Could your online presence be putting your customers off?

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By Rafferty Gifford

The world is now online, there’s no way around it. How you portray yourself on the computer screen is often how the wider world will perceive you, regardless of never having visited your premises or used your services.

So combatting any negative impressions needs to be high on your priority list. Here, I look at some common mistakes, such as poor website design and performance, a lack of social media presence or bad brand design and put together a list of examples and how you can overcome them.

Slow coach

Optimising your website to not only look great but operate in the best way possible is the first step to achieving a positive experience for your customers online. With Google now pioneering the concept of Mobile First, being able to load your website quickly on any available device is imperative.

The length of time it takes to load your website influences how likely it is that someone will stick around to look at your company.

Google now advises that your website should take no more than 3-5 seconds to load completely, therefore providing your customers with a better online experience. This suggests that sites taking longer than this will be adversely affected by slow loading times both by users simply abandoning the process and never making it to your site and by Google themselves ranking your site poorly due to the inability of their bots to crawl the site satisfactorily.

Be more social

‘I tweet, therefore I am’ – or something like that. In all seriousness, having an active and engaging social media presence can be incredibly useful for connecting you to your current customers, helping advertise to new potential customers and also keeping you ahead of the game with competitors.

Many people now like to contact businesses via social channels, being able to communicate with your customers online in real time, and also being able to let them know about any updates or events you have on, or new content you’re creating online is a fantastic way to stay in your customer’s minds. Providing a good customer experience makes a huge difference in how your customers will think of you

Social channels give you an entirely free resource to advertise any changes within your business, new offers, sales and products arriving in store. Utilising these free channels and establishing a dialogue with your demographic can be the difference between a great sales quarter and a loss.

Poor representation

Showing your best side is a given when you’re taking a selfie, but taking the same care when representing your business online – regardless of your industry – is a good move too.

Take time to gather well thought out pictures of your business; for example clear and flattering shots of the premises, as well as plenty of shots of your products, services or staff. This visual information will help potential customers form an opinion of your company, and that should be the best one you can help them make. Once you have invested the time and money in a good quality set of photographs this can be used across many communication channels, your website, social media and all your sales paperwork. If having professional photographs taken isn’t in the budget then taking out finance using a small business loan might be a good idea to help you set up the right impression.

Bad trip

Similarly to your website not loading quickly enough, if your customers have to work too hard to find what they want from your website they will likely just give up and look elsewhere.

User experience (UX) is a key consideration when you plan the lay out of your site, and understanding how your customers will use the site is the first stepping stone on that journey. A few simple things to include on your site to make navigation for your customers easier are; a well laid out menu to help customers navigate easily around your site, an easy to read and use ‘contact us’ section, and clearly labelled sections for services or products. If you have taken the previously mentioned advice and made sure your website is mobile friendly, a great addition is a ‘click to call’ function: this is the ability for customers to tap a ‘call us’ button and their mobile phone will automatically make the call. This small feature will negate the drop off in conversions when your customers need to call you to place an order or request more details.

Avoid irritating pop-ups or interstitials that require users to sign up for email newsletters or provide personal information in order to access your site- it may alienate people. Offering an email newsletter sign up is a good idea but an unobtrusive side or break bar will work just as well and won’t create an unhelpful bounce rate spike in your analytics.

Build credibility

Providing excellent customer service means that your customers are likely to spread the word, and keeping track of websites like TripAdvisor, yelp and Google reviews will help you stay informed of what your customers think and feel about your business.

The benefit of providing consistently high standards and showing that your company goes the extra mile when it comes to customer service should never be under-estimated. The old myth of a bad customer experience being shared 10 times as opposed to 2-3 times for a good experience, is possibly a bit low these days. Since the original 1981 study (carried out by Coca-Cola) was released the rule of thumb has held strong, but the advent of multi-channel internet communication suggests that the 10 or 2-3 number is far lower than it should be. A bad review or social media post can be shared hundreds or even thousands of times in minutes, meaning that customer service is more important than it’s ever been.

Rafferty Gifford, pictured above, is a digital marketing professional at Liberis