retail website development strategiesOnline shopping is bigger than ever. The number of digital buyers is poised to top 2 billion before 2021. 80% of shoppers with mobile devices (over 125 million in the United States alone) use their phones to check reviews or comparison shop. The bottom line: any brick-and-mortar store without a website is losing out on a lot of money.

Even if you do have a retail or ecommerce website, keeping it up-to-date can be a challenge. How can you make sure your website stays relevant in an ever-evolving digital world? Here are a few time-honored strategies.

1. Get Dressed Up

Take a good look at your website. Is there a chance its design is less than fresh? Web design trends change quickly, which means this year’s hottest layout can be tomorrow’s stale look. A relevant website is more than just a font choice or a logo design. It’s all about accessibility, mobile responsiveness, and solid information architecture. Fortunately, today’s website tools make it easy to maintain a contemporary look. Pair your bold new design with some well-chosen custom or stock photos, and you’ve turned your drab old retail website into something that gets attention.

2. Make it Personal

Personalization and localization are two of the biggest ecommerce trends of 2018. Personalization leads to better customer service through predicting what users want. A personalized website recommends products to shoppers based on the contents of their cart, their shopping history, what similar customers have bought, and so on. Optimally, your retail website should make users feel like they’re shopping with a friend who knows their taste, and will tempt them with more of what they want. Localizing goes even further by reading a customer’s IP address and making products based on their location. What better way to sell to customers than getting to get to know them personally?

3. Improve Your Social Media Game

It takes more than tweeting a deal or a coupon code to engage with modern customers. Today’s social media strategy calls for a genuine, likeable approach. Some of the most successful brands on Twitter are growing their audience not through sales pitches, but through building personas and engaging with users Few social media users will find themselves obligated to like or share a coupon code. But a joke or image that goes viral is an altogether different phenomenon. This can be tricky to navigate — if users perceive you’re trying just a bit too hard, there’s a good chance your efforts will be ripe for mockery. But a genuine, playful approach to social media can make a big difference in how your company is perceived.

Instagram has also proven to be a powerful tool for many retailers, especially if they’re in a photo-friendly business like clothing or sports equipment. A dynamic photo of your product being seen in the wild can be worth more than any sales pitch you can concoct.

4. Communicate Better

“Did you update the website?” A retail business is already full of many fast-moving parts. It can be a challenge to make sure your retail website is always up-to-date, especially if you run an ecommerce business along with a brick-and-mortar store. Your inventory, coupons, deals, and product information should never be outdated or stale. The secret to keeping up? Communication. Ditch the document clutter, lost sticky notes, and unread emails and find a process that works for you. A good communications tool can help make sure everyone on your team stays in touch and knows their responsibilities.

5. Make Navigation Easier

When redesigning your website, take a look at your navigation. Site navigation tends to be susceptible to feature creep, as new options get added, duplicated, or moved around. Many sites end up with a bewildering navigation scheme, not because they set out to confuse a customer, but because their navigation started simple and became more complex as their website evolved. Is it time to ditch the labyrinthine site navigation and get back to basics?

6. Follow Up

Did you know that over 60% of online shoppers abandon their cart before they complete a purchase? That adds up to thousands of lost sales every year. No one wants a company to harangue them into finishing their purchase — but a gentle follow-up email to a customer could nudge them into clicking the “Buy” button. A soft touch and some polite but convincing copy could be all you need to find that lost sale again.

7. Test and Retest

So you have all the strategies you need to take your retail website to the next level. How will you know they’re working? That’s easy: trust your instincts! Just kidding. The answer is data gathering and testing. Some simple A/B testing can take the guesswork out of changes to your website. Which page layout attracts customers more? Which call to action gets shoppers clicking? Don’t go with your gut — do some testing and let the data tell you what works.

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