Series 4, Article 44

Small businesses can have more fun with their sites than large corporations. Having a personalized touch is something small businesses can do that many big businesses can’t.  A small-business site needs to include something that reflects the creativity and personality of its owner. People want character. Whatever your industry, tell your story online. When there is nothing on your site about whom you are or who’s on your team, people wonder about whether you are a good company from which to buy.

Here are the 9 most important things experts say customers want to know:

  1. How your business is unique
    “Who are you?  What is unique about your business?  Why should I buy from you?” You don’t need to write a novel, but tell people who you are and a bit about your philosophy about your business.
  2. A clear sense of what your company offers
    It’s incredible how many sites you visit and you’re not sure what the company offers.  Your home page should provide at least general information about your products and/or services, with links to specifics on a Products page.
  3. Easily accessible contact information, including a phone number and physical location.  Some websites prefer to do all of their business online and see no need to publish an address or phone number. This is a must, and it’s one small way of building credibility and trust. Showing a physical location, even one that no one will ever visit, comforts a customer that your business is real and legitimate.
  4. Third-party validation
    This means customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers indeed want to know who you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences.  Social networking now has strong validation also.
  5. Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
    SSL is an encryption system that helps protect the privacy of data exchanged between a customer and a website. If you have an e-commerce site that takes credit card information, customers want to know that their sensitive data is encrypted. Get SSL if you don’t have it.
  6. Ease of use and navigation
    If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it. 76% of consumers say the most important factor in a website’s design is “making it easy for me to find what I want.” A FAQs (frequently asked questions) page is helpful.
  7. An ability to give feedback
    Encourage feedback about your products and services, your ordering process and your site in general, by providing a feedback mechanism–either feedback forms or e-mail links.
  8. Clear calls to action
    Customers want signs or buttons in order to act, be it “Buy now” or “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Click here for more information.”  If you have a captive audience, this is the time to grab them!
  9. Special offers and personalization
    By personalizing a sale with a special offer, incentive or coupon, small businesses can gain an edge on their bigger counterparts. This can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you note, free gift wrap services or a special offer for repeat business.