¦ A website can be an extra sales channel.
¦ Customers research purchases on the web.
¦ A website can make repeat ordering easy for your customers.
¦ The building sector’s next generation will ignore suppliers that don’t sell online.

Every businessperson has a list of things they know they really should do one day, but which they never get around to. There is always something more important, something more interesting to do instead. And for a great many people, “improving the company website” is on that list.

We all know we should do something to bring the company website up-to-date, and the chances are that you’ve been meaning to do something about yours for a long time. But website design and development isn’t really your area, the experts talk incomprehensible jargon, it all seems like a lot of work for very little return, and your finance director isn’t writing blank cheques right now, so it’s probably best to just leave it on the list for now.

Sound familiar? The fact is that improving your website is important, should be urgent, and could even be interesting. You just have to know how to get started.

Making the case

The first step is to realise how much you could gain from a well-designed, professionally developed website. Most obviously you could use it as an extra sales channel. Produce a website that people want to visit, where it’s easy for them to buy, and you could boost your sales to customers around the world and the clock.

Even those who don’t buy online from you will probably research purchases online before visiting your merchant, factory, warehouse or office. Think about the last significant purchase you made. Did you search online for vendors? Did you check their websites? Increasingly, a well-designed and professionally developed website is essential for corporate credibility and brand integrity.

Furthermore, there are several reasons why businesses in the timber industry should have good websites. Firstly, sustainability is central to your work, but it is a complex issue and requires careful explanation and detailed facts. Your website is an ideal place to showcase your achievements in this area.

Secondly, many companies in this sector rely on repeat business, and a website could provide your customers with a way to make repeat orders with the minimum time and effort on their part. You simply provide them with log in details and every time they visit your site they can see details of their previous transactions: what they bought, where it was delivered, and how they paid. You can allow them to repeat orders at the click of a button.

Thirdly, you can use your website to detail stock lists that may be extensive and complex. Finally, while today’s building trade might not buy online, the next generation will. It is not so much that they realise online purchasing will make dealing with your business easier and quicker for them, it is more that they will expect to buy products in this way, and will ignore companies that make it difficult for them to do so.

Five steps to getting it right

So, you need a website that excites your visitors and encourages them to buy from you. What do you need to get right? Having looked at many sites of firms in the timber industry we believe there are five key areas for improvement:

? Look and feel: The first essential is a clean design and strong brand. It should be pleasant to look at and visitors should know that it is your company’s site. Avoid designs that look cramped and out of date

? Search engine performance: You want people to see your site on Google when customers search for certain terms, such as “timber merchant”. You achieve this by using these terms on your website, and making it easy for Google to find and read your site.

? Navigation: Equally, you want people to be able to find their way around your site. Too many sites seem to have little logic to their structure and it is very easy for visitors to get lost. On the best sites you always know where you are, and there are big, obvious buttons giving you options for your next step.

? Quality content: The most successful sites include a wealth of relevant information and they display it in an accessible and appealing way. Visitors can see all the company’s accreditations, as well as all the necessary terms and conditions and privacy policies. Perhaps most important of all is the use of striking artwork and photos. These can do so much to make a website a place that people want to visit and buy from time after time.

? Appropriate for your customers: You should ensure that your website is suitable for your audience and your objectives. Without doubt, it is possible to waste a great deal of time and money on website design and development, so begin by finding out how your customers use the internet, clearly define your goals, then get advice from experts who talk plain English, who understand your industry, and who have a track record of producing successful websites.

Get all of that right and before long you will have a website that is generating an impressive return on investment. You will also have crossed one thing off that to do list.

? For further information on Ecce Media, contact 01689 874 395 or visit