Any local business that cannot get themselves positioned on page one of the search engine results pages for the keyword phrases the consumer is using has a very good chance of losing the sale to a local competitor that IS on page one OR to an online competitor that offers the same product. The shipping charge is a drawback and the delayed gratification from having the product in hand on purchase is too BUT these may be offset by convenience and the lack of a sales tax in some situations.
The Internet gives you a chance to reach educated consumers that usually know what they want. Where they buy it isn’t as important as getting exactly what they want. Online merchants usually do a very good job of designing their websites so:
- They look clean and professional.
- They are easy to navigate by both the consumer and search engine spiders.
- The products are arranged by categories that make sense.
- Each product has a good picture and a clear description of the features, product specifications, the price and the warranty.
- It is easy to write a product review or rate the product.
- There are links to additional tips or information on the product when necessary.
- Accessories or related products are shown on the same web page as the primary product for convenience and additional sales.
- It’s easy to add multiple products to a shopping cart before checking out.
- An extended warranty or service plan is offered during the checkout process.
- Shipping costs can be calculated BEFORE the checkout process is started.
- Multiple payment options are offered.
- Sales tax is automatically calculated where appropriate.
Local merchants have the potential to offer all of the above conveniences plus:
- In store pick up instead of shipping.
- Home delivery for a fee.
- Maps to the store for locals that are new to the area.
- A local phone number to call with questions.
- In store training seminars on how to get the most out of the product or service.
Both the offline and online stores can offer discounts, specials and newsletters but an offline store that takes the time to position themselves high within their niche online can get the goods in the hands of the consumer much faster and who doesn’t like to get what they want sooner rather than later.
To me, the first logical step is to look at your competitors online to see what their sites look like, how they are laid out, what words and phrases consumers are using to find them and then see if you can do things a little bit better.
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