These were the words I heard the first time I bothered to echo them to one of my prospective clients.
Obviously, all my clever “marketing speak” had failed to really narrow down the fact that what I was trying to communicate wasn’t just a shopping cart application.
My prospect, a middle-aged man, trying to build a website to advertise his rental properties was confused why I would be talking to him about something that sounded like an ecommerce store. He was trying to build a blog and a website to find and attract people to rent his properties from him.
Obviously, the term “Digital Storefront” had failed to hit its mark.
But time and again, here at Champions of the Web we are still using the phrase. We don’t build Websites, we build Digital Storefronts.
So why the differentiation? Are we focused on ecommerce alone and not interested in working with other web projects? Obviously not since the majority of our clients are currently in industries outside of building shopping carts.
So what is a Digital Storefront?
The basic answer is that it is your website. Or your “web presence”, more accurately. A Digital Storefront is the electronic representation of your business. It is the cornerstone of your brand. Much like if you owned a retail property or office, people would see the sign out front, notice the neighborhood that you are located in. Notice the cracks in the sidewalk as they entered from the parking lot. See if there is any graffiti on the front window as they enter. They’d notice if you had dusted, or if the office was coated with hustle and bustle of the years, forming a thin white layer across all the books and furniture. They’d notice the arrangement of the waiting room and the cheesy hold music you chose to play while they wait to speak with you.
A digital storefront is the electronic representation of your business. When people visit your website they notice the same things. Is your website new and clean? Updated with the latest information or does it host stale pricing for products and services you don’t offer anymore?
We chose to change the terminology because the paradigm had to shift. We wanted people to understand and respect the power that a website has for the face of their organization.
So why should I care?
Obviously, this question that followed was the one that really rang in my ears. Working with companies day in and day out gives all of us here at Champions of the Web a rare view into the marketing strategies across a pretty wide array of industries. But one thing always seems to be the same. Companies that pay no attention to their website get nothing out of their website.
So often we get requests from companies casually looking to do a basic refresh of their website. Why? Because their current website is as stale and worn as the broken window in the storefront across the street from their office.
Website visitors don’t like broken-down office locations as much as they don’t like old and stale websites.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I was forced to show my old and broken down website to a potential interviewer a few years back.
He had found me through a web forum we were mutual members of and he reached out saying he wanted to do an interview of me for a podcast he was doing. During our initial discussion he asked me for my website. After giving him the address, I found myself apologizing for the look and content (or lack thereof) on the site.
Why was I apologizing?!
I couldn’t believe that as a company that BUILDS websites I was apologizing for a lack of a decent website myself. I never felt more like a fraud than I did in that moment.
Within 4 days I had crafted a brand new website and launched it. By the time our interview rolled around I was able to speak with pride about my Digital Storefront and show the world that we meant business here at Champions of the Web.
First Impressions Are Everything
In the real world, making a good first impression can often mean the difference between making a new customer out of a visitor, or making nothing. If your office or storefront looks like crap, guess what? People are going to assume the company running out of there is just as run down.
This plays into a common theory called The Broken Window Theory. In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell describes this theory and how it was able to turn New York City from a festering cesspool of crime and villainy into the city it is today — far safer than previous incarnations of the city.
The basic of the theory is this: When people see a broken window in a neighborhood. They go on alert and assume that there is crime nearby. This attitude actually breeds crime because people assume that if there is already crime present then they will also be able to get away with criminal activity. So a simple broken window (or graffiti covered train car) breeds crime much like leaving uncooked meat out on the counter breeds flies.
The cure? Clean up the broken windows and the graffiti and lo’ and behold the city’s crime rate goes way down. A simple cure with profound results.
While it is unlikely that your website will become a nest for the Mafia if you refuse to update it and keep it evolving with your organization. It is entirely likely that when people see that the look and feel of the site is from 10 years ago and the content hasn’t been updated since 2013 they will probably make some (or all!) of the following assumptions:
- Your company isn’t really looking for new business.
- Any information needs to be verified before they can work with you.
- You are losing in value to larger or better outfitted organizations.
- Your service isn’t great.
- You are probably cheaper / will negotiate on price.
- You are difficult / annoying to work with.
These are all negative impressions which are easy enough to shake by having a good user experience and updated content on your website.
So make a great first (and second, and third) impression by putting a little effort into your website!
And that is why we call them Digital Storefronts. It is the ever-present reminder that your website is not something you can let go stale. You need to remain focused and keep your website up to date and active.
This is not always an easy task, but consistent effort is the key to success. Those who put in the extra effort will bring in the extra success over their competitors.