Would you turn up for an interview in ripped jeans and a baggy T-Shirt?  Especially for those 2 million people in the UK who are now finding themselves in search of another job and are all too aware of the increased competition resulting from rising redundancies  – More people are having to scrabble for the fewer job opportunities.  Similarly, would you turn up to a new business pitch sporting board shorts and a baseball cap? Everyone realises that you must portray the appropriate image to the audience you are addressing and the way you look and first impression you make is vital. So why is this any different to the first impression you give online through your website? 

With more and more people buying and selling online the look and feel of your website is increasingly important in promoting your proposition and enticing people to your site.  It has been observed that a drop in retail sales has been a knock-on effect of job losses, so has been felt more recently rather than originally, when the recession first hit.  Many people may still be spending, but there is no doubt that shopping patterns have changed. People are shopping for cheaper brands and often cheaper alternatives online.

Generation Y sees e-commerce as nothing new but they are also very conscious of what to watch out for online and are easily put off by signs that a site may not be genuine.  After all, there are always ample more sites for them to find their desired product or service.  Other than SEO techniques, there is a simple website checklist to ensure you have the best chance possible of attracting users to your site and to give them reason to choose your business over the next. With this in mind I find it amazing that still so many businesses are falling at the first hurdle by having poor website design and functionality. 

You need a clean and profession looking homepage, quick and easy click-through’s - laid out in a logical format.  Try and include options and suggestions for other products related to their section (this is an easy way to encourage people to look further on your site and buy other things they may not have thought about or were unaware you sold).  Recognised security and payment systems such as Paypal can also reassure customers to trust your website.  Many people may enter your site, but this does not automatically translate into the end goal – increased sales.  A website must be carefully thought out, from the initial customer perception, through to the final purchasing experience.

As well as the design of your site, showing value to your customer is more important than ever in the current economy.  Simple customer service applications on a website such as a feedback / Q&A forum makes you more accessible to your customers and their concerns and can help build important customer relationships and loyalty – that ultimately translates into repeat visits. This level of service is even more crucial online than face to face, as the customer doesn’t have personal interaction to measure you on.  You need to be even more convincing online, making the selling process that much harder.

The good news is this is not as hard to achieve as you may think.  Office Live offers all the help and support you need to set up and manage your website in three quick and easy steps – and it’s free! 

So go on – smarten up your image!

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