At its core, a storefront site is an electronic version of a brick-and-mortar store. Unlike a store with a physical location, however, storefront sites provide customers with 24/7 access to product and service offerings. On its surface, a storefront site consists of sale items, descriptions and prices, a shopping cart, checkout and payment services and customer service or assistance options. Underneath this lie the brains of the operation. Technical expertise gets a storefront site up and running, search engine optimization – also called SEO - helps increase page rank and search engine ratings and market research helps target products and/or services toward the right target market.
Storefront sites form the backbone of eCommerce. From large to small, their impact on the U.S. economy is so great that each year the U.S. Census Bureau produces a report – called “E-stats” – that focuses solely on the eCommerce industry. Because of their incredible potential, a thorough understanding of just what a storefront site entails - both on the surface and behind-the-scenes, is an essential step in determining whether a storefront site is right for your business.
A storefront site can be a business-to-business or business-to-customer site. The most prolific, according to the U.S. Census Bureau is a business-to-business, or B2B site. In 2009, the Census Bureau reports that about 91 percent of all storefront sites were B2B sites specializing in manufacturing and merchant wholesaling. Despite larger numbers, however, the Census also reports a decrease in sales in B2B storefront sites while sales in business-to-customer sites rose by 2.1 percent. Business-to-customer sites – also called B2C sites - include everything from large retail storefronts selling large quantities of merchandise to small “mom-and-pop” stores offering a small inventory of specialty items.
Structure and Design
The structure and design of a storefront site combines basic principles of web design with those specific to a storefront site. Before taking steps to design a storefront site, however, take time to identify your target market and set marketing goals and objectives. Then, consider how the design of your site can help you reach the right market and ultimately, achieve your sales goals. The right domain name, web-hosting company and an efficient online payment system are all essential to the success of a storefront site.
Help customers focus on the items you are selling rather than on the site itself by keeping the components of your storefront site design and color palette simple. Pay attention to the size and type of the graphics you include and test download times to prevent a slow site from alienating customers and affecting sales. Understand that a good storefront site makes it easy for customers to learn, decide, purchase and pay for an item in a short period. Site design principles say your home page should display your business name, logo and slogan, if you have one. Provide links to an “About” section where customers can learn more about your company, a “What’s New” page to showcase new products and/or promotions, a site map and your privacy statement.
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