Your website should serve as your organization’s best salesperson and a key component of your marketing strategy. Simply popping your business details into a template and sticking it online won’t generate very impressive results. It’s essential to understand the key components of successful web destinations and work to implement them on your site. The following five must-have elements will help transform your site into a veritable online powerhouse.
Navigation: Building a Seamless Menu
On a fundamental level, a straightforward navigation structure simply makes sense. Your site visitors use your menus to browse through the pages of your site, and a confusing system can throw a serious wrench in your sales funnel. The impact of navigation extends far beyond your user experience.
Content: The King of the Web
“Content is king” is a clever cliche that often spills out of the mouths of web marketers, but it’s hard to overestimate the importance of fresh, compelling content. Continually updating your site contributes to site ranking, while authoritative content builds brand loyalty and cultivates an audience of interested readers. Remember, great content alone isn’t enough — build an editorial calendar and provide new material on a frequent basis.
Visuals: Why Design Still Matters
Sure, a visually appealing site is nice but does design play a role in the health of a modern website? The answer is a resounding yes! As trends shift and mobile devices continue their climb to dominance, versatile, responsive designs play an essential role in a website’s success. Not only do sites need to be compatible with a number of platforms and devices, but they also should be visually optimized to push visitors through your sales funnel.
Imagery: Choosing the Right Photos
Beautiful images offer an additional avenue for capturing the attention of your visitors. Choosing lackluster stock images in lieu of clear, professional shots can have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on your site’s success. Don’t overlook photography, but work with a local pro to create stunning photos of your products and team. These images convert better than stock alternatives and simultaneously foster authenticity, creating a personal connection to your brand.
Information: Give the Right Details
You’re running a business, not launching a blog for the fun of it. Even if your site is optimized for visitors and features stunning design, you won’t get far without providing a clear snapshot of your business. Make your operating hours, address, and contact information easily accessible, and create snappy headlines to move your visitors through the page. This approach helps ensure every visitor receives the necessary information to patronize your business.
Truly effective website design incorporates a number of different elements, including graphics and photography. Many small business owners are tempted to snap a few photos on their smartphone to save money, but paying for professional photography often offers greater benefits. Not only will professional pictures help establish brand credibility, but images play an integral role in evoking an emotional response.
Furthermore, research has continually shown that the presence of photos encourages web users to read blog posts and articles.
Foster Better Conversion Rates
Web marketers spend a lot of time and energy attempting to boost their conversion rates, but photos are an effective way to do so with little effort. 60% of consumers feel more likely to contact a business if it posts photos online. Additionally, blog posts with images receive 94% more views than those without photos. PPC campaigns and aggressive marketing rarely rivals those numbers, all of which can be achieved simply by using professional photos.
Create a Visceral Response
Emotions have always played an important role in marketing, which is why you’ll see countless ad campaigns that attempt to pull on your heartstrings or conjure pleasant memories. Professional photos should go hand-in-hand with an interesting narrative that ties back to your brand’s mission. Together, photos and written content create a potent potion for marketing success.
For businesses in the hospitality industry, stimulating positive emotions will cause potential customers to crave the experience you offer. Plunge your readers into the soft cotton sheets in your hotel’s suites, make readers smell the juices of your freshly grilled steak, cause their tongues to salivate in anticipation for your newest merlot. Stunning photos paired with vivid descriptions will maximize your selling power.
Establish Your Brand Authority
Why should customers choose your company over your competitors? It’s a simple question, but too many small business owners don’t have the right answer. A well-defined company culture and a polished appearance go a long way toward convincing consumers to choose your products or services.
Think of brands within your industry that have catapulted themselves to mass acclaim. Review their marketing materials, and you’ll likely find real people enjoying themselves. Happy customers and courteous staff enjoying the products and services in question. If you want to compete with these brands or even enjoy a small taste of their success one day, it’s worth investing now in photography that connects with your customers in the same manner.
Professional photography doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does represent a significant investment. While you may be tempted to cut corners and use DIY shots or stock imagery, professional photos offer the only effective way to control your brand narrative and ensure you connect with customers in a meaningful way. Consider photography one of those unavoidable expenses and partner with a local photographer who can help bring your brand to life on the page—you may be surprised to see just how useful it ultimately proves for your online marketing efforts.
Mobile technology has dramatically rewritten the rules for the service industry, and the restaurant world is no exception to the rule. According to a report from the National Restaurant Association, a whopping 88% of consumers use technology to interact with a restaurant in some way. From reading reviews to scheduling reservations through online reservation systems, technology simplifies the buying process and helps find restaurants to visit. Of course, providing services like digital reservations comes at a cost—is the investment worth it?
Examining the Digital Reservation Model
OpenTable is easily the biggest player in the digital reservations world. Participating restaurants pay a monthly fee and $1 per person for the service. Along with the reservations themselves, the restaurant receives a touchscreen reservation system and can offer reservations directly from their own website. A restaurant could theoretically create a similar system in a proprietary model, although the development and implementation of such a system would likely prove prohibitively expensive.
As the NY Times points out, a number of competitors have also sprung up in recent years. Some of the competitors in this space include review company, Yelp (SeatMe). A few other minor players also operate in the industry.
Calculating the Cost
It’s difficult to substantiate the value of a digital reservation, as it’s nearly impossible to say whether or not a diner would have still visited a restaurant without a digital option. And yet, many restaurant owners feel the cost is well worth the service it delivers. A piece published in FSR included feedback from restaurant owners who credit online reservations with pulling diners during quiet periods and building the company’s reputation with positive feedback.
Maximizing the Value of a Digital Reservation
In addition to the reservation itself, services like OpenTable provide in-depth analytic information that allows restaurants to track buyer patterns and note specific information about the diners. Dietary habits, birthdays and anniversaries, and other personal information can all be tracked for the diner. This can help the eaterie to provide superior service for repeat visitors.
Many restaurants also feel a digital system helps create greater efficiency for the front of the house. Reservations can easily be tracked and the status changed as diners check-in for their meal. Managers can also take a look at reservations before the shift begins to better determine availability for walk-ins and schedule staff breaks.
Taking the gamble on an online reservation system can feel like a daunting undertaking, but the benefits these systems provide make them an appealing option for restaurants of all shapes and sizes. OpenTable alone services 32,000 restaurants, with approximately 16 million visits reserved each month. As consumers increasingly turn to their smartphone as a means of finding local businesses to visit, implementing a digital reservation system simply makes sense for restaurants eager to grow their earning potential.