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July 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 7
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Retailing Tips: Promoting Online

Use the Web to Market Your Store

“You have to get people to your site or they won’t find your store or buy your products.” Tyler Jones, Out Loud Creative Inc.
With additional reporting by Julie L. Jones

Even if you don’t plan to sell toys online, having a website to market your store could boost your business. But how do you make sure you have the most effective website possible? TDmonthly Magazine recently spoke with web experts and store owners to come up with these seven tips:

  1. Don’t Skimp. “There’s a big difference between creating a website and creating a successful website,” said Tyler Jones, owner of Out Loud Creative Inc., a web design company in Bluffton, Ind. “Anyone can make a website, but you need to hire a professional to build something that is going to be successful.”

  2. Choose the Type of Site. “We decided from the beginning this was going to be an information-only site, a marketing tool,” Owner Lisa McMartin of Wonderment Inc. in Minneapolis told TDmonthly about her store’s website. Similarly, Renee Nordhus, owner of Toy Zone in Rochester, Minn., decided it was in her store’s best interest to advertise special events and sales, rather than sell online, because that helped drive sales in her store.

  3. Keep It Simple. “Users do not want music, sound, animation or flash images,” as those elements can be annoying, C S Wurzberger, Internet strategist for Premiere Web Services in Portland, Maine, told TDmonthly. In order to properly brand a website, she added, all the components “should match so it looks like everything belongs to the same family.”

  4. Stay Up-to-Date. Customers will look for information on sales and events, and any products that you list on your website should be current. “We don’t update often,” said Ginger Milligan, co-owner of Fantasy Island Toys in Fairhope, Ala. But, “That’s our big push for this year, to pay attention to [the website],” she said. “If we tried harder…”

  5. Drive People to Your Site. “You have to get people to your site or they won’t find your store or buy your products,” Jones said. You can do so by “optimizing search engines, running ads on search engines or other sites, writing articles and linking, among other ways,” he added, and a professional can assist you in finding opportunities.

  6. Ensure Ease of Use. “If people can’t get through the site or find the information or products they want, they won’t use the site again,” said Mindy Schlegel, account manager for web developing and designing firm Lightsky in Goshen, Ind. “Think carefully about the content to make it useful.”

  7. Market Your Site Offline. Make your online presence stand out. Store owners are “putting their website address on business cards, brochures, stickers, sales receipts … notepads, pens the customers love to take,” Wurzberger told TDmonthly. “That's a spectacular way to really announce [a website]. When your customer gets home again, they're still remembering how to find you virtually.”

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Terri Hughes-LazzellWriter's Bio: Terri Hughes-Lazzell is a freelance journalist based in Ossian, Ind. After spending nearly a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, she has worked as a freelance journalist for more than ten years, writing about a variety of topics. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide. Read more articles by this author

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