"Walk-ins" for your website

November 21, 2006

Posted in Small Business and Web Industry.

Getting traffic can be hard to do, but we know that traffic isn’t the goal. The real goal is your business objective. We measure this in conversions—visitors that become customers or perform a desired action. Often, this means making a purchase or filling out a form. Sometimes it’s as simple as calling or emailing you for more information.

Now in looking at your stats, you must realize that not all visitors are the same. Referrals mean more than search users. Search visits mean more than accidental visits. However, there’s a segment of these visits that are poorly identified: the walk-in.

Walk-in visitors are the ones that see something interesting—you catch their eye—and they show up. They’re not specifically looking for what you’ve got, but they’re not exactly on a mission. They just found you. The conversion rates for these visitors will be lower than referrals or search users, but they’re much higher than those that arrive purely by accident. They’re still a valuable group.

So how do you make the most of walk-in web visitors?

As we’ve done with many things – design, branding, and advertising – the web industry relies on real-world parallels. We learn from the physical world and hope it makes sense here in cyberspace. Because brick-and-mortar businesses often rely on passersby to stop in – and become customers – we’ll look at some of their methods and apply them to the web.

1. The Running Television
Customers off the street see television screens and they pay attention. People love to look at a screen – just watch the eyes of people in a sports bar with a visible television. On the web, this means fresh content. If you want people to stop and look around, get them to pause for a second to see what’s going on.

2. Location, location, location
Stores can succeed and fail simply based on which corner is easier to get to. If your site has a terrible domain name, it’s a barrier to users who 1) may not trust your business, and 2) can’t remember it to come back.

3. Have a defined path
When you walk in a store like Target, there’s a flow to your experience. The carts are there on the left. Sale prices and newspaper circulars are in a bin for your taking. Someone greets you. There’s only one choice – move forward. The checkout is just as easy. When website visitors can’t figure out what to do or how to do it, they leave. Develop a strong site architecture with a defined flow and easy options for the user. Don’t let them get confused—guide them along the process, from their first page to final checkout.

4. Freebies!
My auto dealer has free popcorn for when I visit – even if I’m just there for the service shop. I like free mints after lunch. I love when a barber has free coffee for me while I wait. Once on your website, a walk-in visitor needs to be enticed to stay. To try you out. You have to build up confidence quickly&mdashother visitors already have some when they’re coming in. So give them a free download. A free demo. A free month of service. Free content. And make sure they know it’s free.

5. Well-Placed Displays
There’s an industry devoted to designing and placing displays in stores. Creative, well-placed retail displays (look around next time you walk into a store or check out at the coffee shop) are there to encourange spontaneous purchases, promote certain [high-margin] products, or reinforce a brand. On your website, consider how you can design and place your “displays.”

6. Clean, well-lit store
A dingy, dirty, dark retail store is a terrible experience. You lose trust in the business, worry about the product, and don’t even try to get a refund if something goes wrong. So think about the clean, well-lit store with friendly employees and transparent policies. It’s instant trust. Your website is your store. Clean it up and make sure it’s well-designed, easy to read, and easy to navigate.

7. Easy access
Wide aisles. Handicap ramps. Big signs with arrows. We’re talking accessibility, here, and it means a lot more than access for disabled users. It means easy access for everyone.

8. Be Helpful
When you can’t find something in a store, you can wander around aimlessly, becoming more frustrated, until you walk out. Or you can ask someone for help. If you can’t find someone to help you, your customer goodwill is shot and you’re ready to leave (and maybe never come back again). A helpful, friendly employee can make a huge difference. Give your website visitors opportunities to find help. This could be as simple as a phone number or email address prominently displayed.

Walk-ins Pay Off

In the end, your walk-in customers can pay off huge dividends. They’re the customers that didn’t rely on your existing network for referral business. And they didn’t respond to to your hard-earned search rankings. They’re a new group of people with their own networks. They can help you make your way into those networks of potential business. But to gain their trust and business, you have to work hard to make them happy customers.

1 Comment

  1. oak — November 21, 2006

    Liz and I always walk into Target on the supermarket side, so the carts are on the right.