With major marketplaces (such as Amazon, eBay and AliExpress) taking over, small & local businesses are sometimes struggling to keep their head above the water. To let your online shop thrive – and reach all of your local customers, there are a few things you can do to optimise it. Let us give you 11 tips to do just that!

1. Take care of a complete data feed 

To start, you should take care of a complete data feed within your online store. Enriched feeds, with lots of relevant and extended information about a product, are more likely to put you in the spotlight. Besides the obvious (such as name and price), also think of data that includes information on materials, technical information, categories and a clear description with relevant keywords, your brand name and synonyms. When describing the product, don’t forget to tell all about the different features and benefits of a certain product or service. Explain what problem the product could solve, or to whom it would be of great relevance. Why should a customer buy this product? 

2. Amazing images

This might be a no-brainer, yet, a lot of SMEs use outdated and unclear images. Please don’t forget about this part of your shop! Make sure that the main image has a clear background and simply shows the product, one where the product is in use and at least another that gives a close-up and/or various angles. Even better: an image with a zoom option. Customers want to be able to see what they’re buying: they can’t touch and feel, so highlight the ‘see and feel’ aspect of the shopping process.   

As a lot of freelancers are open to work, why not see if you can find a local photographer to do some great photography for your shop? Facebook can be great for finding local freelancers, with groups like ‘creative freelancers’

3. Advertise yourself

We know money is sometimes tight, so spending a lot on Google Ads or Facebook isn’t your number one priority. But there are many ways to generate more publicity for your store nowadays, without it costing (much). You need to advertise yourself! How? By using your socials. Show the world – your locals – what you’re doing. Be clear and transparent in your information. Let your ‘fans’ know you’re still open for business, yet in a different way than usual. If you don’t already, try out stories (on Facebook & Instagram). And what about a livestream? Engage with your audience, by giving them the opportunity to ask questions, directly. Make them take a quiz. Show behind-the-scenes. Even though you can’t always physically go out and meet your customers, you can engage with them online, so please do!

If you already have a content planning and/or strategy set up, don’t simply throw it all away. Take a good look at what you had planned, iterate and add content suitable for the tough time we’re in at the moment. Keep posting to show your visitors everything you have to offer. Of course, not all of your customers will use or be very active on social media, so why not send out an (extra) newsletter? Mention some highlights from your socials, a special offer (maybe for when your physical store opens its doors again), organise a giveaway or a discount? A newsletter also creates the opportunity to be a little more personal. So be personal! Remind your customers you won’t forget them and they won’t forget you. 

4. Create your Google profile

Have you created your business profile on Google, Google My Business? In their own words: ‘Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to promote your Business Profile and business website on Google Search and Maps. With your Google My Business account, you can see and connect with your customers, post updates to your Business Profile, and see how customers are interacting with your business on Google.’ From research by socialmediatoday, we know that 4 out of 5 customers use search engines (aka Google) to find local information/ businesses/ services and 70% of customers visit a store to make a purchase after an online search (awesome news for when this lockdown is over!). And to top it up: 85% of people trust online reviews (in this case reviews on your Google page) as much as personal recommendations. So, create your Google profile, it really is worth it! 

5. Great Customer Service 

Going the extra mile for your customers not only makes you more trustworthy, it also increases customer loyalty. So invest in your customer service. Make sure to keep your customer close, after the first ‘contact’. Send them a personalised email thanking them for their purchase and include information on their order. Add a call-to-action leading them to your webshop. Or why not include a discount for their next visit or free (return) shipping. A personal note when sending products with your branding can be a great way to engage. You can’t make that swift chat at the counter anymore, so try to do so in another way. Wrap your products with gorgeous packaging (check Pinterest for inspiration!). This will make receiving one of your products feel like your customers are receiving a gift. And who doesn’t like receiving a present? 

Within your own website: invest in options that make it easy for customers to ask questions and reply as soon as possible. Include an extended FAQ. Add a chatbot; they save a lot of time (both for you as a retailer and for the ‘waiting’ customer), manpower and money. Insert a search engine that also searches within your content. Your customers aren’t just looking for products, they want information, too. On things like delivery, return policy and sizing. Great onsite search helps keep your customers happy and increases retention, order value and conversion. But more on that later. 

6. Let customers review you 

Customer reviews not only give future customers a better overview of a product or brand, but they also actually make you sell more. People like other people’s opinions, so actively ask customers for reviews. It’s what we call social proof. A happy customer is a returning one and will generate new customers. A little nudge in the shape of a 5% discount on their next order could be an extra incentive for them to do a review. Add them to your own website as a testimonial. And don’t forget there are several platforms for customer reviews visitors tend to look at when seeking a (new) product, brand, shop or service. Make sure your profiles are complete on sites like Trustpilot, Capterra and Tripadvisor. Customers should also be able to review on Google (which you’ve already read about above, with Google my Business). 

7. Keep an eye on your competition

Remember to keep tabs on your competition. What are your competitors doing? How does your product (or service) compare? If your pricing is in a completely different range, yet your product is similar, you might want to consider making some changes. Also, if you’re in need of additional inspiration on content, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! 

8. Optimise your shop: site speed

To provide the best possible service, it is key to have your webshop run perfectly. Speed is one of the most important features of your website. Did you know that with every second of waiting, up to 30% of potential buyers leave your shop to buy elsewhere? That’s what makes site speed so important. Remove data that is making your site slow(er), such as large images, and/or invest in a tool that specialises in site speed. We know investing money is one of the things you probably don’t want to be doing at the moment, but luckily lots of businesses are offering (extended) free trials, or are free of charge anyway. So why not give it a shot? 

9. Optimise your shop: keep everything up to date

Make sure your webshop is up to date: don’t show Mother’s day banners on Father’s day or Xmas specials in summer. Are items out of stock? Take them off the site temporarily. Show customers an appealing home page, with easy to find and relevant information (a sitemap comes in very handy), a section for reviews & testimonials (with their importance mentioned earlier) and clear call-to-action-buttons (in a different colour than the rest of the website to make them ‘pop’) such as add to cart, support and pricing. 

10. Optimise your shop: Include options for more information

Information is everything! Not just in your communication, but also within product pages: try to give customers some extra, as it will increase their happiness and decrease the number of questions you’ll get at your customer service. Besides the aforementioned reviews, give visitors options for similar or add-on products. This will not only give customers extra options, but it can also increase their order value. Upselling without any effort! Also, give customers an open-end when they’re searching for products you don’t sell: when they reach a ‘no-results’ page, don’t simply show them nothing, but give options like a call-to-action to customer service, similar products or a sale page, to extend their customer journey.

11. Optimise your shop: on-site search

As an onsite search provider, we can’t stress the importance of (optimising) your onsite search engine enough. Why you should bother looking into (your) onsite search? Searchers buy up to five times more than non-searching visitors, stay on-site longer and lookup more pages. Searching visitors can boost your conversion massively! Onsite search is the last stage of the buying process and the place within your shop where conversion actually happens. The stakes are high – the customer either gets the desired experience or leaves to buy elsewhere. That’s exactly why optimised onsite search ensures instant and hassle-free shopping. 

An optimised onsite search engine takes care of synonyms (is it jeans, trousers or denim), error-tolerance (not everyone is great at spelling), relevance (not finding yellow socks when looking for green shoes), relevant filters and sorting options. And last but not least: you are able to gain insight into your search analytics, such as the queries without results. This will let you know what your customers are actually searching for. You might find out a great number of them are looking for a brand or product you don’t sell yet! 

At Spotler Activate, we thrive to help retailers skyrocket their conversion rate by offering a suite of tools & data-driven actionable insights on the performance of their webshop. Our Onsite Search within webshops makes sure visitors actually find what they are looking for. 

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Curious about what search optimisation and our software Spotler Activate Search can add to your business? Book a demo and get inspired!