The marriage between brick-and-mortar shops and WordPress makes total sense. WordPress powers 26 percent of the internet (a figure that keeps growing). It’s supported by a global community of companies and independent professionals. And it can be easily customized, thanks to the many thousands of themes and plugins available.
We also can’t forget that WordPress is an incredibly user-friendly content management system that even the most novice shop owner can quickly wrap their head around.
So if you’re working with a brick-and-mortar business client, and want to help them uncover all that WordPress has to offer, I suggest keeping these four focus areas in mind.
Embrace the SEO friendliness of WordPress.
SEO is to websites as signage is to storefronts. Great signage attracts foot traffic. It tells potential customers what’s being offered inside. If the signage matches the passerby’s needs, they’ll come in the door. The same is true for SEO. People tell search engines what they’re looking for, and if there’s a compelling result, they’ll click through to the website.
But SEO doesn’t just happen. SEO is built around content. Luckily content is exactly what WordPress is made for.
Brick-and-mortar shops sell products and services, which can be described in detail on dedicated pages for each. So if a potential customer searches for “red widgets near Hometown,” and a business in Hometown has a page dedicated to red widgets, they’re more likely to be matched up.
We also know that fresh content is an important SEO factor. Once again this is something WordPress does effortlessly, by making it easy to publish new content in the form of posts.
For a brick-and-mortar business, this “fresh content” could be announcements about upcoming sales, reviews of new products, or helpful instructions for how customers can use products they’ve bought in the store.
With those points in mind, it’s obvious that WordPress is the natural choice for SEO.
Pro tip: Set up your client’s site with email subscriptions and commenting capabilities to boost visitor engagement. You can also take advantage of WordPress’s extensive selection of analytics plugins to help track success.
Look for WordPress themes that complement the business.
One of the many advantages to WordPress is that themes make it easy for your client to choose a starting point for how the site should look and feel.
You want people to feel welcomed in a store, so the space is designed with the shopper experience in mind. Decisions are made about furnishings and decor and the type of environment they create.
You want visitors to find similar style, colors, tone and language both online and offline. On the website, try including photographs of the physical space, or staff members who customers are familiar with, to help bridge this gap even further.
Pro tip: Let your client browse free WordPress themes to learn their likes, dislikes and must-haves. You can help them narrow their focus using the feature filter in the theme directory. For shops that sell a lot of products, a portfolio theme can work well for showcasing available goods. It mimics the experience of browsing aisles and shelves in person. For restaurants and cafes, featured image headers are a handy feature for prominently displaying photos of interior spaces.
Remember that themes are anything but uniform. The flexibility and opportunities are endless, especially once you start customizing themes with page builders or custom CSS.
Use WordPress plugins in a way that provides value to the business.
In addition to themes, new plugins are constantly being added to the directory. Some of these plugins are purpose-built for the brick-and-mortar business, e.g. restaurant menu plugins, while others can be repurposed, e.g. using a paid membership plugin like Memberful to set up a customer VIP program.
Pro tip: Why not use the website in-store, too? Use form plugins like Ninja Forms or Formidable Forms to create surveys and gather information about customers while they’re physically present, then immediately reward them for completing the survey.
Be diligent before diving into eCommerce.
Content, themes and plugins are relatively easy for non-developers to work with. But the scale begins to tip when you get into eCommerce, especially if the client has complex or unique requirements.
Understand up-front what aspects of your client’s brick-and-mortar business they want to mirror online. From taxes to payment gateways, eCommerce presents more hurdles for you as a website developer.
It’s not a cake walk for the client, either. They’ll need to deal with the learning curve of managing the eCommerce backend. Handling inventory, fulfilling online orders, and providing accurate product details requires more work than just listing what’s for sale on a single page.
That’s why it’s important to set expectations early on. Everyone involved should know what’s involved. Avoid scope creep and surprises later down the road by addressing all questions early and often so you have the resources needed to finish the job on time and on budget.
Once you’ve figured out what your clients need, there are a number of options to look into. WP eCommerce, iThemes Exchange, and of course WooCommerce are just a few of the many solutions available for selling products on a WordPress website.
Pro tip: Once you install these plugins and take care of the technical setup, you’ll want to train your client so they can manage the day-to-day operations on their own, saving you both time and resources.
WordPress is a perfect fit for bridging the gap between bricks and clicks.
WordPress is SEO-friendly out of the box. Themes are a ready-to-go starting point for handling the site’s look and feel. Plugins extend functionality to suit the business’s needs. And with a bit of work, getting into eCommerce lets brick-and-mortar shops sell to customers that they never could’ve reached otherwise.
With those four areas of focus in mind, your clients will be amazed at how powerful and stress-free a website can be with WordPress (and your expertise, of course!)
What else should you include in a WordPress site for the brick-and-mortar business client? Leave your suggestions in the comments below or on the GoDaddy customer forums.
Also published on Medium.