As of this writing, COVID-19 cases are, once again, on the rise across the U.S. Not good news for small businesses that are still struggling as a result of previous safer-at-home orders. Small businesses need to do everything they can to survive, and that includes designing a website that keeps customers engaged, connected, and informed.

Your Business’s Front Door

Not surprisingly, consumer shopping trends have drastically changed since COVID-19 made in-person shopping a risk to one’s health. In a recent Salesforce study, 63% of consumers surveyed said 2020 changed the ways they acquire goods and services, and 57% said the same about how they engage with businesses.

Consumers at first obliged to accept online shopping to fulfill their needs, but eventually embraced digital shopping—for good. The same Salesforce study found 58% of consumers expect to continue online shopping post-pandemic. Even more so for B2B buyers: 80% of buyers said they plan to do more business purchasing online after the pandemic than they did before the coronavirus hit.

Because your website will most likely be your first chance to impress consumers, you better make sure the design and usability are top-notch. Businesses with a poor online presence will lose customers to competitors with more professional and appealing websites. Here’s what you need to know to stay in the game:

  1. The basics. Even if you don’t sell anything online, your website should give your business credibility by offering the information your customer seeks. Make sure your website lists the business’s physical address (with a map), hours of operation, phone numbers, email addresses, and a clear description of your products or services. Today, it’s also essential to acknowledge COVID-19 and what particular protocols and options you have in place to keep employees and customers safe.
  2. Security is key. If your business sells products online, consumers want to know their personal data will be safe from cybercriminals. Get familiar with the types of cyberattacks from Denial of Service (DoS) to Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks and know how to prevent them. Better yet, hire a cybersecurity expert to cover your bases. Then be sure and educate all employees on how to avoid security breaches by creating a company cybersecurity policy. Check out the FCC’s free cyber planner wizard to make a custom handbook.
  3. Look professional. First impressions are 94% design-related when it comes to websites. If your website looks messy and disorganized, it harms your business’s credibility. Today, there are many easy-to-use website templates available so you can design the website yourself, or you can hire a professional. Pay attention to website design trends. For example, this year, dark backgrounds and hand-drawn icons are hot.
  4. Know your customer. One caveat to the design advice is to be aware of your target market. If you sell to the over-50 crowd, too much modern design could be a turnoff. Did you know sans serif fonts are more comfortable for seniors to read? Keep your audience in mind when designing your website and test it with your target demographic before launching.
  5. Be social. It’s crucial to include social share icons linking to your social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest throughout your website. (If your audience is young, then throw Snapchat and TikTok in there.) Your social media posts serve as free-promotion highways between your social channels and your website, so post on social often and link back to your website to build traffic.
  6. Be mobile-friendly. The term you need to know is “responsive design.” It means your website will be accessible and readable from any device your customer uses, be it a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Most template designs have responsive design capabilities, but it’s always smart to check your website on different devices from time to time, so you know if something isn’t transferring right.
  7. SEO Savvy. No one will know how great your website looks if they can’t find it, so pay attention to your SEO ranking. Optimize your website for search engines by using keywords in your web copy and keep your website dynamic by posting new content frequently. Because search engine algorithms are continually changing, consider outsourcing to an SEO expert so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
  8. The finishing touches. Today’s websites run from the simple to the technologically extravagant, so it’s essential to understand what technological amenities your audience expects and is comfortable using. From the simple chatbot (which helps do a lot of the pre-customer service screening work) to the more advanced immersive technologies of virtual and augmented realities, you can be as sophisticated or as basic as you desire.

Overall, it’s important to read the audience and be relatable to your customer. While we’re trying to figure out this new world of ours, your customers are looking to you for reassurance.

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