Guest column: Online experience has never been so important

With a growing focus on e-commerce, TWC Marketing Consultant Claire Murray runs the rule over how to give customers the best possible online experience.

We recently did a deep dive into the digital and e-commerce offerings of some of the UK’s top wholesalers and symbol retailers. There were some stand-outs, but many had gaps in user experience, personalisation and in their e-commerce optimisation. While it can seem daunting, working on your digital presence is massively worthwhile and will gain you more customers and online sales.

While we were doing this deep dive, we took a look at a company who are doing it right: Screwfix, the trade tool retailer. Like many wholesalers in our channel, Screwfix has a huge range, with various categories and levels. But despite the difficulties associated with this size of range, their digital experience is excellent.

Website –  user experience

Customers don’t want to dig around to find items on your site. They use sites such as Amazon daily and if it isn’t immediately clear where a product is, they’ll give up or go elsewhere. Every single time a customer comes up against a barrier, it’s another opportunity for them to abandon your site. Good, user-friendly categorisation is vital if you have a large product file and a busy customer base.

Upon landing on Screwfix’s website, it’s immediately clear how their products are categorised, how to sign up or log in and how to find their stores. There’s even an easy-to-use search bar if you’re feeling lazy.

If you’re a customer and add something to a Saved List on their desktop website, it’s then reflected if you visit their mobile site or their app. This might not be something you think you need, but put yourself in a retailer’s shoes – they could be out and about and start adding items on the go, then want to finish their order on their desktop in their store or at home only to find they can’t. Removing every barrier to purchase is key.

Digging deeper, each subcategory has straightforward further subcategories. In Drills alone, you can filter by category, brand, power supply, and even voltage. It’s easy to see what’s on offer and what’s new.

Website – product listings 

In the product listings there’s a little blurb, pictures of the item, other recommended products and even video on some. They’ve used User Generated Content (UGC) to maximum effect, gathering reviews and having a Q&A section. This is something that can be particularly useful in new product development (NPD), where stockists can talk about impressive rates of sale or great customer feedback. And of course, in foodservice where word of mouth from other caterers can be hugely powerful.

Screwfix has obviously dug into its data to see what their top sellers are and what customers are likely to purchase if they buy this item. (Which is where having a great data platform comes in).

This all makes it simple for people to see exactly what they’re buying. The more Social Proof (content from other users) available, the more likely people are to buy – according to Hubspot, 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Search Engine Optimisation 

Search engine optimisation helps your site come at the top of Google searches for your company name, and for important products. With people increasingly shopping online, this is vital for every business that offers an ecommerce service. Your loyal customers will naturally come to your site, but if you want to gain new ones, you need to be really visible online.

If you search for Screwfix on Google, their website comes up top. You’d expect that. But they also command every result on the first page of Google, and most of the next few pages too. They do this through SEO – Search Engine Optimisation.

There are a few ways to optimise so your site appears top of Google and keeps your competitors from appearing under your name:

Google My Business – this is a free tool from Google that ensures you get the maximum “Google Real Estate” on their front page. It’s how you get the box on the side of search results with your company info, website, contact details, and images. Just sign up and fill out all the available information.

Keyword optimisation – this helps you appear for key terms your customers might be looking for. If you look up “power tools”, “power drills”, or “decking screws”, Screwfix are the first result. The best way to do this is use Google Analytics or a tool like Keywords Everywhere to find out what your idea customers are searching for, and create specific pages where the products in these categories are grouped together. Write some blurbs and information that have the keyword included.

Have great UX (user experience) – if people land on your site and immediately leave (bounce), Google assumes your site is either difficult to navigate, or the information on your page is irrelevant. So take a look at your Google Analytics and see which pages have the highest bounce rates. Then make those pages better using categorisation, keywords, and looking at how they could be easier to navigate. Use your data!

Social media

Most of your businesses probably have social media pages. They’re probably used semi-regularly and usually when you have a deal or promotion running.

But, that’s not the best way to utilise them. You want to ensure you post regular, interesting content that will keep people engaged with your page. Then when you do have promotions running, or you want to push sales of a specific item, people see these posts and are interested in them.

Screwfix do everything right on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Their logos are front and centre, properly sized, and their headers are eye-catching. It’s immediately obvious on their Facebook page that you can “Shop Now”.

Both pages have filled in as much information as the platform allows, while Facebook has their company blurb, how to contact them, and it states you can expect a response from them within an hour. Their messenger pops up straight away, so you know if you need to ask a question, you can.

Screwfix’s varied content of team member stories, competitions, awards, and promotions is interesting and has built them up a huge audience who like to hear what they have to say. All their images and videos are properly sized and they don’t use too much text – all great ways to show their professionalism.

Wondering how to get started with all of this?

The best place is with data. Both through your data platform and your Google Analytics. Use it to find your top sellers, what people are buying, and what’s popular at different times of the week/year.

Then use this information to improve the e-commerce side of your website. When that’s sorted, your SEO will begin to improve and you can get started on optimising your social media. As Lindsay Herbert put it, “just start step 1 and you’ll be amazed at how much more tangible and practical one of these experiments seems.”

If you need help with setting up a data platform or your Google Analytics dashboard, the TWC team can help.

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