Did your last PR campaign fall flat? Are the ads you’re running today failing to snag you customers? Did the contest you just ran get almost no entries? When these disappointments come our way, it’s easy to blame mean reporters or fickle customers or the blog we just paid to advertise on. Oftentimes, the problem is a little closer to home. If your website’s not ready for prime time, all the marketing in the world won’t help. Below is a handy checklist of things you MUST do before you launch into any marketing efforts including advertising, contests, pitching the media, etc.
- Are they clear, sharp, crisp, professional and attractive?
- Do the colors look murky or muddy?
- Do the colors closely match the colors of the item in real life?
- Can the customer see it from all angles they’d want to see it from (back, side, etc.)?
- Is there an action shot? (i.e. If it’s clothing, is an attractive model wearing it? If it’s home decor, is it shot in an attractive home setting? If it’s jewelry, is it being worn on an attractive model?) Action shots help your customer identify with the product and imagine owning it.
- Can the customer zoom in and see an enlarged version of the product photo?
- Is your web design professional and attractive? (Attractive websites engender trust and that encourages sales. Amateurish websites make customers worry you may not ship the products, or the products make be as amateurish as the web design. You don’t want customers thinking either of these things.)
- Does it use consistent fonts and branding?
- Does it have a consistent navigation bar that easily allows the customer to visit different product categories?
- Is your copy clear and readable and easy to follow? Are blocks of text broken out into headlines and bullets where appropriate? Can I skim any page of your site and within a few seconds understand what the page is trying to tell me?
- Is it easy for me to find information I need, such as return policies and shipping information?
- Are products merchandised in a variety of ways? (i.e. can I shop by product type, gift giving occasion, product color, price, etc.)
- Is company contact information easy to find? Can a customer easily call or email if there is a problem.
- Is there a detailed sizing chart on your product pages? The more details the better. How long is it, how wide is it, how deep is it. If you’re selling clothing give us the size of the garment and the size wearer it’s best suited for. For example, this sizing chart tells you how long and wide the garment is, what bust size the garment fits best AND what clothing size the garment fits best. It describes how to find the right fit and how the garment should fit.
- Are shipping policies easy to find? Customers want to know where you ship (US, Canada, International, etc.), how you ship (Priority Mail, Fedex, etc.) and how much it costs. They also want to know how long it takes you to ship the item. Does order processing happen the same business day or do you require some lead time?
- What is your return policy? Is it easy to find? Are returns easy? How long do I have to make a return? Do you refund shipping? How do you deal with exchanges? How do you deal with defective products or shipping damage?
- Who owns this company? What are the company’s values? Is there an about page?
- What payments do you accept?
- Do you have a professional distinctive logo?
- Do you have a domain name that customers can remember?
- Have you created a unique brand/products that give customers reason to buy YOUR clothing/accessories/bags/etc. instead of the competition’s?
- Do you have a press page?
- Can we see what other media outlets have written about the company?
- Are there high resolution photos there that I can download?
- Do you have a press kit I can download?
- Are your product photos press-friendly? (This means free of watermarks and right click is not disabled. Worried about image theft? Fine, but is it worth losing out on those media placements?)
- Does checking out take too many steps?
- Is checkout difficult or slow? Can I even find the checkout button?
- Do you ask for unnecessary information?
- If I leave a necessary field blank during checkout, are the error messages easy to see and understand?
- Do I have to create an account?
- Could your mother figure out how to successfully place an order on your website without any guidance from you?
- Do I have to leave your site to make a payment?
- Are there a variety of payment options? (i.e. credit card, Paypal, Google Checkout, etc.)
- Can I easily find your Facebook page? Do you have a “like” button on every page
- of your site?
- Can I easily find you on Twitter?
- Can I easily find your other social media accounts such as Youtube, Flickr, your blog, etc.?
- Can I easily sign up for your newsletter?
- Have you given me a reason to become a Facebook fan, join your newsletter, etc.
Remember that the end goal when you market is to convert customers. You either want them to buy stuff or you want them on your mailing list, Facebook, etc. If your online store is not 100% ready for visitors, you are wasting your time money and energy by trying to attract visitors you can’t accommodate. It’s exciting to see your site traffic go up, but it serves no benefit if your site isn’t optimized to convert visitors. While you might be able to slide on a few items in the checklist above, generally this list is what you need to consider before you do anything else.
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