Why you should treat your website like your shop window

In 2021, many businesses don’t have a shop window. In fact, many businesses won’t have fixed premises at all, with business owners working from laptops at kitchen tables, cafés or on a crowded train. But, when it comes to how your customers see your business, the ‘shop window’ is still as important as ever.

Dressed to impress

In the 1870s, department stores began to appear in cities. Keen to get interested shoppers through the doors to witness the wealth of different products inside, savvy store owners started using wax mannequins to model the clothing patrons could buy within. The rest, as they say, is history, and now clothing stores all over the world, from beachfront shacks selling bikinis to high-end boutiques, entice potential buyers by displaying their wares front and centre.

This is clever for two reasons. One, you can catch the buyers’ eye without them even needing to physically enter the building. Two, it helps them visualise exactly what the business offers them – its style, its ethos, how their products will fit.

A good website is a shop window with an immaculately-dressed mannequin. It may not be able to catch your customers’ eyes in passing (although good SEO and smart, beautiful branding might!), but what it does do is tell your customers who they are. Are you the beach bikini or the luxury coat? Are you friendly, corporate, or somewhere in between? You get to determine that first impression, all within one landing page. Make sure your website is what makes your customers want to open the shop door, not keep walking.

Keep it current

Have you ever seen barbecues in the window of a DIY shop in the middle of November? We didn’t think so! Much like a shop window, your website can – and should – remain connected to the world around you. Ensuring your branding and content stay relevant and up-to-date is a great way to keep customers engaged with who you are and what you do. Not only does it prevent your website from getting stale or seeming out of touch, but it also means you’re constantly evaluating what works for your business.

Are your FAQs not answering the burning questions you get all the time? Is your product list current and your content still accurate? Maintaining and updating your website means your customers see exactly what they need to, when they need it. No barriers to taking the next step, whether that’s picking up the phone or clicking a ‘buy’ button.

Clarity is in the eye of the beholder

A shop window is, in essence, an advert. It has to tell you, as quickly as possible, what the shop does and why its customers should care. Good website design will do the same, but poor design can leave potential customers confused or disinterested in what you’re selling.

Consider an artfully-arranged window display in a bakery, complete with freshly-baked cakes and bread and a sign saying ‘Baked today – 2 loaves for £2!’. It tells the customers and their rumbling stomachs everything they need to know within one glance and leaves no doubt about what they should do next.

Clear, considered website design will tell your customers who you are (in this scenario, a skilled baker!), what you do (freshly baked bread, hot from the oven) and what to do next (come inside, money in hand, and leave with armfuls of fresh bread). Of course, we'd be surprised if many of you reading this are bakers, but the point is obvious – good website design leaves little room for confusion and leads your customers to exactly where you want them to be, which is ready to commit to a sale.

So, whether you’re a butcher, baker, or artisanal candlestick maker, treating your website like a shop window is important. From the window dressing of your branding to the way you invite your customers in, make sure your website invites your customers onto it - not walking on by.

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