It pays to keep your digital house in order if you're a High Street retailer

As part of a series of articles for MI Pro magazine looking at the digital opportunities for High Street retailers in the musical instrument trade, Mimram Media director Stuart O'Brien looks at some simple housekeeping tips...

As an independent high street retailer, approaching a world collectively and unhelpfully referred to as ‘online’ can be a bit daunting.

For starters, you’re up against the non-specialist multiples and online-only retailers with their slick virtual shelves and advertising budgets.

Then you’ll have someone telling you that social media is what you need to concentrate on and, by the way, have you thought about email?

Of course you haven’t; you’ve got a shop to run.

But at the same time, ‘online’ can’t be ignored. The trick is to break it down into more manageable chunks. Get the basics right first and build out from there, based on the resources, expertise, budget and ambition you have. Here are your starting points…

  1. Let’s assume that you already have a website. If you paid someone to build/maintain that site for you, ask them to give it an SEO health check. You might even be able to do this yourself if the site is built on Wordpress or similar. In short, make sure the site title and description accurately describes your business - this is the information search engines use to identify your site.
  2. This takes us to social media. If you haven’t already got a Twitter account and Facebook page for your business, set them up now. And make sure your profile information exactly matches the title and business description on your website and references your URL. Search engines like Google will then recognise that and group everything together in their results. We’ll look at how to best use Twitter, Facebook and other social networks later on.
  3. The other thing that Google can do in search results is show potential customers exactly where your store is using a pin on a map. You have to jump through a few hoops to set it up, but once done, it will make your business more visible to potential customers. For example, if someone searches for, ‘piano shop Kings Langley’ a map panel will show in results with pins for all such business in Kings Langley, including your own. Search for ‘Google My Business’ to get started. But back to your website; let’s think about email and blogs.
  4. Email is often neglected in the scramble towards social media. It’s a bit fiddly to set up, but it’s a brilliant and direct way to communicate with your customers. The first step is to start collecting email addresses - get yourself an account with, say, Mailchimp, create a sign-up form and put that on your site with a clear call to action.
  5. In terms of blogs, writing your own content is top of the digital agenda today. It may seem like a chore to write 300 words, but consider that it’s actually a natural extension of something you already do - informing customers during purchasing decisions. Having a blog just means you can start informing them before they even step foot in your store. In short, a blog is a great way to pull people into your site, a) because it has something interesting to say that will attract customers, and b) because the likes of Google love original, regularly updated content and will reward you with higher rankings in search results because of it. Again, if your site is built on Wordpress or some other templated platform, then getting a blog up and running should be relatively straightforward. If not, ask your web developer what they can do.

If you can get all of the above done (or if you already have), then you’re ready to properly engage with existing and potential customers online - you’ll even be able to get them to spread the word about how great you are.

I’ll be back next month to show you how.

This article originally appeared on MI-Pro.co.uk.