The world has changed a lot in the last ten years or so, affecting how people live their lives – and when, how and why they shop for flowers. This presents many challenges for florists, wedding coordinators & event planners – however if you look closely at the nature of these challenges you’ll find many seeds of opportunity.
One of these challenges/opportunities is convincing online customers to choose your business rather than the competition. The reason many of the larger firms with long established websites attract so much business is because they effectively address 3 core customer concerns through their online branding efforts:
1 – Findability
Customers looking for a way to send flowers to a loved one will often just “Google it”. So it goes without saying that your website needs to be found and displayed by Google (and to a lesser extent, other search engines) when people type in “flowers Croydon” (or whatever your locality is).
Now, while the large, nation-wide companies have the money to advertise on Google (Adwords) for all suburbs, all is not lost because:
A) You do not need to advertise for many suburbs, only those within your area – and this is not very expensive. It might take some work to get your ad to the upper end of the Adwords pile, but if you play by the rules, it won’t be impossible (how to do this is a story for another day – feel free to email me about it).
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B) Google is very “local search” friendly these days, so what this means is that if you set up your website properly so it can be found by Google and it includes obvious references to your bricks and mortar address, has a local phone number and is linked to from your Google business listing, then you will show up near the top of the first page in the local results (map, red pin etc). Here’s an example – at the time of publishing three florists come up top of the “local results” which are those with the red map pin next to them. They did not pay for this, unlike the topmost results which are the paid Adwords ads.
2 – Specialisation
As competition generally increases, which it is and will continue to do so, choosing a niche offering to specialize in is a very smart idea because:
• When prospects (potential customers looking for a solution to their specific problem), find your website they will instantly see that this is exactly and only what you do. This sets you apart from the crowd, making it easy for them to decide that you’re right for the job.
• It can be hard to compete against specialised companies, their product is better and their costs are lower if they can reach their customers efficiently, which the internet and new distribution systems enables them to do.
• Marketing is expensive for generalists as a lot of marketing dollars get wasted on selling products the customer does not want.
• Creating brand awareness is also difficult as people remember brands as useful for a specific purpose. So if they remember you for funeral flowers it does not mean they will expect to buy wedding flowers from the same place. Generalists are not remembered for anything very much and struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition.
3 – Trust
Once a prospect has discovered your website and can easily see that you specialize in solving the exact need they seek to fulfill, their next two questions are:
“Can I trust this business to process the transaction securely?”
“Will they produce and deliver the order correctly?”
If they haven’t ordered off you before, and you haven’t been recommended to them by word of mouth, then how are they supposed to know you can be trusted? They only have your website to go on, and they are only (on average) going to give you a couple of seconds to allay their fears.
Here are some ways to inspire trust in your website visitors:
• A well designed website. Yes, it costs a few bob, probably at least one or two thousand, but yes, it matters. We live and work in a saturated marketplace with high competition, and the design-bar has been raised in the last decade. This also goes for your logo.
• Well written copy (words). If you can’t write, hire somebody who can. (Writers, at least, tend to be cheap … except me!)
• Website presented in a logical and familiar format. Don’t allow your website designer to use your site as a guinea-pig for his creative new site navigation concept – stick to a menu along the top and/or down the side and pages called simply “Home”, “Contact”, “Gallery” etc.
• A clear, well written “About” page that includes photos of you and your people. Too many websites are anonymous, striving for some kind of corporate feel or simply due to modesty, but your potential customers want to know who they are going to do business with, especially online.
• If you’ve been around for a long time – make it plain to see!
• Clearly displayed phone number on every page – even if they are going to buy online they still need to know they can call you if there is any problem.
• Clearly displayed returns policy, guarantees, payment methods and, if your site is e-commerce enabled, badges and promises of transactional security.
• A professional photo of your bricks and mortar shop – this says “Yes we are professional enough to be able to pay the rent every week”. Home operators might work around this by showing a professional, dedicated operational set up.
• Social proof – this is a big one – if you can genuinely show that a lot of people like you, trust you and do business with you, then you definitely should. People generally like to buy from people that lots of other people buy from. If you have a healthy social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc) then show this somehow within your site, especially that you have a lot of followers/fans. Take or commission photos of your work in such a way as to show the happy customers enjoying the product and interacting with you and your team. Testimonials are not popular with everybody, as they can be easily faked, but in my opinion if you do them well they can work (show the people, with their name, suburb and even a link to their website or blog if they have one).
• Show proof of any good works in the community that your business has helped out with (another opportunity to show social proof).
If you need further convincing that website marketing is hugely important for most if not all florists (and other small businesses) then read this – or simply think about this: people aren’t shopping in the village as much any more, and this trend is likely to increase. So if most of the walk-ins dry up – how important do you think your website is going to become?
Written by Seamus – Tesselaar’s website manager and marketing nerd and Steve White, Tesselaar’s CEO.
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