Shop windows have their place… on the high street. Your website is not a shop window. Maybe it was in the 90s and 00s but not now. We are way past that.
If you are still looking at your website as a shop window you need to rethink your digital strategy. You need to think about your website instead as a fully stocked, manned and efficient marketplace.
A window lacks interactivity, and by today’s standards that isn’t enough. It’s not what your customers want. It also shouldn’t be what you want. You want your customers and website visitors to be actively engaged in your website, not passively scanning. You want to shift the mind-set from window shopping to purposeful browsing and purchasing.
In this post I am going to share with you 7 things you can do to stop your website being merely a shop window. This includes tools, plugins and general website functionality. Enjoy.
Chat Software (Live Web Chat or Chatbots)
One of the best ways you can increase the level of engagement and leads through your website is to incorporate some form of chat software, be it in the form of live web chat or a chatbot. Both of these solutions add an extra dimension to your website. They turn what is either a purely transactional or one-dimensional brochure site into a live site, where real-time conversations can take place, and instant answers received.
The addition of any conversational software adds the option for personalisation. This is something that’s not possible through a shop window. It will show one thing to everyone walking past, that’s just ineffective, and means that in all likelihood, your messaging could reach the wrong people, thus reducing its value.
By striking up a conversation with your customers you are able to keep them interested and engaged in your website. This is not just engagement for the sake of it though, this is detailed, relatable and specific conversations about your business and your products… Transforming your website from a brochure into a shop.
Different website views depending on previous use
Some of the highest converting websites in the world alter their presentation depending on how the visitor has previously used and interacted with the website. This could be based on IP address / location data / cookies / account information. These data sets allow you to customise the experience unique individuals have when the return to your website.
This could mean the presentation of certain products or services depending on previous browsing/purchasing history. It could also mean putting front and centre the products that are most relevant at that time.
This level of personalisation makes the browsing experience quicker, and more seamless. By making data-based assumptions, you are increasing the likelihood that the products on offer are the ones the customer desires. It is not a guaranteed though, because people are unpredictable. As such, the presented views may not always be accurate, but you will have a much better chance of converting a website visitor, instead of simply showing the same thing to everyone passing through.
One of the best examples on a global scale of this is Amazon who show a completely unique view of their website to you based upon your usage. Also Love Honey, they show different homepages depending on whether you have been the website before or purchased different types of goods.
Another problem with viewing your website as a shop window is that it doesn’t give people a true idea or understanding of the full depth of products and services on offer. That’s before you even get to how much stock, or even those on limited availability.
Having a search function integrated within your website will allow people to quickly find something specific they are looking for. If they can find it, then that’s time saved, and probably some money in your bank too. It’s a simple tool, but one that can be most effective at making your website a lot easier to navigate, especially if you have a large site and lots of products.
Rarely does a shop window have a human face. And, no, a mannequin does not count. Even if a shop window did have a person behind, the type of conversation would look something like a mime act more than actually being of use. An inefficient use of time, which also has a high degree of inaccuracy.
Instead of using mime to communicate, you could actually add video calling. 1-way or 2-way video calling between you –the customer- and an employee of the business. This technology will allow you to have human conversations with a digital based business, something that has only recently become possible, without the need for downloading any software.
The integration of video calling has numerous benefits, both in terms of sales, and of customer service. And, it’s inclusion is a sure way to improve personalisation, propensity to purchase and create an incredibly powerful customer experience.
Reviews are one of the most powerful means of gathering useful user generated content (UGC). These reviews are also incredible for both lead generation and sales conversion. They add the social-proof that your products and services may be sorely lacking.
The power of a review is more than just the words too. In many cases other viewers of the page can up-vote or down-vote the usefulness of the reviews, they can submit their own, and in a few cases reply to questions asked by other customers.
All of this adds up to an extremely powerful method of turning your website from a shop window into a fully-functioning shop.
Create a tool
This can be free or paid (I definitely recommend free though). A tool embedded into your website is an unparalleled method of making your website more engaging.
Additionally, your tool will provide value. It will not be a tool for the sake of it. It will solve an issue. It will answer questions, give options or provide solutions. A tool is only as useful as your audience find it, so make sure it is designed with them in mind, not for you to be able to just say that you have a tool.
Some examples of tools that work really well include IKEA’s room designer or Coschedule’s Headline Analyser. IKEA’s tool is far more robust and detailed than Coschedule’s, but that doesn’t matter, both provide a service that their customers are looking for. That is what makes them useful, and this is what makes their websites more than a shop window.
A lesser known idea for making your website less like a shop window and more interactive is through the use of something called cobrowsing (collaborative browsing). Often mistaken for screen sharing this tool allows you and someone at the company whose website you are on to collaboratively browse the website. Think of it as a personalised online shopping experience, or a website tour guide.
Cobrowsing allows someone at the company to help you navigate the website, annotate areas, and assist you with form fills. Essentially it’s a tool that can have powerful application both in terms of sales and customer service.
Because of the freshness of this technology, it’s not quite mainstream yet, but I can definitely see this changing in the coming years!
So that’s seven things you can do to turn your website into a full functioning, engaged shop, not just leaving it as a shop window.
Some of these methods I’ve mentioned are resource intensive, others are extremely doable even on the thinnest of budgets. Even if you only have the resource to implement a single one of the seven, your customers will embrace it, and you will benefit as a result.