|Residential Lighting: What role do retail Web sites now play?
Rick Segel: There’s a new phenomenon taking place: First Shop Elimination. Before people go to stores, they check a bunch of Web sites, print what interests them and, in many cases, make a decision about what to buy before heading for the store. The likelihood of them buying on the first visit is higher than ever before. Web sites have shifted from selling to providing information.
RL: What e-strategies do you recommend?
RS: A retailer should have electronic newsletters. I like to divide them into five sections. First is an article of interest to the customer, perhaps on home decor or accent lighting. Second, add a short quote, modeled after what you see in USA Today. Third, have a newsy article about your community or the industry. Fourth, offer a special—a price promotion, a contest, anything to generate traffic. Finally, include a joke or a cartoon. There are thousands of joke services online.
RL: How often should a newsletter be sent?
RS: My feeling is a minimum of once a month. Eighty percent of your business probably comes from 20 percent of your customers, so keep sending newsletters. As for format, just send it as a plain e-mail message and not as an attachment. But the next step is critical: Download the
newsletter into your blog. Go to blogger.com. It’s run by Google, and it’s completely free.
RL: How important is it to have a blog?
RS: Your blog will position you as an expert. But the real reason to blog is that you will get more traffic through your blog than through any other source, including Google. As you write about lighting and design and transfer the information to your blog, the search engines will pick it up. They will send people to your blog, where you will have a link to your Web site.
RL: How can we make our Web sites more appealing?
RS: Have a tab that says “events.” Are you having a class on feng shui, a class by a designer or a contest? Keep the Web site simple. Remember that if someone can’t find what they’re looking for in the first six seconds, they’re history. Ask yourself, “Why is someone coming to my Web site? Because I’ve been in business for 60 years?” No. They don’t care about that. What they care about is how lighting will look
in their home.
Many small retailers do just fine with a five-page Web site created on GoDaddy.com They say who they are and what they do, and they offer some free service. Today, Web sites are Yellow Pages ads on steroids.
Rick Segel is a seasoned retailer of 25 years and author of nine books, including The Essential Online Solution: The 5 Step Formula to Small Business Success. Rick Segel & Assoc. (ricksegel.com) provides retail marketing and sales training services.