends…) who create their own category structure thereby finding out how other visitors orientate themselves to your content. Take care not to miss or duplicate categories. You can master card sorting in four steps:
- If you are creating a simple website without a basket, collect all the content and topics you want to present on individual cards. For an online shop, collect all your product types that you offer in your brick-and-mortar business and also want to offer in your online shop. Product attributes, such as size or colour, should not play a role here.
- Sort these cards into logical groups for you.
- Think of a suitable title for each group.
- If you have covered all of your content and nothing overlaps, you have worked out your appropriate categories!
When giving titles to your categories, make sure they are easy to understand. This is especially important for prospective customers who do not yet know you or your product range; they should find familiar terms here. To reach a broader audience you should also avoid using overly technical terms in the categories.
The next consideration is how to incorporate these categories into your main menu. There are several ways to do this as well, including an important feature called a ‘Mega Menu’. This allows you to create several menu levels in order to avoid overwhelming visitors by displaying too many categories in the main menu. An optimal number is about five to seven categories in the first level, which you can supplement with appropriate sub-categories if needed.
We hope this information has already given you some ideas on how to organise your website. We hope you have fun sorting!
To prepare your brick-and-mortar business and website for the future and set the right priorities, doing a SWOT analysis is a best practice. It enables you to identify and understand current strengths, weaknesses and other aspects of your business. We will show you how to apply this method to your business step by step in order to act confidently in the digital market of tomorrow. This article is useful for merchants who want to set up their online presence or even start an online business.
But what does SWOT actually mean?
SWOT stands for four dimensions through which you can evaluate your business and its potential:
A SWOT analysis is a self-assessment done by gathering and considering information within these four dimensions. Drawing from this assessment you develop strategies and apply them to both your offline and online activities.
While the idea is simple, for you as a merchant, embracing and using this strategic planning technique can help you improve your online and offline business. With respect to online presence, the analysis helps you set up an efficient strategy and make grounded decisions. Especially if you are about to enter e-commerce, use these points to determine your recources. Considering your strengths and opportunities can help you more effectively present your business with a website or online shop. Furtermore, this technique can affect minor and major areas of your company: Do you want to develop further in online retail by integrating social media and marketplaces platforms such as Amazon and eBay? Or are you thinking about offering a new product category? Perhaps your company is facing major changes. SWOT helps you to run through the corresponding scenarios. This article guides you through the four factors of SWOT and provides a palette of questions that you can use directly in your business assessment and for assessing your competitors too.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths and weaknesses are mainly about internal aspects of your business and website that you are able to influence. There are some external factors that are not easy to influence, such as threats to the industry, the location of your shop or similar. These are addressed in the next section.
Instead, consider your current situation: How much expertise does your team bring along? What are your personal backgrounds and how do you use them? If you already have an online presence, what content does it currently offer visitors?
What are the opportunities and threats?
On the other hand, external factors – opportunities and threats – deal with aspects that you cannot influence yourself. What competition is there on the market, both online and offline? What head start do these merchants have? What developments and trends are happening in your sector?
To illustrate this process and clarify the differences between these points, try imagining all of these questions arranged on a timeline: Your strengths and weaknesses reflect the current state, while you consider the questions delaing with opportunities and threats to analyse the future prospects of your business.
Checklist: How to approach your SWOT analysis step by step
Before you start with a SWOT analysis, consider the following points:
- Research the environment: The demands of working in your brick-and-mortar business may hinder you from doing a detailed market analysis. But keep in mind that important insights about your industry and competition will help you to understand the external factors for SWOT. So make sure to research your environment towards trends, competitors and their online business model as best as you can.
- Ask friends and employees: the more ideas, the better. To get an accurate impression of your SWOTs, it’s a good idea to ask people who already know your products, your brick-and-mortar business and your online activity. Perhaps you have regular customers whom you can approach for their opinion. If you already have a platform for collecting customer reviews, include these impressions in your analysis as well.
The first steps in the analysis:
- Brainstorming your SWOTs: You might already have initial thoughts about your SWOTs. Below you will find our list of questions. Start there and do a first brainstorming to generate and capture details. Don’t be afraid of long lists. More is helpful! You can always delete unimportant points. In any case, be fair and honest with yourself. Unacknowledged weaknesses can hinder your path to the most viable solutions. Instead, take the opportunity to use SWOT to develop a new strategy that moves you forward in the long run.
- Give yourself a break: After you’ve started a SWOT process, take a few days to get used to that thinking and reflect on it. Managing the processes of your day-to-day activities can help bring to light new ideas and prioritise the importance of those already noted. Make a note of these factors too!
- Form your strategy: When you think you have summarised all your SWOTs in detail, begin to structure them into a strategy. How can you highlight and use your strengths and opportunities? How can you counteract weaknesses and threats? What at first sounds like a theoretical construct is sometimes easier to implement than you think. Outline time-bound goals that you derive based on these points. Link the strategy to each point of SWOT:
- Strengths and opportunities: Highlight your strengths to maximise your opportunities
- Strengths and threats: Use strengths to limit or cancel out threats
- Weaknesses and opportunities: Reduce weaknesses to increase opportunities
- Weaknesses and threats: Reduce weaknesses to reduce threats
Start small to get used to a new strategy. An example: You regularly receive large numbers of enquiries about a certain product and that hinders your day-to-day business. Adjust the product description to address these enquiries! If the volumes decreases, you have successfully counteracted a weakness.
- Update your SWOTs: Your SWOTs are dimensions that are always in flux and can change over time along with your priorities, capabilities and environment. Periodically take the time to adjust your SWOTs and update your strategy.
Questions for your SWOT analysis
Use our question template to filter your SWOTs. We recommend writing down your thoughts in bullet points.
- What are the advantages of your products?
- Do you offer products that are not available in any other shop?
- Which product is particularly profitable?
- What distinguishes you personally as a business owner?
- What expertise do you bring to the table as a business owner?
- What positive feedback do you get from customers?
- Does your shop have a good reputation in your environment?
- Do you already have a website?
- What experience do you have in your business area?
- What makes your shop so special?
- Do you already have contacts who have helped you with your business?
- Do you already have experience in ecommerce?
- What hurdles have you already overcome with your brick-and-mortar business?
- Where can you save money to maximise your profit?
- What are things you do less well than others?
- Is there anything that bothers you about your shop?
- Have customers ever given negative feedback?
- Where are you losing money?
- Where do you lack resources?
- Do you only have little experience in some areas?
- Have you ever made serious mistakes?
- Do you have revenue difficulties with certain products?
- Does your staff lack knowledge?
- Do your customers have interests that you could not serve with your retail shop?
- Were some product descriptions unclear to customers?
- What customer needs could you serve in the future?
- What strengths do you see through an online presence for your business?
- Do you have the ability to distribute your products locally, to other countries?
- What external resources can you use to respond to customers’ needs?
- What goals can you achieve in the near future?
- What disadvantages do competitors in your industry have compared to you?
- What are the trends in your market?
- How can you take advantage of future developments?
- Do you have the opportunity to address a new target group, for example a different age group?
- What are the potential threats to your industry?
- Which developments could be dangerous for your business?
- What threats do you personally see in the next three years?
- What lead does your competition have?
- Do you have products that are only sold for a short period of time, for example trend products or seasonal products?
- Are you tied to other companies, for example to a supplier?
- Do you know companies in your immediate environment that will soon enter your industry?
- Which of your competitors dominates the market and why?
- For what reasons are your sales not greater?
How to get the most out of your SWOT analysis
Once you have gained a deeper impression of these four dimensions, you can better assess your environment and your position in the market. Dare to think outside the box to identify advantages and disadvantages of your brick-and-mortar business that you might not have considered before. Most importantly, do not be frustrated when discovering weaknesses and threats. The SWOT analysis serves to generate ideas for counteracting these supposedly negative points.
Often, a well thought-out online presence helps to compensate for the weaknesses of a physical business. It already might help to start by putting an entry in Google My Business to achieve a first online presence and help online customers find your shop through location-based search. Particularly when opening your online shop, the SWOT analysis is a good way to rethink and optimise your strategy. We have summarised for you the most important tips for starting your online business here.
We hope that this introduction to the SWOT analysis will be useful and may already have helped generate ideas for your new strategy. We wish you success in planning your online and offline business!
You have created your website and uploaded your products and written product descriptions? Congratulations, you are now ready to receive your first orders! Below, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you promote your shop online and offline and reach the first customers.
1. Tell friends and family about your website
Talk about your website in your circle of friends, acquaintances and with your family. Even if they only buy something because they like you and want to support you – sold is sold! Also, ask people from your environment to tell others about your store.
2. Offer vouchers
Distributing coupon codes is a great strategy to attract new customers and strengthen customer loyalty. You can distribute the vouchers via social media or print flyers with a QR code on them so that customers can land directly on your website using the camera of their smartphones, for example.
3. Be active in communities and forums
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and be present wherever they may search for information about your website. In relevant internet communities you can reach the right audience for your business. Participate in the discussions in the communities and help the other members with useful tips and ideas. This way you can become part of the community and create awareness of your products through time. Through the last several years, Facebook has established itself as a platform for communities, where members get together in closed groups and exchange ideas with one another.
4. Be found on Facebook and Twitter
If you haven’t already done so, you can create profiles for your business on Facebook and Twitter to promote your products there. Find out which social networks are most popular among your (potential) customers and focus on them instead of trying to be present everywhere.
5. Expand your network via LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the most important professional networks. Connect with people you already know and people whose profile might be interesting for you. Join active LinkedIn groups and regularly publish posts in your feed. These can be links to your products or useful content – the main thing is that it is relevant and interesting for your following.
6. Post visually appealing images on Instagram
Instagram is one of the best platforms to boost your online store’s sales. Post visually appealing images on your profile for your followers. Use 5-10 suitable hashtags and include a link to your website in your bio. You can place multiple links in your bio using services such as Linktr.ee, which gives you the possibility to, for example, link to your seasonal offers on your website.
7. Get in contact with bloggers
Find out which bloggers cover similar products like you offer. Ask them if they are interested to try out one of your products and present it to their following. If they are, send them a free sample.
8. Use an email signature
Draw attention to your website in your email signature and include a link to it. This way, every email you send out will make people aware of your online presence.
9. Send newsletters
Send out regular emails to your customers to keep them informed about your products and engaged with your brand regularly. Try to send the mails with the same frequency and offer useful information that your customers want to read.
10. Produce YouTube videos
On YouTube you can reach many potential customers. For example, you can present new products, give a tour behind the scenes of your store or introduce your team.
11. Optimise your website for search engines
A good ranking on Google and other search engines is very important so that your customers can find your website. Therefore, optimise it by including keywords relevant for customers in the URL, category pages and product descriptions and use all the search engine optimisation options your website offers.
12. Take advantage of local networks
Local business networks can be found in almost every city. Check with your local chamber of commerce to find out possibilities to be listed locally and participate in the local events they organise.
13. Conduct online advertising campaigns
Google Ads campaigns deliver fast results and bring visitors to your online store who are interested in your products. Select suitable keywords, write appealing ad texts and test which ads work best.
14. Place ads on Facebook
Your Facebook page can also help you generate sales. You can place ads and target a specific audience, for example a certain age group or people interested in certain topics, etc. In preparing texts for your Facebook ads, ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to sell? What makes my online store unique? Who are my products intended for? If it feels difficult to answer these questions, a SWOT analysis can help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your business
15. Promote your website via outdoor ads
Outdoor advertising with posters or billboards can appeal to many potential customers, especially in your local area. Keep in mind that these ads often require a larger budget.
16. Publish a media release
Use the reach of the local media publications and write an interesting media release to announce the launch of your products on your website.
17. Participate in events
Find out which trade fairs or conferences are available on the field of your business. Establish contacts with suppliers, competitors and retailers and raise awareness among them about your website and products.
18. Organise a launch event
Perhaps this is an idea that you may want to consider post-COVID-19: Invite friends, relatives and even potential customers to your physical store to announce the launch of your website. Don’t forget to promote the event via your website, social networks and your newsletter beforehand.
19. Sell your products on a local market
Even if you only sell your products online, it may be interesting for you to book a stand in a local market to score first sales and encourage your customers to shop with you online.
20. Sell a unique product
Especially if you are in a highly competitive environment, this is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd and ensure that customers only shop with you.
21. Tell stories
Another great way to stand out from the competition is to tell the story behind your website. How did you get the idea for your store? Why should customers shop with you? This way, you will stay in the memory of your customers and show the human side of your company.
Making Music is a musical instrument store and music school in Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland. The owner, Kevin Doyle, has been in the music industry since 1991. A drummer and guitarist himself, Kevin decided to open his own retail store 8 years ago. Today, Making Music touches the lives of many parents and their children who take guitar, piano and violin lessons and purchase instruments there. The company is known for being one of the best suppliers of top end instruments, such as Maton and Martin guitars and Pearl drums, in Ireland. They also offer PA systems and lighting for parties and gatherings. In this interview, Kevin told us about why he loves what he does, how he’s navigating through the Corona crisis, his journey to digitalisation and starting an online shop.
“We’ve got a lot of friends out of this little business”
Kevin: At Making Music, we grow with our customers and their children. Kids come to our store with their mommies and daddies and start with their first instruments. We guide the parents in the right direction. It’s just a lovely business to be in, and there’s a fantastic vibe in the store. We’ve got a special kind of bond with our customers and have built many friendships over the years. If a kid breaks a guitar string and thinks he’s going to get grounded because he’s “broken the guitar,” he gives us a quick call, where we tell him to bring it in so we can fix it, and then he’s no longer in trouble. He’s our best mate because he’s not going to get grounded. We’ve got a lot of friends out of this little business.
ePages: Like many other businesses, you’ve also had to close your doors during the lockdowns. How did that impact Making Music? How did you use the time during the store closures and the lack of footfall?
Kevin: In the beginning it felt like I got punched in the jaw by Mike Tyson. I was asking myself, well, how do I come back from this one? I locked the store up very quickly because looking at the news, there were people fighting to get into supermarkets to buy toilet rolls or to buy water, to buy pasta and so on. So, I pulled down the shutters and got home early. I looked after home first, that was perfect. Then I got out walking into fresh air and started thinking what the best thing to do would be. We did have an existing Facebook community. So, I put up a note on our Facebook page that the store would be closed until the 29th of March, which was the next potential opening date, but people could still contact us there on Facebook. We also left a message on the landline with our mobile phone number and directed people over to our Facebook page. That way, we were able to get a few calls and messages. At the very beginning of the crisis we were down 100% of revenue. Then, gradually we started to receive phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook messages. After about five weeks is where it all kind of kicked off again.
Organic growth through customer engagement
ePages: You’ve mentioned having an existing community on Facebook. How many followers do you have there?
Kevin: We have over 6000 likes on our Facebook page. We’d never go out and buy likes, instead we’ve let the number of likes grow organically over the years. It has definitely paid off now much better. The fact that we had the whole connection and the bond with our students, and we had the parents on our side, we were able to get involved in putting on prizes for the busking competition on Gorey Main Street. We’ve done that for the last couple of years. Every year, we put up a thousand Euros in prizes. We have customers who come from different regions for those busking competitions and the photos are just great. When we put them on Facebook people end up tagging themselves and through that we’ve reached a wider community that are shopping with us. That was really useful because over time we were able to get them into the store and it helped us ship some products out during the crisis. We also had parents ringing and telling us that their kid just broke a guitar string or a drumstick. We realized we have to get these kids occupied as they weren’t able to mix with their friends. It was a beautiful thing to do something about that. The guys who had been giving lessons in our store were available during the lockdowns, so we focused on moving the lessons online through social media and Skype. The groups we have doing lessons with us now are like family. It all worked out great.
The feeling of the physical store while shopping online
ePages: Are there some learnings going forward? How are you preparing for possible further store closures?
Kevin: We want anyone who has ever been in our store to feel as if they are in the physical store while shopping online. I think that’s an important factor. Previously, we just had an awareness page. Now, with eShop, I am able to mix Facebook, Instagram, Website, ecommerce all into one place. That is just ticking all the boxes for me. When people want to get in touch, we can schedule an appointment and meet them anytime; in the store, during office hours or outside of work. That is just amazing.
ePages: Through which channels do you communicate with your customers? You’ve mentioned notifying customers via the Facebook community and by changing the automatic response on your landline phone. Apart from that, do you use newsletters or similar measures?
Kevin: We don’t have regular newsletters yet. That’s something on our list which hasn’t gotten ticked. Currently, we’re working on our Instagram page. Facebook is pretty much open for everyone – mommies, daddies, uncles and grannies, but there are a lot of younger kids using Instagram as opposed to their parents who are on Facebook. There is higher dividend for us coming from Facebook but we’re making our way toward getting more active on Instagram and TikTok. We’re going to announce the launch of our new online shop on Facebook and Instagram. Before, I would have taken photos of musical instruments and just published them on our Facebook page. Now, I’m taking the image from the eShop and posting it on our Facebook page. I think that’s going to drive traffic straight to our online business.
“Our competitors are very price competitive, but we have our students and their parents on our side”
ePages: How did your customers order from you while the physical store was closed? Did you deliver the products yourself?
Kevin: We had a website for raising awareness of our brand. On our website we did manage to get some traffic and e-mails. We followed up with them and we took some credit card payments over the phone. There have also been people who paid cash on delivery. It worked out pretty well. Basically, we were one of the lucky ones able to stay trading whereas there were pubs and restaurants in Ireland totally closed down. I was able to get in and get out and deliver myself. When I say that, I mean I was dropping pianos off at the doors where beforehand I would have gone into the living room and set them up and so on. The customer was aware that they are shopping local and that if they need help or to walk through the set-up we’re just a call away. That really worked well.
ePages: How did you hear about the eShop offer?
Kevin: It was brought to my attention by Elavon a couple of months ago. For us, the online shop was always the elephant in the room. I was thinking to myself “I need to do this, but I don’t think I have enough time to put into it.” When Elavon introduced me the eShop product I perceived it very positively. When I had questions, they followed up on it and made things clear to me. This worked well for me. The fact that all of the payments are going through Elavon is a convenient factor. That took a lot of pressure off our shoulders. I don’t have to worry about ensuring it meets all the security requirements, that’s already taken care of. My competitors are very price conscious; in seconds they can bring up the price and drop it. I was always concerned about getting into that kind of operation. My main thing is customer service; if a customer comes to me, I ensure they get the service they need, for example we look after the setup of their guitar, and make sure that the kids or the parents are going to be able to play it. I take care of my business, and I let Elavon look after the payments. I have been an Elavon customer since I started the business 8 years ago.
“This is everything and more”
ePages: How long did it take you to set up your online shop? Did you have previous experience selling online with your website?
Kevin: I didn’t personally set-up our previous website, a friend of mine did it for me. Back then we used a mainstream website builder. That didn’t really work to be honest. I didn’t feel it was a powerful enough tool in comparison to Facebook or Instagram. I think the eShop is much better and more professional. The ecommerce side of it is very powerful and will take some weight off my shoulders. I feel more at ease and confident to work behind the scenes, update the products that we have coming in. An online shop is always a bit of work in progress, and it’s going to grow with our business. I am actually more excited about this than I was about starting on Facebook, and that was a huge project. Now I am just thinking: “My God, this is going to be amazing. This is going to really work for Making Music.” I can’t believe how good my new website and shop are looking and I am very happy about it. I was talking to my brother Patrick about our new online shop and said: “This is everything and more.”
ePages: It seems your customers have a particularly close relationship to you and the store. Maybe some have been to the physical store before, had a conversation with you. They will now have the chance to interact with your brand online, check out the content you’ve created in your online shop. Is that a differentiator for your business?
Kevin: Yes, I think we’ve cherry-picked the right sellers and products for the money to feature in the online shop. Most importantly, we’re making sure the instruments are set up right so when they land at the customer’s door it all works perfect for them out of the box rather than buying a guitar on Amazon or eBay, where the photograph looks much better than what they end up receiving. It’s up to us to deliver the real deal when it arrives into our customer’s hands.
ePages: How many products do you sell in your physical shop and how many of those do you sell online?
Kevin: We have over a thousand products in our physical store, but I don’t want to clog my online shop with too many of them. I’m starting with the best sellers which means a range of around 200. I think that will be better for us.
ePages: Right. Are you changing anything in your physical store, maybe different rules in terms of distance and how many people you let in at the same time?
Kevin: Yes, we we’ve created social distancing signs. We’re lucky because our store is quite big. We have four separate music rooms. When people want to come in and try musical instruments, we have room for them.
ePages: Do you intend to invest more in your online presence in the future?
Kevin: It’s so hard for a small company to survive in the current situation. While having the physical store for that one-to-one interaction, I definitely see the importance of developing our online presence with the online shop and social media.
As a brick-and-mortar retailer, you are in daily direct contact with your customers. Therefore, you certainly have a very clear picture of what the visitors in your store expect from you and how you can best address them. This knowledge of your target groups offers you the best conditions to address your regular customers and potential new customers online, outside the physical store. The advantage is that you can reach more consumers. Following certain methods, you can increase the traffic in your store. While bringing the benefits and convenience of online shopping into your own physical store not only provides a competitive advantage, a linked shopping experience can also result in increased reach, customer loyalty and sales.
Why should I define my target group?
Whether you want to open your own online shop, boost local marketing via online campaigns, start with content marketing or reach a new target group: Through a detailed target group definition, your marketing measures will reach exactly those buyers who are interested in your offer through various channels. The better you know the needs of your customers, the more targeted you can address your customers and convince them of your offer. If your offer and your target group do not match, you will probably not have the success you wish for. By defining your target group, you can get to know your existing, potential or new customers and their needs in detail and align your marketing in the best possible way. By analysing your target group you can find out, for example, which digital or linked services your customers want. In this way you know how to offer your customers exactly the shopping experience they expect. The advantage for you as a physical retailer: You know your customers and can use much of this knowledge to define your target group. Please note, however, that a target group analysis must be reviewed at regular intervals and, if necessary, all marketing measures must be adjusted, since the target group with its wishes and needs can change over time.
What does my business stand for and what exactly is my offer?
Before you start with the target group analysis, start with your offer and your company. Once you have clearly understood and defined what the customer benefit of your offer is, it will be easier for you to address your target group. Answer the following questions:
- – What can you or what can your product do really well?
- – What is the benefit of your products for your customers?
- – What do you and your company stand for?
- – Do you have special experience in a certain area?
- – How do you differ from the competition?
- – Who is your competition and where is it active?
- – What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competition?
Take a close look at your competition and note down how you differ from it. The advantage is that you can communicate the answers to these questions as USPs (Unique Selling Points) on your website, your (online) marketing campaigns and in any marketing material. There are various online resources available for analysing the competition, from Google Trends and Google Suggest to various keyword databases, through which you can find out the search volume of certain keywords on Google and use this information to derive your potential sales potential. Relevant keyword analysis tools include, for example, the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere as well as the tools Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Answer the public, Hypersuggest, Ubersuggest, Keyword Tool, SEORCH, KWFinder, WDFIDF-Tool or BuzzSumo. Studies, publications as well as market and industry data can also be helpful in the analysis. If you already know your direct competitors in the brick-and-mortar retail, you can simply walk into the shops of your competitors and get an idea of their range of products and services.
How do I proceed with the target group analysis? Who is my target group?
One of the most important questions that every retailer must ask himself in the target group analysis is: Who is my target group? As the first step, you write down everything you already know about your existing clientele – from demographic characteristics such as age, gender and place of residence to socio-economic characteristics such as income, profession and level of education, and psychographic characteristics such as price sensitivity, media use, (buying) behaviour, lifestyle, desires, values and other situational characteristics that are relevant to buying. In addition to the knowledge you already have, personal interviews are particularly suitable for finding out more about the target group. If you are already active on social media channels, use them too to get to know your target group!
On Instagram, for example, you can ask your community questions directly or find out their preferences through surveys. The result of a target group analysis is the creation of personas, i.e. prototypical representations of the target group. Once you have collected all the characteristics of your target group and conducted interviews, you evaluate them and look for commonalities. Based on this, you develop your persona profiles (or customer avatars), which contain typical characteristics including their needs, challenges and patterns of action. Concrete examples of what a Buyer Persona can look like can be found in the Google image search. There you can select the template that best suits your needs. Initial suggestions for different types of consumers can be found in our whitepaper titled: “Omnichannel: Return of digital consumers to the real world How can brick-and-mortar retailers win them back?” Once you have created your personas, you can identify the right topics and channels that are relevant to your target group and through which you can reach them.
When is the right time to analyze my target group?
Whether you want to sharpen the image of your target group again, plan to build up your online shop, launch online marketing campaigns or implement long-term content marketing measures – this is exactly when a target group analysis is advisable. For a detailed target group analysis, you should take your time so that you can use the results with enough lead time. In this way, you can ensure that your website or campaign is optimally geared to your target group and reaches the right customers. The more precisely you know the needs of your target group, the higher are the chances of a positive effect on your sales figures. Do not forget that target group analysis is a dynamic process: The more you learn about your target group, the more accurate your analysis will be, and keep in mind that your target group may well change over time.
Have you ever googled your company and found an entry about your company? Often, Google creates automatic entries for companies, but these do not necessarily contain current or complete information. Sometimes even incorrect information is shown, for example opening hours that do not match yours. This could annoy potential customers and prevent them from coming back again. To keep your online presence up-to-date and improve it, you can take advantage of the free Google My Business tool.
Optimize store presence with Google My Business
The Google My Business platform is a kind of business directory that allows entrepreneurs to create and edit a free entry for their company on Google. Information such as the address of the business, the link to the website, opening hours or information about the services or products offered can be entered there. This will quickly give your business greater visibility on the web – the more complete your profile, the easier it is to find. In this Google help article, you can learn more about how you can influence your ranking on Google through your entry. One of the benefits of listing your business is that your customers can find the most relevant information about your business immediately. For example, if you have a phone number, customers can call you directly from your Google listing. Not only does this save them time in searching for relevant information, it also makes your business more trustworthy by making it easier to find relevant information. Customer ratings also contribute to this: According to a Capterra user survey, consumers trust the reviews of other customers even more than the recommendations of friends and acquaintances. For example, encourage your customers to rate you on Google, for example by newsletter, in a personal conversation in a store, or through other marketing materials. Once you’ve filled out your entry with all the relevant information, the “Insights” field provides you with important information about your customers’ behavior. Was your entry found via Google search or Google Maps? What actions were triggered by the entry? Were calls made or was your website visited? This gives you the opportunity to find out what is important for your customers so that you can continuously optimize your presence.
If there is already an entry for your company and you did not create it yourself, you can claim it. You can find out exactly how this works, or how to create a new business listing, in the help article in Google My Business.
Increase in-store traffic with Google Maps and Local Ads
The business listing on Google My Business is directly linked to the Google Maps service. If you have entered the address of your shop in the entry, it will be displayed on Google Maps. The advantage of linking both services: In Google Maps too, users can see photos and reviews in addition to the address and opening hours, and even call your store if you have a telephone number stored. This creates a coherent user experience across mobile and desktop platforms – and simultaneously connects online and offline. Using their smartphone, users can be guided directly to your store. The full profile on Google My Business is helpful for this, as is the integration of Google Maps on your website or online store. This makes it easier for users to find your store directly from your website.
Another way to increase traffic to your store is to display ads, called Local Ads, which Google shows users based on their location. Google Local Ads allow you to reach more customers who are interested in local information because they are designed to reach more store visits through advertising. You can serve ads through your Google Account. To do so, you select your business location, the campaign budget, and specify information that you want to display in the ad, called ad assets. Google uses machine learning to automatically optimize ad bids, placements and asset combinations. Ads on Google Maps are shown to users who are near or plan to be near your location. When you select ads through the Google Search Network, they’re delivered on keywords relevant to your business and location. Through the Google Display Network, ads are delivered where they’ll be seen by as many people as possible.
More customer loyalty through continuous updating
Besides the increased visibility on Google, the entry on Google My Business has another nice effect: more customer contact and customer loyalty. Through your profile, you can not only view customer reviews, react to them and take advantage of the feedback. With the ability to create reviews, you can also keep consumers informed about news, products, discount promotions or events. With a call-to-action button, you can encourage visitors to take further action, which you can then evaluate. This gives you a better sense of which articles your customers are most interested in.
Keeping your profile up-to-date will contribute to the trustworthy image of your company and the relationship with your customers. If you haven’t created a listing on Google My Business yet, get started today and try out the various features.
In physical retail, customers have the opportunity to touch, try out or to try on products. They can take a close look at the material, glance at the products from all sides, get a precise idea of the colour, in short: Grasp the products with all their senses. If you want to offer your customers a linked shopping experience and also offer your products in your own online shop, you have to convince your customers of your offer in a different way. In addition to a clear structure of your online shop, a uniform appearance or exciting information about the products, you can arouse the curiosity of your customers above all with good product photos.
Stick with one style
Your own online shop can not only have a positive effect on sales figures, it also serves to strengthen your brand and thus benefits your marketing. To achieve this, you can make use of the recognition effect by transferring the way you present your products in a stationary shop to your product photos. Is your store characterized by a minimalist style? Then your product photos should also convey this. Or do you have a specific colour palette that is characteristic for your store? Then you can also work with matching coloured backgrounds. So before you start photographing your products, decide on a style and stick to it, so that your online shop looks as professional as your stationary store.
Have the right equipment ready
Apart from the products you want to photograph, you should have the right equipment at hand. This includes:
– A camera: In order to take pictures, you need a camera or a not too old smartphone with a good camera. New models in particular now have very good cameras with which high-quality photos can be taken.
– Lenses: Telephoto lens, Fish-Eye lens, Wide angle lens – these are just a few examples of different types of lenses. They have a significant impact on the quality of photos and are a useful investment for retailers who photograph their products themselves. If you want to take pictures with your smartphone, there are now good lenses that can be attached to the phone.
– A tripod: An absolute must for product photography. Tripods are available for cameras as well as for smartphones and offer various advantages. With a tripod, products can always be photographed from the same angle, but you also avoid blurred images caused by use. Tripods also allow longer exposure times.
– Background: For good product photos a uniform, calm background is important. You should therefore have a suitable background for your product photography setup. You can buy mini studios or photo tents for this purpose, but with cardboard, sheets or plastic plates you can set up your own mini studio cheaply and quickly. When choosing the colour, the background should match your products as well as the colour palette of your retail store.
– Lights: For high-quality product photos you need one or more suitable light sources. Depending on your budget and style, light boxes or tents may be right for you, or you may use desk lamps with strong light or construction spotlights. Whatever you choose, the same principle applies here: stick to a consistent style, so choose one type of lighting and do not change it. This will prevent your product photos from looking different.
– Reflective materials: White reflective materials such as white cardboard or styrofoam reflect some light from the light source to areas of the product that require more light.
– A dust cloth: Especially in detail shots, bright light and dark background, dust can be very noticeable on product photos. Please have dust cloths ready and check before and during the shooting if you need to use them.
Before you start taking pictures, you should definitely check your products again: Are they clean, intact and not scratched? Are there fingerprints on the products? Or labels that may need to be removed before taking pictures? Before you invest a lot of time in a product shoot and have to schedule a new shoot because of a mistake that was noticed late, you better make sure in advance that the products are ready for photography.
If you’re not yet sure which style you want to choose for your product photos, be inspired by the preferences of your target group and your competition. How other companies present their products can give you ideas about how you want to photograph your products – but also how you can stand out from your competition. If you have the opportunity to interview your target group or your customers, find out which shops they still like and look at them too for inspiration.
Select the correct camera settings
Once you have decided to work with a camera, you should familiarize yourself with important settings to get the most out of your product photos. Take the manual and start experimenting! A few terms you should know are aperture value, white balance and exposure value:
– Aperture value: With DSLR or good compact cameras, you should be able to set the aperture value. A shallow depth of field can be achieved with a small aperture value, a deeper depth of field with a high value. In short: the higher the value, the more focus.
– White balance: The white balance can be used to control the color temperature of the light. This means that you can correct color distortions caused by the type of lighting used. For product photos, white balance is important so that the colours of the products are displayed correctly and customers are not surprised when they arrive or pick up the goods. By accurately displaying the colors, you can reduce the number of returns or returns.
– Exposure value: The exposure value can be used to determine the amount of light present in an image. The correct value can be used, for example, to prevent an image from being darkened, i.e. underexposed, when it is taken against a bright background. The exposure compensation features are available on most digital cameras. If this is not the case, you can edit the brightness of your image after the shooting with image editing programs or image editing apps.
Take photos of your products from different angles
Your online shop cannot (and should not) replace the shopping experience in your store. However, to give your customers an idea of what you have to offer, you should photograph your products from several angles. Your customers can then view the goods from all sides. For example, if you sell clothing, you should not only photograph your products from the front and back, but also from the side, and pay particular attention to detail. If the product on offer has an embroidery, for example, it is worth taking a close-up to make it easier to recognise. It is also important to show customers different photos of the different variations of the product – for example, the different colors.
Take your time with image editing
The concept for your product photos, the products, the setup and the shooting are important factors for the perfect product photo. To get the best out of your photos, don’t forget the image editing. Not only can you ensure the quality of the photos, but you can also ensure that your product images have a consistent size and style. If you take the pictures with your smartphone, you have access to many free photo editing apps. With image editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, which are also available as smartphone apps, you can even save your own settings and apply them to any image as a template, called a preset.How to create high-quality product photos for your online shop
The decision for your own online shop has been made, now you only need the perfect domain. There are several factors to consider when choosing a name. In addition to technical requirements, which must be met, your chosen domain can also be important for your marketing and even influence your ranking on Google.
Which extension is the right one for me?
In the first step, think about who your target group is and who you want to reach with your offer. This will help you decide which extension is right for your domain: a .de extension if you want to sell in Germany, a .com extension for international sales, and if you want to sell in another country, choose your country-specific domain extension.
If you have decided on a .com extension, please note the following technical requirements:
- A domain can only consist of numbers, hyphens and letters
- Domains may neither begin nor end with a hyphen
- Spaces and special characters are not accepted for domains
- Upper and lower case are not important for the domain
- The minimum length of a domain is one character, the maximum length is 63 characters
If you are thinking about scaling up in the future, you can also secure your domain with other extensions. For sales in the DACH region, the extensions .at and .ch are suitable, and on an international level, the extension .com.
How do I choose a domain name?
Ideally, the domain name and the name of your brick-and-mortar business or brand should match, so that you can benefit from the recognition effect. Your customers will find your website easier, which is especially advantageous if you expand your marketing activities to social media.
There are basically three types of domains: brand domains, keyword domains and a mixture of both types. Brand domains consist of the name of the brand, i.e. for you as a stationary retailer, the name of your shop. Brand domains have a high recognition value, especially in established shops, and strengthen the brand. The addition of the legal form of the company (e.g. LLC or Inc.) should be avoided. For customers, the legal form is usually not relevant, and the addition only extends the domain name unnecessarily.
Keyword domains consist of keywords relevant for the respective industry or product category, i.e. search terms or keywords that are entered in search engines. In online marketing, keywords are very important because they influence the ranking in search engines like Google or Bing. For this reason keyword domains are popular: Depending on the search volume of a certain keyword, keyword domains can contribute to the findability in search engines by (potential) customers. Another advantage of keyword domains is that website visitors understand at first glance what the site is about or what kind of products are offered. A keyword domain is particularly useful for niche products. If you prefer a keyword domain, however, it is useful to keep the name of your stationary business in mind. If your domain differs too much from your company name, you will miss the chance to benefit from the recognition effect. Whether you are planning a marketing campaign with a keyword domain or would like to choose a keyword domain for ranking reasons — of course there is also the possibility to secure a keyword domain in addition to the brand domain and use it for special campaigns or to set up a forwarding. A tip for the keyword domain: Google your desired domain name without domain extension as a test. This way you can find out in which environment your shop is displayed in the search engine when a user searches for your shop name, and who your competitors are in the online environment.
As a third option you can also choose a combination of both: In addition to your brand name, you can use one or two relevant keywords in the domain. Thus, your domain guarantees a recognition value, but at the same time provides information about your offer. A mixture of brand and keyword domain is especially useful if your brand name does not reveal much about your business or if you have only recently opened your business.
What mistakes should I avoid with my domain name?
The most important thing you should consider when choosing your domain is copyright infringement. If you violate copyright, you may be subject to warnings and fines. A good way to avoid this is to avoid the use of the following:
- Signs protected by trademark law
- Names of other companies
- Names of celebrities
- Titles of magazines, software, films
- City names and license plates
- Names of State institutions
- Typosquatting (i.e. single letters of known domains are left out or exchanged).
Speaking of typos: check your domain name for possible mistakes your online shop visitors might make while typing. If the name of your online shop and your domain is often misspelled, it’s best to secure the domain or domains with the alternative spelling and set up a redirection to your online shop. To check whether your desired domain infringes trademark rights, you can search the database of the USPTO.
How useful are hyphens, numbers and umlauts?
If you have chosen a very long domain or decided to use a mixture of brand and keyword domain, it is advisable to use one or more hyphens. If you cannot decide whether the variant with or without a hyphen is better, you can also purchase both domains if they are freely available and set up a redirection to the other one. Especially if you decide on a domain with a hyphen, the purchase of both variants is a good idea. In this way, you prevent your competitors or domain brokers from buying the version without a hyphen. Domain brokers register domains in order to sell them at a high price afterwards. Generally speaking, domains without a hyphen are usually easier to remember, and on mobile devices, users don’t have to go to the character bar to type in their domain.
Numbers in the domain name can make the URL less easy to remember. If you want to sell internationally, you must also be aware that confusion can occur if the domain name contains numbers. The number 2, for example, can be used as “to”, “two” or “too”, which means that the potential for error when typing is higher than with other domains. If no number is contained in the company or brand name, it is therefore necessary to weigh up carefully how useful a number is in the domain.
Are you thinking about using umlauts in your domain? Please bear in mind that although these now work for domains, they are not recognised by all browsers. They also do not work with e-mail addresses and some social media networks. The same applies to the letter ß, and is particularly important if you want to sell internationally. Not all keyboards support the letter ß or umlauts, which is why shop visitors would have to resort to certain key combinations that are cumbersome and not necessarily immediately familiar.
Another variant are emoji domains, which have been around for more than 15 years. Emojis are used instead of letters, numbers or hyphens for the domain name. If you are interested in an emoji domain, remember that you may lose the desired recognition effect. To register, the desired emoji must be converted into a character code that always starts with “xn-“. Not only does this make the domain appear dubious to many website users, it can also be problematic when using social media accounts. Furthermore, with e-mails, it is not possible to use emoji, but only the character code. The biggest problem with emoji domains, however, is that they are not supported by all browsers.
What else is there to think about?
Keep your domain short. Domains that are easy to remember are best. As you already know, you have 63 characters available for your desired domain, but you should consider choosing a shorter domain. Very long domains have a high potential for typing errors, which is especially the case when using them on mobile devices. A shorter domain is easier to type into a smartphone or tablet, which can be beneficial for social media activities as well as other branding activities. But the same still applies: The best thing is to have a domain that is based on your brand name or the name of your stationary business so that your customers can find you more easily.
Check the availability of your desired domain. Once you have found your desired domain, you should check its availability.
Don’t forget your social media accounts. Maybe you are already active on social media, maybe you keep this option open for the future — either way you should check if the user names matching your domain are still available on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Instagram. You can check this either directly on the platforms or via tools such as namecheckr.com.
Don’t forget change in the use of language. Product names or special industry terms can change over time. Check out Google Trends and compare two or more words with each other to find out which terms are being used.
If you are still looking for a suitable provider of online shops, why not visit the websites of our ePages partners and secure your shop with a suitable domain.