Cold Spring Design Inc.
15 Griggs Road
Sutton, MA 01590


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Is Your Website Killing Your Business?

Thursday, Aug. 16th 2012

Show of hands: how many of you look up a store’s hours online and then call the store anyway to confirm? No one? Of course not, because you expect a business website to be accurate. If you can’t trust the company’s website, why would you trust the company?

Closed Sign with Conflicting MessageSmall businesses can have a more difficult time managing their web presence, as they often don’t have dedicated web teams. However, the size of your company shouldn’t be an excuse for having outdated or conflicting information on your website. According to a study done in the UK, 49% of those polled said they believe it’s worse to have a bad website than no website at all (though I don’t completely agree). While there are varying degrees of “bad,” if the main call-to-action of your website is to get customers into your retail location, at the very least provide them with correct contact information and store hours. My plea to Mom & Pop operations out there — don’t let your website kill your business.

While I spend my days (and some nights) embroiled in Cold Spring projects, I also dabble in craftwork, like knitting and jewelry-making. As a result of the latter, I have been seeking out a wider range of products, and while I can buy supplies online, there are some items I prefer to — and need to — check out in person. Thus I’ve found myself in small artisan bead stores all over New England… or at least I’ve tried to, but out-of-date website information has left me in the lurch more than once.

Most bead shops keep limited hours, unlike chain stores. They’re often only open from late morning until 4 or 5, and many are closed on Sundays. Stock and pricing can vary greatly from one bead store to the next, so the more information I can glean from their websites, the more likely I am to make the drive. (This is where I disagree that it’s better to have no website than a bad one; if I can’t even find a website for your bead shop, I won’t consider visiting your physical location. And I’m not alone in feeling this way.)

When it comes to bead store websites, I like a rough list of the bead varieties and brands for sale; photos of the shop are even better. Reviews are often the selling (or anti-selling) points for me — I avoided a shop this past Sunday because two people said it was more of a gallery than a supplier. The websites don’t have to be flashy, just professional and informative. Most of all, the websites should contain clear, current and correct information.

Beadles Hours

Because I spend the time to research these shops, it’s especially infuriating how often I fall victim to outdated information. Let me tell you the story of three bead shops.

This Porridge Is Too Cold

I’ve spent a fair bit of time and money at Tatnuck Bead. A few months ago, I double-checked the hours online before heading over, drove 20 minutes to get there, and found the store dark. On the door was a handwritten sign announcing new hours. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the earring piece I needed from any of the chain stores, or else I would have taken my business elsewhere in protest. Instead I had to wait.

Before returning, I checked the website again and discovered that the old hours were still listed. I took a shot anyway and they were open, but they were on the verge of locking up for the night despite that the website said they’d be open 3 more hours. I was going to say something to the owner, but another customer beat me to it. She was somewhat dismissive, saying the information was correct on the answering machine. Oh, and how were we supposed to know that? Customers shouldn’t have to perform a bunch of detective work to figure out what your hours are; if you want their business, make it simple for them. This experience is what led me on my initial search for new bead suppliers — that is, her competitors.

This Porridge Is Too Hot

I found a fantastic shop called Bead Store and More, but I almost didn’t bother visiting because they have such a lousy website. It’s an assault on the senses, provides very few of the details I usually seek, and contains conflicting information about store hours. The About Us page, which contains the normal Winter schedule, ranks higher in search results than the Home page, which lists a revised Summer schedule.

Conflicting Bead Store Hours

If a potential customer only lands on the first of the two pages, she might never realize there are new hours, and that could lead to a lot of unnecessary frustration. Also, the cheap feel of the website offers a bad first impression. Between the poor design and the mismatched schedules, Bead Store and More might be turning away potential customers… which is really a shame because it’s one of the best bead stores I’ve been to.

This Porridge Is Just Right

So what can you do about it? At the very least you should sweep through the site on a regular basis and make sure your information is up-to-date. Facebook has a cool feature for business pages that displays in real-time whether your shop is open or closed (provided that you’ve posted your correct hours, that is). Facebook is also great for announcing temporary or unexpected changes. Lush Beads, for example, uses both Home page announcements and Facebook updates to keep customers informed when closing due to inclement weather or the local folk festival. (Note: I have not actually been to Lush Beads, but between its location — a cool artist warehouse — and its website, it has impressed me enough that I’ll probably brave the long drive soon.)

When listing your hours on your website, place them in one easily-managed location, like the About Us page, and not all over the site; if you have them in numerous places, they’re more difficult to maintain and keep in sync, especially if you change hours seasonally. And if you have your business listed in directories like online phonebooks or Yelp or Google+, make sure the contact information and hours listed in those various locations matches what you have on your site.

Whether you like it or not, a business’s web presence is an important factor when customers choose where to spend their money. And there’s a growing trend among consumers to support their local businesses instead of relying on corporate chains. Mom and Pop stores, don’t lose out. If you are interested in redesigning your website or you just want to improve the website you already have, contact us at Cold Spring. We specialize in designing and building sites for small businesses, and we can help you find the solution that’s the right fit for you.


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