PHOENIX — The convenience industry is constantly evolving, and many retail operators have become adept at embracing change to remain one step ahead of the competition. However, keeping pace with how shoppers interact with their brands online can be especially challenging, due in large part to the pace of technological innovation that drives shifts in user preferences and engagement. It is no longer sufficient for operators to just have a website. Here are some basic truths and best practices to boost a brand’s online presence and increase engagement and conversions across devices.
1. Content drives traffic
Maintaining both new and returning visitors to a website can be challenging. But refreshing the content on a site consistently helps maintain traffic while improving the online presence of a brand. Sharing updated content such as promotions and exclusive offers, press releases and announcements, support of charitable causes and community outreach and even images from social media can engage visitors in unique ways and encourage them to visit both a retailer’s website and its store locations more frequently.
2. Be mobile-friendly
In 2017, time spent online on mobile devices surpassed desktop usage, and that trend is expected to grow. In first-quarter 2019, the average daily mobile internet usage of millennials ages 25 to 34 was 3 hours and 45 minutes, according to Statista. For operators focused on appealing to this generation of shoppers, it is essential to have a responsive website that renders well on all devices.
3. Mobile apps drive conversion
While mobile devices continue to outpace desktop internet usage, an emerging trend especially relevant for retailers is the growing user engagement and conversion rates of mobile apps. Even when compared to a mobile-optimized website, mobile apps can generate up to 300% higher conversion rates, according to CleverTap. Retail operators evaluating the cost to maintain both a responsive website and a separate mobile app should consider a web app. It has the same appearance as a mobile app, but it loads in a browser and does not require a user to download it.
4. Have a mobile strategy
This shift away from desktop usage makes it essential for retail operators to have a strategy for these mobile users. Apps should rely on elements such as personalization based on user preferences; push notifications using geofencing; a loyalty or rewards program that incentivizes repeat purchases; the ability to place orders on the go; and processing payments within the app. Essentially, any features that add functionality without affecting the mobile experience can increase engagement.
In addition, users who download an app are demonstrating a desire to interact more directly with a brand. This level of commitment can also produce more insightful shopper feedback. Enabling two-way communication between the user and the brand can ensure this feedback is acknowledged from a user perspective while also providing retail operators with the opportunity to continuously refine messaging.
5. Plan for integration
Another key consideration when updating an existing website or launching a new one is planning for new features and functionality. Critical components such as email marketing, loyalty and rewards programs, mobile apps and online and mobile ordering can require integration with an operator’s website. However, not all platforms and services are compatible. Evaluating these integrations in advance can save resources and reduce the launch timeline.
6. Practice search engine optimization (SEO)
Finally, while it is important to ensure a retailer’s online presence can appeal to mobile and desktop users alike, it is just as important that the website can be found easily using search engines such as Google. Websites that follow best practices as outlined by search engines will be rewarded with higher rankings. This can include on-page SEO factors such as headlines, HTML tags and images. But this also measures the authority of a website based on the quality of its content. Content drives traffic not only from repeat visitors but also by earning an organic ranking.
Mike Flebotte is a partner with the Business Accelerator Team. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.