by Clay Bethune
There are some things customers can only get from a brick-and-mortar store. Scented candles do smell a little better in real life, after all. Having control over the lighting, music, and atmosphere makes creating the perfect vibe in a physical store a breeze.
With an ecommerce business, you have to get creative in making the experience authentic so customers will want to hang out on your site just as much as they would at a brick-and-mortar store.
Although you don’t have a physical space to work with, you can build an enticing atmosphere for your ecommerce store that actually surpasses brick-and-mortar locations in some ways. Here are six must-haves for your online store that will add instant dimension and appeal to your site:
- Aesthetic: The homepage is the first thing visitors see, just like a storefront. It’s your chance to make a memorable first impression and grab customers’ attention. You don’t have to wallpaper your site with photos of actual store interiors to create an authentic retail experience, though. Incorporate logos, fonts, images, and design elements that represent your brand and the kind of place your target customer wants to hang out.
- Customization and personalization: One of the areas where ecommerce brands can actually outperform physical stores is customization. You have the ability to cater the user experience to the needs and behaviors of your target customer and turn one-time transactions into repeat purchases. Segmenting and optimizing users’ experience can take time to perfect, but there are many tools available to help you get started, such as Barilliance, Windsor Circle, and Bronto Software.
- A real voice: As an ecommerce business, communication is one of the most effective tools in your arsenal for authenticating and enhancing your brand, and in turn, connecting to your customers on a deeper level. Make sure your social media voice aligns with your target audience. If your ideal customers are older professionals, consider reigning in the OMGs. Task your communications team with creating natural, friendly updates so your customers will know that there are real people behind your brand.
- An online reward program: There aren’t many tools available for referring friends to a physical store, aside from word of mouth. Starting a loyalty or reward program will show customers that you’re genuinely for them, and it will draw more visitors to your site. At 9th & Elm, we created a program called Pin, Post & Share that helps customers share our products via social media and email and earn credit for each registered user they send our way. It’s a win-win for everyone.
- Gift-worthy shipping and packaging: Don’t forget your delivery. This is an area many ecommerce startups overlook. The authenticity of the shopping experience extends after the point of sale, and packaging and delivery are crucial elements in your brand image. We use pink packages that match our logo to help build brand loyalty, and we include a coupon code with each package as a little “thank you.” Both of these tactics show customers that our brand cares about them.
- Integrity: The best online brands create an authentic atmosphere by staying true to their original identity — not by trying to be everything all at once. The online landscape does allow you to be more flexible and reach a greater range of customers with more products, but you have to solidify your niche before attempting to diversify your offering. Even the multifaceted Amazon secured its spot as an online bookstore before expanding with other products. Having mismatched inventory before you earn brand recognition will only confuse potential customers and potentially drive them away.
Forget mood lighting and seasonal fragrances. By capitalizing on the aesthetic potential of your online space, customizing and personalizing your shopping experience, and staying true to your brand voice, you can make your store the place to be.
Clay Bethune is a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of 9th & Elm. Clay has been an entrepreneur for more than 15 years and has started and sold many businesses in various industries. His passion is taking an idea from a simple concept and turning it into a profitable endeavor. He’s constantly working on perfecting efficient processes and loves problem solving, all things “startup,” and brainstorming with young entrepreneurs about the next big thing. Clay is married to Elly, his business partner and co-founder of 9th & Elm.
Subbotina Anna | Courtesy of Clay Bethune