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So You Don't Like Burnt Vegetables

So You Don't Like Burnt Vegetables - Website & SEOPerhaps, it’s just me but I truly love burnt food. I do prefer to call it “blackened” but some grilled vegetables a little crispier than usual, a little bit of salt & pepper and soon I’d consider myself to be a food blogger. Then I got married. I slowly learned that what tasted to me like Hell’s Kitchen’s next episode, my date didn’t share the same opinion. Cooking for two doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should but when it does, I’m learning how to create something more than my audience of one will enjoy.

In the same way, often we create websites with our personal likes and dislikes in mind. While there is certainly merit to a brand being designed to match its creator; greater matters are at hand.  Instead, of focusing on what we think is beautiful or functional, we should be focusing on those who matter most: our customers. We as humans are innately selfish; we can have difficulty realizing that we need to look at design from a different perspective. Once, we see our brand from the lens of our customers, the quicker we understand that our personal taste may not be the public’s preference; the better.

As the creative lead in our company, often our clients will have a list of styles, features and flow they like from this website, that app or that structure which is a great asset in the design stage. The problem lies in that nine times out of ten, they are all direct or indirect competition. Something hardwired in our heads, tell us to look at what everyone else is doing to be successful. Easy access to information is a tremendous advantage in the on-demand internet age we find ourselves in, but it has created a monster - a copycat monster. Don’t be limited to what every competitor is doing; find new ways to stand out, different methods and processes to run your company through.

For example, in the web design world, it is industry standard to create what is known as Content Management System (CMS) based websites that allow the user to update their own site setting up the structure for a DIY web designer. At Symetric, virtually every site we build has those capabilities. However, our experience with our clients was much different. We found that many small business owners not large enough to have a marketing department didn’t have desire to update their website, social media and email marketing.  As a response to this need, we created our Stunt Double Marketing Package, an À la carte package all rolled into a manageable monthly fee.

Instead of following industry standards, create your own standards not for the sake of being different but to meet a need, raise the bar and grow in the process.

My mind is blown when I hear things like, “The mobile shopping market is set to increase 800% by 2015”. What about “The CEO of Under Armour said that online business for them was non-existent 3 years ago, but now accounts for over half of their sales.”  Statistics Canada, reports that Canadians spent 18.9 billion in online orders in 2012, a 24% increase from the previous year.  My fear is the rising stats may have along the way created a misconception that merely launching our online store will result in getting a sliver of that pie. It takes work to be successful, that doesn’t change in the online world.

I believe that the real work begins once the site is launched; website development is just setting up shop.  Similar to the retail world, we’d set up a storefront, hold a grand opening, cut the tape and invite the mayor. The online world is no different.

At every level, we’re wired to be motivated by incentives. It’s why sales reps are given salary plus commission, why Starbucks has a loyalty app and how 7 year olds get checkmarks for cleaning their rooms.  What incentives can I offer my potential buyers?

- Email a $20 off their first purchase promo code in exchange for an email address. Building that database of customers potentially for life is far more valuable than a twenty.

- While in the checkout process, offer a 5% discount to tweet an automated message about your service. An endorsement from a friend has more value than your own recommendation.

If sales are below your expectations, analyze the data to figure out where you went wrong. First, are you getting significant unique visits to your site? Is your site designed in a professional manner that reassures users you are legit? Are users clicking on products? Are your prices competitive with the competition?  Are they exiting during the checkout process? The most common reasons are high shipping rates, checkout system requiring too much information and lack of trust.

The biggest of them all, Search Engine Optimization, Google is always changing and improving its algorithms to improve their results for their most important commodity: their users.  Things like local search results and their latest improvement, factoring how often your social media is updated in their results.  It seems to me that Google is trying to tell us something, Be Active Online.

Daunting? It certainly is, but the results are worth the investment. The internet is here to stay, online sales are rising every year, the real question is; can we afford not to be selling online?  I’ve concluded that I can’t afford to be grilling blackened vegetables.