It’s no secret that the increasing threat of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is having significant impacts on industries around the globe. The home furnishings industry is not spared from the consequences as we learned High Point Market would postpone until early June. Furniture retail stores see less traffic in recent weeks. As more quarantine areas pop up, the foot traffic may lighten significantly. During this time, we want to offer insight for retailers about making the most of this challenge. Including how to increase online traffic to your retail store after the worst has passed and what to do in the time being. And how you can turn your online traffic into lifelong customers.
Setup Your Online Store
For many retailers, the website has not been the asset it could be. In fact, there are two types of retail websites that we see most often.
The first option is a simple, brochure-style website. A website using this philosophy doesn’t carry any products on the website and purely represents a digital business card about your store and/or design center. While these websites tend to be sleek and simple, they lack effectiveness as an online showroom.
The second option for your online store to increase online traffic to your retail store is a retail online showroom. These websites are used by the most successful retailers in the home furnishings industry. It’s robust with product data from vendors and includes many SEO-packed content pages to drive local traffic from the search engine to the website.
To increase online traffic to your retail store during times of slow traffic, you need to focus on option two, a retail online showroom. You need the website to act as an additional store location. Except it’s always working. We’ll talk about the checkpoints to hit when building a better online store.
How Successful Retailers Increase Online Traffic
Our industry’s most successful retailers know that the website is how to increase online traffic to your retail store.
Furniture sales start with research happening online. And if your store needs help with the online presence, we’ll talk about marketing techniques for increased online traffic later in this post. But first, make sure your website is set up properly. Here’s what we mean:
Your website is an extension of your store. In fact, it is a second store location. It’s the only location with doors open 24/7 and a full inventory of your products. If you’re running an online retail store hoping to increase online traffic but your products are out of date, you’re not ready. Retailers who want better website traffic because shoppers are at home online, you need fresh product data. Why? First, Google cares about your website content. That includes your product content. If you haven’t made updates to your website content since you turned on the website, Google will favor you less than the retailers down the road who are keeping a fresh slate of content online. Second, if you expect furniture shoppers to find your store for the products that you have, the products need to be updated. We have worked with manufacturers for over 25 years and we know how often items add, drop, or change. And if you’re not keeping up with that information, your shoppers will be browsing products you don’t have or can’t fulfill. Which means a bad experience for the customer and a lost shopper for you.
If you would like one of our furniture experts to conduct a free website analysis for you, click here.
Make Website Improvements
We encourage retailers to use this opportunity to strengthen your online store. Think of it as spring cleaning for your website. You need to make sure Google is favoring your website in the search results. That means you’ll need to get your house in order. Imagine your website is an extension of your brand–a separate location. You need to conduct the same type of updates on your website that you would in your showroom.
We have 4 improvements retailers can make to their online showroom to increase online traffic. These aren’t the only improvements you can make. But they’re the minimum you should consider.
- Merchandise Your Products
- Update the Infrastructure
- Change Up the Layout
- Update the Signage
Merchandise Your Products to Increase Online Traffic
If we ask a room of retailers how often they merchandise products in the showroom, most of them will at least make these changes a few times a year. At the very minimum, retailers merchandise a showroom floor once a year.
If we ask the same room of retailers how often they merchandise products online, only a small portion will say they’ve ever merchandised products online. And those will be the most successful retailers increasing online traffic to the store. Take the same schedule you follow for in-store merchandising and apply it to your website. For example, let’s suppose you’re running a promotion to sell more of a new collection by Bernhardt. In your store, you’ll probably move some of that merchandise to the front of the store. At the very least, you’ll put vignettes together on the showroom floor. If you want to increase online traffic for this promotion, you need to create those vignettes and product presentations on your website. Group the SKUs together and create imagery to showcase the promotion for these products. Rank those items to appear first on every search page during the promotion to increase visibility online. This is just one example of online merchandising best practice.
Update Website Infrastructure
This improvement is not romantic or something you’ll see. But it can make or break your website experience and search results ranking. Google demands the best user experience for Googlers. That means, if your website hasn’t been updated on the structure since it was built, you’re already behind.
It’s important to keep a mobile-friendly website up to date to increase online traffic to your store. Shoppers are stuck at home and use their mobile devices to browse the internet. If your website doesn’t look and work great on a mobile device, they’ll leave immediately. Imagine yourself in the shopper’s place. If you can browse and buy easily from the website, your customers can too. But mobile-friendliness isn’t the only website infrastructure that matters. From an SEO and website platform perspective, you need to constantly update the technical setup of your website. It makes your shoppers browsing and buying experience secure, among other things.
Many retailers use a website provider for this improvement. And we’d suggest auditing your website partner to make sure they’ve kept up with the newest standards.
Change Your Online Store Layout
We like to say you can’t design in a vacuum. You need to make data-based decisions to have a layout that appeals to your shoppers. Many successful retailers hire consultants to create a flow and display that is optimized for foot traffic. But those same retailers won’t do this for their online showroom. And that’s what separates successful retailers with increased online traffic with the rest.
Set up your website to optimize that increase in online traffic.
Increase Online Traffic with Marketing
Those retailers who stay the course with online marketing will be the strongest competitors during this time of uncertainty. But not all marketing is equal for this unique circumstance.
Why Traditional Marketing Won’t Work
This is a bold statement but consider the facts. Traditional marketing like billboards is going to have less visibility with so few people traveling the roads. Plus, many traditional marketing campaigns drive store traffic. Many states have adopted quarantines. And if not, shopping traffic in-store is already slowed dramatically. So the cost of your traditional marketing is all but lost.
How Digital Marketing Works to Increase Online Traffic
Digital marketing is everywhere. In the time when shoppers are online and on their phones at home, digital marketing follows them. If you want to increase online traffic to your store because the showroom is dry, invest more in your digital marketing.
Our team at MicroD created a campaign to help our digital marketing customers drive more traffic online and we’re seeing website traffic go through the roof. Want to learn more?
Invest in short, easy campaigns for social ads and content. Meanwhile, you should work with your team to invest time into longer organic campaigns to sustain this flow of online traffic to your store.
Retailers with eCommerce will need to pay special attention to any shopping ads they can promote to bring cabin-fever-customers to shop online.
Consider Adding an Online Shopping Cart
If you’ve checked off most of these buckets and just need a way to secure your store’s success for the future. We don’t know how long the markets will take to recover from this crisis. And if your customers want to have an online shopping alternative, the eCommerce retailers will be the most successful. But a shopping cart isn’t easy and isn’t an on-and-off solution. If you’re considering adding a shopping cart to your website, here are some considerations you need to review before making the decision.
Is Ecommerce Revenue a Pillar?
Some retailers need an eCommerce cart to supplement the in-store revenue. For those retailers, the success of the shopping cart isn’t a make or break option. They can grow sustainably and start small to generate shopping cart revenue.
If you need a shopping cart to be the primary revenue source for your store, there are many steps you need to take just to get started. And it’s not the same journey for every retailer. You need to consider your market, your budget, your timeline, the logistics, pricing, payment options, and so much more. And we can help. If you need to talk about eCommerce, contact us.
Invest Time Online
There are ways to keep your store operating in a time of slower foot traffic in the store. But you must be agile and adapt or improve your strategy online. Increasing online traffic can sustain your business flow while the showroom takes a potential hit in some areas. With these tips, our experts can get your store set up for success. Learn more and talk with a MicroD expert.