The SMART Show offers retailers a lot of learning opportunities, but a personal favorite were the presentations by Andy Malis, president of integrated marketing communications agency MGH. Malis gave two talks, one on how to better capture the bridal market and the other on the 22 most common mistakes retailers make when building a website. A good complement to Malis’ seminar on the latter topic was available at industry software manufacturer Logic Mate’s Smart Station, where retailers could have their websites critiqued in real time.
Below are some of Malis’ 22 common Web design mistakes retailers make and some good takeaways from Aaron Mason of Logic Mate, who met with a number of retailers during the three-day show and identified the top five mistakes retailers discovered when reviewing their website with a Web design professional next to them.
During his seminar on website design mistakes, Malis’ PowerPoint presentation focused on the technology, design and content, functionality, and how retailers can better track visitors to their website.
Andy Malis, president of MGH
So, in true David Letterman style, here are the top 10 of Malis’ 22 common mistakes retail jewelers make when building, maintaining, and tracking their websites:
1) Use “open-source” programming languages (such as PHP) and avoid proprietary languages such as Microsoft’s ASP. Open-source language-based websites cost less to produce and ASP can be slow and inefficient.
2) Retailers should also make sure that when they contract a company to design their websites that the agreement includes ownership of the website. If there are any doubts, Malis suggests having a lawyer with intellectual property expertise review the Web designer contract. He also encourages retailers to purchase their domain names and insist that the hosting service provider has servers that are co-located; in the event one server goes down in one location, the other location will keep the website up and running.
3) Before the Web design company hands over the keys to your website, make sure it’s functioning well on the major Web browsers (IE 9.0, Firefox, and Google Chrome, to name a few). And make sure there are provisions in your contract that stipulate when these browsers are updated that your website will be tested in the browsers’ new versions. If small fees are attached to such periodic checks, it’s worth the money in the name of functionality.
4) Should a retailer not have a mobile-enhanced website, make sure your website is at least mobile-friendly. And for retailers who pooh-pooh the need for a mobile-enhanced site, Malis asked audience members to consider that by 2014, mobile Internet usage will surpass desktop usage and that one-third of Facebook users and half of Twitter users are on these social media websites via a smartphone. Factor in QR code scanning statistics and the choices are pretty clear.
5) If you have an e-commerce feature on your site, invest in a SSL license (secure server). Some retailers might recognize from their own online purchases include the Better Business Bureau’s Online Reliability Program, VeriSign and McAfee Secure to name a few.
6.) When hiring a firm to design your website, be sure to ask if they outsource their work overseas, where quality control on programming isn’t done at U.S. industry-standard levels. Have your website audited before making a final payment.
7) Make sure your website has a CMS option (content management system). Should a retailer need to make quick changes regarding a store event or delete or update content, this can be done free internally.
8) Make sure it’s easy to find your address, location, and store hours—these are the usual pieces of information people want when coming to your site. “Have them located on the bottom of every Web page,” says Malis.
9) Use SEO (search engine optimization) practices when designing your website, such as links, back-links, keywords, photos, and interactive features. “Thirty-four percent of Google searches go to the number one result,” says Malis.
10) Many retailers link to the websites of the designers and watch brands they carry. Be sure to link to a new pop-up window to keep your store’s website open for viewing.
Aaron Mason of Logic Mate
At the website development Smart Station, Aaron Mason of Logic Mate helped many retail jewelers critique their websites in real time. Here are the top five website building, maintenance, and tracking mistakes he identified.
1) Update content frequently. Promote events three to four weeks ahead of time and remove events one week after the scheduled date. Replace removed event date and descriptions with rich content such as images.
2) Have links to Facebook and Twitter, but don’t have live feeds on your website. “It makes your business website look like a social website,” says Mason.
3) Name images with alt text using your store’s name. This will help search engines find your store’s website faster and maximize the website’s SEO.
4) Be sure to be an active link builder through your own printed materials, store signage and whatever surface allows you to promote your website on Main Street, including your company car, exterior windows and even your building. Also link build when your store is mentioned in industry or industry-related websites.
5) And finally: Google Analytics. Learn it. Live it. Love it.