As Anita Lincolne-Lomax of Babes in Arms will tell you, making your retail site an information hub can not only improve sales, it can also help secure your place at the top of the search engine rankings.
When Anita Lincolne-Lomax founded Babes in Arms back in 2005, she wanted the brand to be so much more than an online retailer. “The aim was to position ourselves as industry experts. The site also acts as an information hub and as a resource for healthcare professionals,” she says.
It has proved to be a very effective strategy. By positioning the brand as an educator and advocate of ‘babywearing’, she is able to drive more traffic to her site from multiple sources and build the kind of community that keeps her customers coming back for more. And that in turn means she sells more baby slings.
|Anita with her son|
“It’s about providing a multi-layered way of accessing the information that underlies the products. This layering adds depth to the way people communicate with the brand,” she explains.
So what are some of these layers? There’s a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a database of searchable articles, regular competitions, affiliations with charities, links to parenting sites, resource materials for healthcare professionals to pass on to parents, information sheets, academic research into the benefits of babywearing, video reviews, and more.
The amount of activity this generates means the site is now so well search-engine optimized that Anita has been able to do away with Google AdWords altogether.
It also means that Anita is able to maintain a dialogue with her customers. Not only are visitors to the site encouraged to engage with it, they are rewarded for doing so. ‘Like’ the Facebook page and you could win a baby sling. Help spread the news of ‘Australia and New Zealand Babywearing Week’ and you could win some baby leg warmers.
“It’s so important to be responsive. You don’t want to be one of those sites where the lights are on but no one’s home,” says Anita.
The site also carries content that has been submitted by its users - YouTube clips of its customers using their baby slings, product reviews, and testimonials. One of the most recent examples is a home video showing a man carrying all four of his children at once in four separate slings.
Including user-generated content on your site does mean that you have to relinquish a certain amount of control, but according to Anita she’s had very few problems with bad feedback. “Everything goes to an email account for review by our Social Media Coordinator before it makes it on to the site. We always try to be honest, so we don’t necessarily edit out negative comments. Our biggest problem is spam rather than negative feedback.”
Of course, all of this is only possible if you have a site that can support it. Like so many first-time internet entrepreneurs, Anita and her partner Ralph put the focus firmly on graphics when developing their first site back in 2005. “Coming from an architectural background, we were both very graphics focussed rather than worrying about the site’s user-friendliness or the back-end stuff,” says Anita. “The result was a site that was beautiful to look at but really clunky to update.”
Anita went on to employ Tasmanian-based web agency Ionata and it was their repeated calls for a rebuild that finally caused her to relent. “You know what it’s like. You’re so busy in your business and a full site rebuild is so off-putting, but Ionata kept on at us to update and I have to say we’re delighted with the results.”