Beginner’s Guide to Improving Internet Presence
From Googling the movie quote that’s on the tip of your tongue to finding out what’s playing at the local cinema, we rely more and more on technology always being present to keep us “in the know” and connected to our favorite people and brands. This gets many grocery and c-store operators thinking, if they haven’t already, about creating a specific website for their brand… Is this a good idea for everyone?
Start improving your internet presence
Let’s check out some of the pros and cons of getting your own branded website, establishing an internet presence and a few tips along the way.
Pros: Why Have a Website
Compared to some of the alternative methods that we will discuss below, having your own hosted site allows you to take customization to the max. By building the website yourself or hiring a freelancer such as those on Upwork, you can create a website that fits your brand to a T.
With a decent website designer you can customize your site to highlight your promotions, what makes your store special, public outreach, job postings, your contact information, suggestions, even where your locations are! For instance, over on our site, ChampsChicken.com, you can see that not only do we highlight our promotions but we also make it easy for prospective customers to find a location nearby!
The possibilities are endless when you have your own site. The limitations only go to the extent of what you can create. Many people worry that they won’t be able to create the graphics for the website. They have a very valid point. Terrible graphics make for a horrible user experience and a high percentage of people quickly leaving your site. To combat this you can sign up for a few helpful tools:
- Canva – This is a free graphic design program that will allow you to create awesome graphics for your site.
- Pixabay – If you need royalty free images, this is a great place to get them. You don’t want to go around pirating images, so this is a good alternative.
- Fiverr – If you need logos, videos, audio…etc. created, this is the place to get it for an amazing price. There are a ton of talented individuals on Fiverr that produce incredible results starting at $5.
Who wouldn’t want more people seeing your brand? If you are a larger, regional chain or one that has the ability to ship anywhere from your online store, then this is a big benefit. By creating content with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind, you have the ability to reach hundreds and thousands of people.
While SEO tactics are a book in themselves, it’s basically formatting your content to rank well on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo…etc.) for specific words and thus drive more traffic to your site.
As I’ve already mentioned, this really is a big boon for those that can ship anywhere. This is because it’s free advertising and helps build brand awareness to anyone that comes across your site!
Customer Contact Information
If you want to keep your customers coming back for more, not only do you need to provide awesome service and products, you also need to be top of mind. One of the most effective ways to do this is via email. Considering the average person checks their smartphone (which normally involves checking their email) 85 times a day, this is a great way to stay relevant.
Whether you are a national chain or a small mom and pop location, asking your customers to go to your site and sign-up for promotions and specials is an easy way to utilize your website. It’s effective, economical and can drive same-store sales. One free platform to get you started is Mailchimp. Their free service allows you to collect up to 2,000 subscribers and send over 12,000 monthly emails. Not bad for a free service.
Along with preventing anyone else from buying your domain name and doing God knows what with it (or just purchasing it and holding onto it), having your own URL builds credibility.
What is more credible to you as a prospective consumer? A business card or radio ad that directs you to www.Facebook.com/Store_Name12481 or one that simply directs you to www.StoreName.com? We all know that answer to that one. It subconsciously tells your prospective customer you’ve been around for a while and will be for years to come.
Cons: Why Find An Alternative
One con of having your own website is that are a few small costs. For instance, purchasing a specific URL at a site like GoDaddy can cost on average anywhere from a few bucks to $20 (or much more) to own the rights to that URL for a year. Obviously, this needs to be renewed every year.
Likewise, hosting services such as Bluehost or HostGator can require monthly hosting fees (which start at a few bucks a month). There are free hosting alternatives such as Wix which allows you to build and host your website for free and could be a good alternative for those that are inexperienced when it comes to building websites or you just need smaller website.
Apart from the actual URL and hosting costs, you also need to consider the amount of time it takes to maintain the site. You want a site that provides a great user experience and is easy to use. This usually equates to updating any theme, plugins or content you use to make sure it’s relevant.
You don’t want graphics for a promotion you ran 2 years ago to still be front and center on your site. It only takes heading over to your site monthly and updating and graphic, content or dates, but this still takes time.
As you would expect, personally setting up your own site takes a bit of internet savvy. Don’t let that deter you. You can always hire a freelancer or use a platform such as Wix which helps you create templates and is more of a plug and play model.
Yes, it takes a little time and effort in order to create a site you can be proud of! That being said, there is probably an employee on your staff that has the aptitude to handle this issue – check in with your millennial employees.
If the cons outweigh the pros for your location, then at the bare minimum it’s ideal to have some sort of internet presence. With over 1 billion active users (yeah… billion), a Facebook page can at least put your location(s) on the proverbial internet map.
Once you have your own Facebook profile you can create a Facebook page for your store at this link. It’s best to complete the profile as thoroughly as possible with a phone number, address, store hours…etc.
You can use any of the above tools (Canva, Pixabay, Fiverr…etc.) to help flesh out your page with graphics to help increase interest. You can also reach out to your vendors for graphics related to their specific products. Many vendors are more than happy to help you with Facebook graphics as it also increases their brand awareness. In fact, PFSbrands employees this strategy quite effectively for our retailers.
Once you have your Facebook page up and kicking you can then invite all of your family and friends to like it to increase traffic and awareness.
Again, be as thorough as possible when filling out your page to make it useful for any prospective customers.
Get Google Listed
As we’ve mentioned, Google is the premiere search engine… Heck, it’s so popular, it’s become a verb – Google it! While your store may already appear on Google Maps or in their business listing, it’s best to double check by Googling your business. If it doesn’t appear, two ways to make this happen is by adding your information to Google Maps here and your business listing here.
Both of these features are free and definitely worth your time. If anyone Googles your location they will instantly come up with these free features.
What do you do?
So, we’ve weighed the pros and the cons of building your internet presence via a website, right? We’ve also discussed some simple alternatives, so what are you to do? This really all boils down to a location by location basis. Or more or less, brand by brand basis. It’s probably a solid recommendation for those brands with more than a few locations to have all of the above.
If you are going to take the time to create a website, it takes minimal time to create a Facebook page and get Google listed as well. A website is a great way to create customized content for your consumers, display your promos and gather email addresses that requires minimal maintenance after it is up and running.
For those individual stores or those with only a few locations, the alternative might be more appropriate. Taking the time to create a Facebook page and Google listing is a must. It will allow you to put your footprint on the two most used platforms on the internet – Google and Facebook. That is a great start, any way you look at it.
As Paul Tran, Senior Director of Development at Fransmart, said in a recent QSR Magazine article, “You need to have actual real estate that’s accessible and convenient. But sometimes, with social media, people don’t even care where you are. If you pop up on their phone, you’ll be top of mind and they’ll find you wherever you are.” Tran explained that since millennials, and people in general, are on their phones constantly, “you might as well be where the customers are.”
Either route you go, make sure you take the time to maintain your information on these platforms. There is no reason to have an obscure, outdated website or Facebook page when it’s so easy with custom themes and plugins to create a world-class website in just a few hours or days.
When it comes to your internet presence, keep it up-to-date and build that credibility your audience is looking for on your way to improving your sales and increasing your brand awareness.
If you would like to have the collective experience of PFSbrands behind you as you open a foodservice program at your location, be sure to check out our programs!