Cloud High Street or Cloud Cuckoo Land?

Recent research indicates that 16 stores on the high street close each and every day. Yet, online sales are booming.

Whilst there is no doubt that the Internet is changing people's shopping habits, it is worth remembering that people still want to buy the same goods, it's just that the Internet makes it easier to browse, compare and buy from home or from wherever they happen to be.

So, if this is how shoppers now want to shop, you should embrace it, not fight it. You have two options really; Cloud High Street or Cloud Cuckoo Land.

In short, if your business has been successful on the high street to date, you should be able to adapt it to be successful on the Internet. There are even strong arguments to suggest that you'll be able to generate more sales with fewer overheads, as you can target more customers from wider geographical locations.

Every high street business that is successful has a good website and uses it to sell online, generate customer loyalty or a reason to visit their shop. Their website reflects their shop frontage and overall presentation; professional, clean, logical, easy to understand, informative, friendly and up to date.

Traditionally, the way a business expanded was to open a new premises in another town. The overheads involved in doing so were heavy, but necessary what with rent, rates, staff, stock and everything else that goes with setting up a physical shop.

The Internet enables you to dramatically reduce the cost of existing overheads, as well making savings on future expansion plans. Your website enables you to open your doors, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week in every country in the world. It doesn't need holidays, it doesn't get sick, it doesn't need cleaning. The running costs are negligible. And your customers expect it. You are pushing at an open door.

These days it's pretty straightforward to set up a professional looking, responsive, mobile friendly website with e-commerce, and be able to add, edit and manage content via an easy to use content management system. The only important things are that (a) it looks great and builds confidence in your "brand" (b) it contains the right information and gives a clear call to action and (c) you can easily manage it yourself. No one does business with an amateur looking, out of date website.

However, that's just the equivalent of you decorating your shop, displaying your stock and opening your doors. Next you need to build traffic to it.

Our belief is that you only need someone to set all this up for you properly, de-mystify the process involved and provide a bit of guidance from time to time. You shouldn't need to pay someone to manage this for you on a monthly basis. In addition to any conventional magazine or newspaper ads you run, you also need to consider the following:

Optimising Your Website For Search Engines
Google does not like to be manipulated. They have algorithms that (pretty successfully) deliver the best results. If you adhere to their guidelines, and set your website up in a logical fashion, you'll get ranked for various phrases pretty much where a business doing what you do and where you do it, you should be.

If you're going to spend money, Google wants you to spend it on adverts with them, not an seo firm trying to manipulate their algorithms. There's nothing sinister about this. If you ran Google, that's what you'd do too!

Google Ads
If you want to ensure your website is highly ranked for specific key words or phrases, Google Adwords enables you to do so cost effectively with a budget you control, and at the same time provides valuable insight into what phrases people are using to find you.

Malls & other High Circulation Media
Sites like Amazon and eBay enable you to tap into their huge circulations and sell your products - at a price. We recommend that you use these sites to generate your first orders, and to then give customers incentives/discounts to buy subsequent orders direct from your site.

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media On one hand you can contribute to social media to build up a following, and on the other you can advertise and reach people who have expressed a specific interest in your market sector.

Of course, it's also important to make sure your existing customers know that you now have a super new website and to use your website to build up a database of new customers too, so you can regularly send them info on offers or sales.

What else is important? Registering a good domain name and using the email addresses associated with it is crucial. Ideally it should combine who you are and what you do using the fewest amount of characters and roll off the tongue without having to be spelt out. And these days it's important your mail works and synchs across your computer, tablet and smartphone too.

IWM will help you with all the above. We specialise in helping "high street" businesses to re-invent themselves as Internet businesses. We'll make you more efficient, help you to generate more sales, and help you to reduce your overheads. We handle the entire process for you and allow you to be as self sufficient as you want to be.

Our small business set up service covers what we do in more detail and the costs involved. Visit www.web-marketing.co.uk/small-businesses and then give us a ring on 01526 352919 or complete our online form if you think we can help you.