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Your Website’s Layout and Design Have a Lot in Common with a Physical Retail Space

It might seem silly to compare your digital website to a physical retail space, but it does make for an interesting discussion on how you can view your website’s layout and design.

Retail stores use an interesting metric called sales per square foot, but since we are in South Africa, let’s refer to it as sales per square meter.

Sales per square meter is a retail store’s average revenue for every square meter of sales space. It keeps track and measures how efficient and successful sales are in a given space.

It’s a useful metric because it helps retailers assess productivity and profitability of their sales space. It enables them to make informed decisions about merchandising, layouts and product placement

Now, what if you applied this metric to your website but called it sales per square centimeter?

With that in mind, you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. How much of your website’s layout is contributing to sales?
  2. Which areas of your website is just plain wasted space?

Remove or Replace “Dead Stock” from Your Website

Retailers use the term dead stock when they talk about inventory that’s been struggling to sell over a long period of time. The issue with dead stock is that it becomes more difficult to get rid of each month and it’s taking up valuable storage space in the warehouse.

The following things on your website can be considered dead stock:

  1. Blog posts that aren’t being read anymore and not bringing in traffic.
  2. Pages with outdated information about your business’s services.
  3. 5+ year old client testimonials.
  4. Outdated case studies about projects you’ve done.
  5. Partner or client logos who potentially don’t exist anymore.

Do you have any of those items on your website?

Keep in mind what I explained above about sales per square centimeter.

Does Your Website Have “Dump Bins”?

Retailers use dump bins or dump bin displays when they introduce a promotional product or if they want to get rid of items in bulk – they are placed in key areas throughout the store and they encourage impulse buys. You’ve definitely come across these promotional Cadbury dump bin displays or a mountain of wrapped together 3 for 1 tennis biscuits at Pick n Pay Hyper.

A dump bin isn’t a great word, but the comparison to your website can be a slider on your homepage or a strategically placed promotional banner on a web page or in the middle of your blog posts’ content.

Your slider or promotional banner should contain a compelling offering with a clear call to action and for the best results, it should be placed and displayed on pages or sections of your website that receives the most traffic.

Does Your Website Have a “Floor Sales Representative”?

How many times have you been to a specific retailer for an item they’ve advertised for sale only to find out they don’t have stock? It’s a frustrating experience, but they always have someone on the floor to help you sort it out.

Likewise, your website needs someone or something to be an easily accessible point of contact to help potential and current clients with their queries or problems.

This can be achieved through the following:

  1. Integrate WhatsApp Chat into your website.
  2. Provide a dedicated live chat plugin with an actual staff member behind it.
  3. Create a Frequently Asked Questions section or page.
  4. Provide automated self help functionality via a well-designed chatbot.
  5. Create a streamlined contact or support form to speed up queries.

Keep in mind that the majority of people today still prefer to speak to an actual person about their problems.

What Self-Help Options Do You Provide Similar to Retailers?

If you are unsure of an item’s price being displayed on the shelf, or if the pricing label is missing, both Pick n Pay and Checkers provide a self-help barcode scanner that you can use to double-check the price of an item.

They also have their latest catalogues or promotional pamphlets located at the entrance of the store.

Here are a couple of ideas for what self-help options you can provide on your website:

  1. If you sell, import, or export products, provide a dedicated section on your website where visitors can find product FAB sheets, datasheets, compliance certificates, and manuals.
  2. If you find yourself often emailing clients the same Excel templates over and over again, create a page on your website where they can download it themselves.
  3. If your business operates in different countries with multiple branches, you can create a password-protected space on your website where staff can download internal marketing materials instead of emailing the marketing department every time.
  4. If your business utilises software, you can create a page that has the latest up-to-date drivers or firmware that your clients can download from.
  5. If you have product or training videos, you can create a page on your website that lists them categorically instead of manually sending the links to your clients or referring them to your YouTube channel

Don’t underestimate the role that your website can play in providing resources and self-help functionality to your current and potential clients.

Something We Do on Our Websites That Retailers Don’t Do In-Store

When you set foot inside a Woolworths food store, you won’t have one of their staff immediately run up to you with a promotional offer. And, when you step out, you aren’t bombarded with a 5% discount voucher, and then a plea to subscribe to their newsletter, and then asking you to buy their latest issue of Taste magazine BEFORE allowing you to leave.

We allow the above to happen on our website in the form of pop-ups.

I’m not saying don’t use pop-ups. They can work well if done correctly.

Takealot’s website uses their pop-up well.

Takealot's homepage displaying a single pop-up box that is well-designed and doesn't obscure the homepage.

Takealot’s pop-up works great because:

  1. It only appears once you’ve scrolled down the website after a short period of time.
  2. It’s relatively small with a clean design so it doesn’t obscure the page.
  3. It doesn’t appear on mobile devices.

Faithful to Nature’s website is the complete opposite:

Faithful to Nature's homepage displaying 2 pop-ups once the page loads. This is distracting and intrusive.

I don’t like Faithful to Nature’s pop-ups because:

  1. They have two pop-ups that appear immediately.
  2. Their pop-ups are relatively big.
  3. You spend too much time reading the pop-up’s offer.
  4. They also use push notifications.

The only benefit of Faithful to Nature’s push notification is providing work to IT support guys to remove it from their client’s computers.

Branding, Messaging and General Aesthetics

The next time you visit a Woolworths food store, pay attention to everything.

Look at the layout of their store, the placement of their products, the design of their product’s packaging and even their lighting. You’ll notice that 99% of the time nothing seems out of place and everything has a purpose.

Think about their brand, their messaging and the experience they are selling to you and compare it to your website with the analogies used in this article.