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Does your store really NEED a website?

A year or two ago, I went to a food show and sat by a person who owned one store in a small town. I asked him if his store had a website.
“Oh no!” he replied, “We’re not a big national chain”.

According to this Press Release by BIA/Kelsey, “Nearly all consumers (97 percent) now use online media when researching products or services in their local area”.

Not only should your store have a website, it should be professional-looking if you want to be taken seriously. Even if your store is all about having fun, you can have a fun website. Your customers now search for information BEFORE visiting your store and your website may be the first chance you have to make a good impression. If your website looks like it was designed by a monkey, your chance of making a good first impression will be lost. A website is so important, it is one of the first questions asked when applying for a business loan. The public’s perceived value of your store will be lower if you don’t have a website. There are many reasons to have a website, read on to find out the most important ones:

Answer Consumer Questions
Even if you get a big percentage of your business through word-of-mouth, people will then want to check out your website. Have you noticed when a friend knows something you don’t, your first question is “Where did you learn that?” A website contains important information about your store location. If you have more than one location, list them all out. Show your customer where they are in proximity to all of your locations by including a map. Then, under each location, list out basic info like your hours, address and phone number. Also list out what services and departments each store has.

Do you have a common question that you get asked ALL THE TIME? For example: Can I drop off my mail? Can I pay my utility bill? Do you sell flowers? Can I order a birthday cake? You can influence customers decisions like which location they want to visit based on the services are offered. You might even educate them with the content on your website. Let’s say for example, a popular product gets recalled. You can explain on your website all the details of the recalled item, how to get a refund, what dates are included in the recall and so on. A website can be a real time saver! Ask your employees to make a list of the most common questions customers ask them while in the store and on the phone. Group the questions all together with answers and you have content for a FAQ page as well.

Showcase Your Offerings
This is also a great place to brag about why you are better than your competition. Does your competitor have a smoker, or carry out groceries to the car? Maybe your store has a butcher in the meat department, or a newly engaged couple can plan a wedding by ordering the cake, flowers and catering from one place. Keep your information up to date and don’t take for granted that everyone already knows what is in your store, because they might not.  Don’t let customer complaints override the decision to provide details either. Sometimes getting complaints about your website is a good thing. It lets you know your customers are reading your content and the feedback should be a sign that they want more information.

Share Your Vision
When was the last time you wrote down your business goals? We know you are always thinking about your business goals, but thinking and writing them out are two different things entirely. When you start writing content for your website, different questions pop up, and in answering them, you might see different viewpoints consumers could have of your store. You want to attract the customers who identify with your vision and make them feel like you are in business to make them happy.

Solicit Feedback
Your website is open at all hours, so if you lock up shop, customers can still ask questions through your “Contact Us” page. Many customers steer away from conflict, but might make a good point that you never thought of from the safety of their own homes. A great way to show off your customer service skills is with timely and courteous email reply. Some customers may be so surprised by your reply email, then in return, they will write a good review. Collect those tid bits of thanks, now you have content for your “Testimonials” page too. Another bonus, if your store has a website you can also have your own email address@yourstoresname.com. It’s more professional and people also don’t have to search for your website if all they have is your email address. If you have become attached to your 10 year old tweetybird596@hotmail.com, forward your business emails to your personal account.

Give Consumers Updates
If you have an announcement about your store, a website is a great place to break the news. For example: New store construction, street construction detours, new freezers, new salad bar, different holiday hours, new ownership and new programs. Use colorful images and put them on sliders on your home page. Try to keep your sliders to 4 or 5. They only keep customers attention for a short time. If you can’t fit all the information on one slider, make the slider clickable and link to a new page.

Recruit New Employees
If you need to hire new help fast you can post the positions on your website. People looking for a job go online first. They don’t drive around looking for “Help Wanted” signs anymore and you might learn about their experience BEFORE the interview.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-man/woman show or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don’t have a website, you’re losing business to other companies that do. Do a search for “grocery” and you’ll see them. Don’t let not having a website hold your store back and miss some really great opportunities.

Why do I work at AWG? “It’s hard to find a native Kansan who doesn’t have family living in a small town community... and I am no exception. My family tree is full of farmers who have helped put food on our tables for over 100 years. So when I hear of a small town’s only grocery store closing down it hits home. Even though I now live in a big city, I like to know through my work I can help keep small independent grocery stores stay open for future generations to enjoy.” -Sharlyn