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By : Karen Lasser, 05-06-2015

The ins-and-outs of websites for Retail business owners. Learn if, why, when and how to build a website for your business.

No matter what you’re selling, from fine wine to children’s clothing, you need a website. Whether you’re a small one-man operation making products in your basement or if you’re a growing retail business with several store-front locations, it’s important you have a website.

In 2014, it’s no secret that when people need something, they search online. If you don’t have a strong online presence, including a website, you won’t be found.

Internet users today span all age groups and demographics. According to Google, 97% of Internet users look online for local services and products. Because of this, it’s no surprise that the Small Business Administration says that businesses with websites experience on average, 39% greater revenue per year than those without. With more than 2.2 billion people worldwide on the internet, including over 78% of American adults, the world is more connected than ever.

What sort of website do I need and what will it cost?

Before we go any further, you’ll need to decide whether you want an ecommerce website, which means you’ll sell products from you site or simply a marketing website that’s geared towards driving traffic to your brick-and-mortar store. The ecommerce site is going to be a lot more complicated and expensive to build though it will obviously be able to bring in actual revenue for your business.

Let’s discuss further what each type of site entails:

Marketing Website: If you’re looking to build a website that will simply promote your business or product (without selling anything online) and are fairly web savvy, you can try building the site yourself using either Wix and Squarespace. Both sites have really straightforward website builders (meaning there is no coding involved) with nice looking templates to choose from- including templates designed specifically for retailers.

The downside is that you’re limited in how much you can customize the site and they also charge a monthly fee (Wix does have a free version, but you’ll have more flexibility if you use the premium versions. This includes using your own domain name and removing the Wix branding from your site).

Alternatively, you can use a professional to build your site- which might sound scary (and expensive), but it doesn’t have to be! This route will let you build a more personal and customized website. Here are some ways to save money and simplify the process.

First of all, you’ll want to use a website platform that you can update yourself in the future, because paying to have someone manage the site for you is just an unnecessary expense. Therefore, we recommend you go with WordPress. Depending on your internet skills, you can learn to update your site (including posting pictures to the gallery, adding pages and blog posts, changing text, switching logos, responding to comments, and much more) with several hours training. There’s also tons of “How To” videos and blog posts online explaining WordPress.

Furthermore, WordPress is an extremely popular platform powering nearly 75 million websites worldwide! The likes of CNN, The New York Times and eBay all run their blogs using WordPress. Check out this article for some more amazing WordPress stats.

Going straight to a web developer and asking for a site will run you an easy $5,000. There are ways to do it cheaper though! One great way is to buy a template ahead of time. You can find really nice premium WordPress templates, or themes, for $50-$100 dollars. Take a look at StudioPress for some very nice examples. Once you buy your theme, all you need to do is have someone install it for you and plug in your content. Since the design aspect is already taken care of, you’ll save a lot of money. The themes are fully customizable too so you can have a developer make some changes for you at any point down the road.

Ecommerce website: If you’d like to sell products from your website, then you’ll need an ecommerce site. The cost of an ecommerce site is going to depend on several factors but you should be prepared to pay around $10,000 to have it built. Things to consider when building an ecommerce site that will affect the cost are how many products you want to list (there’s a big difference between 100 products and 50,000), your payment processing solution (especially if you're selling international this could get tricky) and your site’s security features.

Another suggestion, which is similar to the website builders we mentioned above, is a website called Shopify. You can use Shopify to create an online store, without any technical or design knowledge necessary. You simply select a theme, upload your products and start selling. Shopify takes care of site security, payment processing and tons of other details. The upside here is definitely convenience.

The downside includes lack of customization (you can’t really change around their templates), monthly fees and the commission . Monthly fees range from $29 to $179. There are also transaction fees on all plans except but the most expensive one.

A general suggestion and great way to save money no matter what type of site you want to build is to compare bids from several developers. You can do this easily, in a matter of minutes, using EZBZ. Simply post an inquiry describing what you need on and you’ll get bids from local, reputable web developers.

What should I include in my site?

Just like in your retail store where the customer is the most important person, your website too needs to be customer focused! Make sure you build the website you think your customers will want to see. That should also be the guiding principle when deciding what information to include on your site.

Additionally, just as you want visitors in your brick-and-mortar store to feel a certain ambience when they walk in, you’ll want to try and create a similar feeling for visitors to your website. For example, if your actual store uses certain colors, use those same colors when designing your site.    

A number of necessary items that you must have on your site include the following:

Products: Whether you have a full blown ecommerce site or not, you need to showcase certain products. You don’t want your site visitors guessing as to what you sell. If you have a vegetarian restaurant, make that perfectly clear. You don’t need people calling or showing up looking for steak. If you have a jewelry store, try and be specific as to what product categories you carry and what you don’t. For example, do you have wedding rings? What about watches? Is your jewelry only made of imported wood or is it all gold? If you can, be specific about prices too.

If you are selling products online, include as much detail and the highest quality photos as possible. You don’t want people ordering something only to find out it that it does not look like anything the website implied.

Contact Information: Make sure that your contact information is highly accessible on your website. Going to a website and not knowing how to reach the store can be really frustrating.  If people can’t find your address or phone number you will without a doubt lose out on sales and you may also aggravate some people along the way.

Subscribe Form: Include a Contact Us or Subscribe form right on the homepage (as well as other pages throughout the site). Make an effort to collect as much information from your visitors as possible so you can keep in touch with them even after they leave your site.

You should even consider offering a coupon or free gift in exchange for an email address. With the proper email marketing strategy, every person you add to your email list can mean more sales down the road.

Product Reviews: People love to know what other shoppers think about products. That’s why you should definitely include testimonials and feedback from customers on your site. If someone wrote you a positive comment on Facebook or Pinterest, feature that right on your homepage.

Tutorials: If your products require assembly or instruction on how to use, a tutorial section of your site could come in handy. Include assembly guidelines or videos and as much instructional information as you can gather. It’s extremely frustrating to buy something but have no idea how to assemble it or use it when you get home!

Social Media Links: Use your website as a way to promote your presence on social media. You’ll not only want to link to your individual social media pages but you’ll also want to let people “like”, share, tweet, +1 and pin your individual products. By adding social media sharing buttons, people can start promoting your products to their friends online. Links to your own social media pages will increase your following on those networks, show your website visitors that you are “social and up-to-date with trends” and improve your SEO.

Read, Set, Go!

You’ve read enough, now it’s time to get started! Remember to always keep your site up-to-date and it’s even worth checking out your competitors’ websites from time to time to see how you compare.  

Finally, you should install Google Analytics on your site to better track your visitors’ activity. This is something your web developer can do for you easily. Over time, you’ll see how many visitors your site is getting, where they’re coming from, and what they’re clicking on. This is all important data that will help you as you make future changes to your website and business strategy. Good luck!

Have questions about Websites? We’d love to hear them! Send them directly to and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!

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