As a product-based business owner, one of the first things you have to consider is where you want to sell your products online. Many of us sell on multiple channels such as Amazon and Etsy, but could you gain more sales on your own website?
I spoke with Marie Brown, founder of Beyond the kitchen table to find out why she thinks it’s important to have your own website and what tips and tricks she has for anybody thinking of building one.
Why do you need your own website in the first place?
When first starting your product-based business you might not feel the need to have your own website and in most cases, you don’t. Selling platforms such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy etc have helped many business owners to become successful. They are great ways to test your product and brand before investing in a website.
That being said, once you have a saleable product and customers a website should be top of your to-do list. But why?
- Credibility – Anybody can set up on Amazon or eBay but by having your own website you increase the trust factor. Having your own website can give an extra level of authority and credibility you can’t get on these platforms.
2. Control – Can you imagine your Etsy store being shut down overnight? This happens to small businesses and often for no reason at all. By having your own website you are in full control.
3. Visibility – By using SEO and keywords you can be found on Google much easier than being on a selling platform with hundreds of other similar brands.
How to create a simple website
Once you’ve decided to take the leap and set up your website you need to think about how you’re going to do it. The great thing about technology and selling platforms today is that they almost all integrate. You’re able to set up a home page, about page, etc, and then a shop page that directs your customer to Amazon, for example. This option gives you the best of both worlds as your products are already loaded up onto the platform but you have a website to direct your customers too.
This method is great for when you first start but eventually you want to have your own shop page. Marie recommends either WordPress or Shopify for product based businesses. (I use Shopify for my own website and love it!)
The reason Marie recommends these two platforms is because of flexibility. Other platforms such as Wix have a limited number of functions which in turn cause roadblocks whilst trying to build a successful website. In terms of the cheapest option then WordPress is free but in terms of ease then Shopify works a lot better.
Alongside your platform, you also need to look into buying a domain name and website hosting. Marie recommends using Siteground for website hosting as you get a lot for your money and it’s highly respected.
As you start to build your website you’ll not only have the product pages but also the informational pages such as About Me, FAQs etc.
Marie recommends being as relatable as possible with your customers in order to get them to buy into your story. You don’t need 6 paragraphs about where you want to school if you’re trying to sell a pet product. Instead, you need to relate to your ideal customer and know what they’re coming to your website for.
If you’re a formal person and have a formal product then use this language on your website. If you’re informal and want to add humour into your website as your product is fun then make sure that it all relates and makes sense.
What investment do you need to make?
Running a website sounds like a pricey business but what investment do you need to make in terms of time and money?
In Marie’s words ‘ it’s very much a case of how long is a piece of string’ when it comes to money. With so many different options to choose from when it comes to hosting and your platform, it comes down to what you can afford and what you’re willing to spend for the amount of work you put in.
Another option here would be to invest in a designer to do the work for you, but on a cheaper hosting site. The initial outlay would be £1000-£5000 but your monthly costs will be lower as you potentially won’t be paying a subscription fee to Shopify (for example).
In terms of your time investment, don’t underestimate how long it takes to plan your website. Even just collating the information and working out how it will look will take up numerous hours. Again you can easily outsource this work if you have the money to invest, so it comes down to what you can afford and how much time you want to dedicate yourself.
Is your website working for you?
Of course, getting sales from your website means that your website is working but ideally you need to be measuring the traffic in depth in order to really understand your audience. Marie always recommends installing Google Analytics to any website. This tool allows you to take a closer look at how customers shop your website.
Google Analytics is a free tool and it shows you where people are shopping from, where they found you, what pages they are spending the most time on and what products they’re considering. It’s an invaluable tool for any website owner.
After analysing your results on Google Analytics you may notice patterns or slow traffic. This is when you start relooking at your website and how you are promoting it. Could you be linking your website via Instagram stories on a more regular basis? Try to amp up the promotion of your website and see if this makes a difference.
Another thing that might be standing in your way is SEO. Take a look at your website copy and make sure you’re writing about what you want to be found for. Look at your tags and keywords to make sure they are relevant to your products to ensure that Google picks these up and pushes you up the list!
Here’s another blog post all about SEO for you to read.
We’re not all perfect and are bound to make mistakes when building a website but what are the most common mistakes and how can you avoid them?
- Not being clear about what you offer – remember we’re all time poor and will lose interest quickly if we can’t see what we want straight away. Capture the attention of your audience as soon as they land on your site by using an image at the top of the homepage that captures everything about your business.
- Not using keywords on your home page – Make sure the first few words and images show what you do. If you are eco-friendly then include these words in your banner or image so the customer knows instantly.
- Bad image quality – there’s no point in having a beautiful website set up if your first image is grainy or doesn’t show your product. Your first image needs to be the best representation of your brand.
- Confusing navigation – does the customer know where to go next? Make your navigation bar clear. This might mean overlaps, e.g gifts for women, gifts for wife but it gives your customer a better chance of finding what they want quickly before they lose interest.
Top Tips for Selling Online
If you aren’t quite ready to set up your website but have a brand name ready and are already selling under that name then Marie’s top tip is to buy the domain in preparation. They’re relatively cheap to buy and you don’t need to do anything with it until you’re ready.
Once you start selling on your website, don’t be fooled into thinking you can leave it to tick over. You need to be updating your images and copy on a regular basis to ensure not only customers but Google know you are still in business. Another great way to create fresh content is to blog – don’t be afraid to blog about something you’re passionate about especially when it relates to your customers and is relevant to your products.
Another important thing to remember is to promote your website at all times. Is your website on your social media bio? Is it on your email signature? Do you have premises and can print a sticker for your shop window with the site address? Reach out to other businesses or networking groups on Facebook and let everyone know you have a website!
Get a Google My Business free listing! You may think that these listings are just for local businesses or service businesses but have you ever thought that somebody could be searching for a specific product in your area and you will show up without having to put in any of the hard work! Google My Business also has a review function so it’s an ideal way to get loyal customers to leave reviews to promote your brand. Google also loves reviews so it promotes your business above others without reviews.
Marie’s top piece of advice was to make sure you have a product you are proud to sell before you invest time and money into a website. Running a website is another job to undertake so unless you are confident you can sell then hold off until you are ready.
Selling your products online and creating your own website is a huge step in your product business development and my key takeaway from this discussion is to make sure you’re ready. Trial your products on selling platforms first and spread the word before investing time and money into an additional sales channel. Get some advice before setting up and ask other business owners what they use as everybody will have different opinions and then once you’ve started selling on your website keep it up to date and analyse your audience.
If you’d like some more advice on setting up your website then you can find Maria at https://beyondthekitchentable.co.uk/. Maria helps entrepreneurs and small businesses build successful websites that they love and that get them more customers with less effort.