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Article: Content is Your Online Sales Team

What makes your Website and storefront attractive to a visitor? The content it provides, of course. How many times have you entered a commercial website and been immediately overwhelmed by chaos, by a seemingly random morass of disorganized content and graphics?

Whether you're selling products and services or providing resources and down-loads, you need eye-catching content for your Website.

You might run a wonderful advertising campaign; develop viral marketing tools and attractive affiliate programs. But unless your Website is rich in content, the traffic that results from your efforts will only be transient. Content that is useful, valuable, informative, educational or just plain entertaining can attract and retain an audience better than anything else.

Admittedly, designing a storefront can be a complex task, Site aesthetics are important and image and design are probably the first things to register in consumer awareness, but content is the most important part of the online merchandising and sales process.

When a customer walks into a ‘bricks and mortar’ store you have staff available to answer questions and engage the potential client in dialogue. The longer they browse in the store the greater the potential for purchase. The same holds true for websites.

As in a physical store, make your online storefront manageable for the reader with streamlined directories and indexes that lead the customer directly to their shopping goal or specific area of interest. This may seem obvious, but one needs only a cursory survey of Internet sites to realize that the storefronts of many online companies overwhelm with disorganized content, shoddy appearance and unnecessary graphics.

With the internet, information as the merchandising catalyst is the whole point of your site, but content must be constructed in a strategic way that both welcomes and educates customers, whilst enticing them to read on. A storefront should be streamlined, partitioned into a clear, cogent format that highlights exciting offers and provides manageable pathways that quickly guide customers to the products, services, and information they desire. If your site is complex, think about a catalogue search directory that can move a client directly to a product or product category. The sooner a customer feels oriented and in control, the better.

Although providing dynamic, sharply designed graphics is essential in stimulating customer interest, then, over-stimulation, poorly designed templates, placing flash in the way of content and unrestrained art design can cause visitors to lose focus and leave.

Products should be displayed in an impressive, alluring fashion with the larger goal of organization in mind. Similarly, logos, shopping carts and design formats should remain consistent between pages so the customer stays oriented and on familiar terrain. Think of your page format in terms of branding by establishing a uniform and uniquely memorable template.

Compelling, clear, professionally written product copy is of utmost importance. If your storefront does not exude expertise and professionalism, potential customers will sense it, so all copy must be tight, compact and forceful. Content should create a tangible image in your customer's imagination and should explain the virtues of your product. Always remember who your audience is and adapt your writing style accordingly.

Professionalism and clear evidence of human care are the first steps in establishing your online credibility and gaining the trust of the buying public and sloppy or disorganized writing signals a fundamental weakness that may undermine consumer confidence.

Lastly, if customer action is your goal, give your customers an incentive to act. Once your site is organized and streamlined for business, provide a call to action, an appeal to emotion and give your visitors a reason to make that move and close that sale. - John Shenton - September, 2002
 

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N.B.** The articles were first published in the Times (Montreal, Canada) and written by John Shenton as special contributor to the Times Technology Section. Articles and Reports written by us may be printed or displayed on your website providing they are kept intact and a link/attribution to this website or Internet Merchandising Systems plus authorship is displayed.

 

 

 

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