Dell is a mutli-billion dollar company which makes billions of dollars per year selling online. Their web site is very important to them. VERY important. Dell is much larger than your business and yet the principles they have implemented in building their own online presence can be applied to your growing business.
Michael Buck, the Director and General Manager for the Global Small and Medium Online Business at Dell is responsible for the overall online business and strategy for Dell SMB worldwide and he’s shared his insight in building web sites and the lessons he and his team have learned. Michael also champions community and social media efforts for SMB clients globally.
Think about the last time you decided to branch out and try a new restaurant. Did you pick up a phone book or simply hop online? Chances are you scanned some reviews and ratings on Yelp or used a search engine to locate places in your area and visited some websites to look at menus. Any restaurants without an online presence likely never made it on your short list.
With nearly 70 percent of U.S. households now having access to the Internet, more and more business is being conducted over the web. Research shows that in less than a decade having a website will be just as common as having a Yellow Pages listing. Building a successful online presence can be your ticket to future success in terms of both business development and increased sales.
In our increasingly connected world, being strong online takes more than selling products and services. At Dell, more than 50 percent of our business comes from online. As a pioneer in the online space, we understand the evolving needs and expectations of customers. Dell is currently rolling out the next generation of Dell.com to make browsing and shopping easier. Product images and descriptions will be more useful, navigation simpler and customer ratings, spotlights and forums will harness the wisdom of the crowd to support purchase decisions.
Our goal is to create an enjoyable online space for our clients where finding a technology solution is easy. In developing the new Dell.com, we followed a number of design principles that can be helpful in the creation of any business website.
1. Ensure website usability with easy navigation: If you’re looking to drive sales through your website, the site must be easy to navigate. There is nothing more frustrating to a visitor looking to make a purchase than to not being able to find what they need, quickly and effortlessly.
Once you have a visually appealing website, make sure it is stable, functional, and easy to find information while driving transactional effectiveness. Yola.com and Wetpaint allow you to create a free website and offer guidance for businesses and community building.
2. Be customer-centric: For the most part, customers who visit your website will expect it to help them solve a particular problem. Your content needs to focus on the direct benefits of your products and services because if you don’t immediately grab your customers’ attention, they’ll simply move on to a competitor’s site that does. Imagine and demonstrate how your solutions are helping customers to fix their problems or enable them to grow.
If you’re not sure that your website is satisfying your customers’ needs, why not ask them? A brief, web-based survey or online forum are excellent ways to gather this information. Or launch a site designed to harness great customer ideas (Salesforce.com has a great ideas platform). Based on three ideas submitted by our customers, we launched the FastTrack program for quick shipping to get pre-configured popular systems directly to customers within 24 hours.
3. Sell more than just products – deliver solutions: To maximize your site’s effectiveness, try to think about what your customers would like to see. If you’re selling something, do more than just display products and features, demonstrate how these products fit into your customer’s lifestyle.
One company that does this well is Harley Davidson. Their website builds excitement, engagement and community by taking a holistic view of the customer using its products. By offering courses teaching visitors how to ride, interactive ride planners and more, the website becomes an experience in itself with a lasting effect.
4. Harness wisdom of crowds: Utilize the community to reinforce, recommend and reassure regarding your brand. Positive experiences and recommendations by a colleague are highly valued when a customer is planning a purchase. With integrated Ratings and Reviews, like on our product pages, customers can easily share experiences and learn from the knowledge of their peers.
Rather than ramping up on advertising spend, many small businesses have found success by gathering positive reviews from blogs, Twitter and other online media outlets. If you don’t have the manpower in house to create and maintain a reviews platform on your website you can integrate opinions from other sites.
5. Personalize the shopping experience: Differentiate your business from the competition by actively engaging your customers. A website with personalization options can help build customer loyalty and create fans and brand evangelists. Companies such as Zazzle and Threadless sell your own personally designed merchandise such as t-shirts.
6. Build the brand: Create interest around your brand through rich imagery and content that showcases what your business has to offer. A good-looking website will enhance credibility in the eyes of your customers or clients.
In order to create an aesthetically appealing website, it may be beneficial to hire a professional web designer. As these designers can be pricey, it is important to do your homework and find a website designer that has a proven track record in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Having a website that is SEO friendly and attractive is invaluable for your business because high search engine rankings translate into more visitors to your website – which leads to increased sales.
7. Incorporate innovation without legacy: One way to improve the customer experience on your website is to be innovative and stay on top of online trends as well as industry trends. Compared to large corporations, small businesses have a number of advantages when it comes to innovation because their size makes it easier and cheaper to try new approaches faster.
These seven tips for small businesses are the same principles we use on Dell.com to guide how we develop our site. With the Internet growing and evolving on a daily basis, there is little room for businesses that don’t have an online presence and NO excuse for your company not to have one. To quote marketing guru Seth Godin, “The problem is no longer budget. The problem is no longer access to tools. The problem is the will to get good at it.”
More about Michael:
Michael first joined Dell in August 2004 as Director and General Manager Software and Peripherals, Dell EMEA. He also managed several pan-European businesses for Dell EMEA prior to his current role.
Before Dell, Michael was with Hewlett-Packard for eleven years. There, he held various pan- European executive level positions in Sales and Marketing for different product lines. Prior to joining HP in 1994, Michael spent six years working for Dresdner Bank and Deutsche Bank in Germany and New York.
Michael holds a degree in International Business Studies and Business Administration. He also worked for four years as an associate MBA professor for supply Chain Management at Fachhochschule Furtwangen, Germany.