Your website is at the heart of the online digital maze.

Make it easy for customers to give you their business with these actionable tips for smoothing the path.

Let’s think way, way back to the year 2005, an age that future generations of retailers will surely refer to as B.P. (Before Prime). A time without smartphones, without social media and without even a hint of 4G networks.

But somewhere, out in that digital dark age, a customer is trying to find one of your stores. She fires up her PC, launches IE, finds your website, goes to the contact page to get the address, copies and pastes it into MapQuest (bear with us, she’s almost done), prints out the directions, gets in her car and hits the road.

Quaint but direct. And your online brochure-of-a-website did its job.

Now take the quantum leap to 2020. That same customer has a hundred different resources begging to be used for that same purpose of finding your closest location. Does she start on her laptop or her smartphone or her Echo, HomePod, or Google Home speaker?

Will she be served up your website or will Apple Maps, Yelp, Google’s walled garden or even your Facebook page get to her first? Will she get distracted or awed by photos and reviews of your locations before even finding you? Or worst of all, will one of your competitors swoop in and grab her while she’s trying to figure it all out?

The point is, you can’t control where she gets her information about where to find you and what to expect in your stores. And in reality, she can barely control that herself.

But you can guide her. You just have to know how.

  • Start with a well-organized website with precise meta info (yes, that stuff matters). Remember, your website sits squarely in the middle of that previously overexplained and overly complex modern-day digital ecosystem. This makes it a one-stop shop where all of those other interconnected platforms (search engines, directories, data aggregators, maps, review sites and the like) get their information about you, your stores, your products and your customer experiences.
  • Reward your customer with a personalized user experience that makes her visit more rewarding by keeping what she likes and what she’s looking for front and center at all times. Don’t make the mortal sin of trying to wedge content for every possible audience into a site that should be solely for your customers.
  • Find a way to make an emotional connection. Every design element and every piece of content on your site is an opportunity to make your customer feel something. So take advantage of them all. Don’t forget, everything you do — and everything your customer sees and reads — either enhances your brand or erodes it. And the feeling a potential customer gets from your website will certainly help her decide whether she will pay you a visit or move along to the next option.

Merely keeping up with how your customers live online today won’t cut it. The website you build for your retail business had better consider the technological possibilities and customer demands of tomorrow — and beyond — if you want to thrive in the age of Prime.