Your Website Is Your Visitor Center

Did you know the average consumer now spends as much time online as they do with any other medium? Technically, those who spend their time with Old Man Television (35%) only make up 1% more than those who get it on digitally (34%). Knowing these stats, it sets me on fire when I experience a number of organizations still treating their website as a trifle expense, only deserving of a modicum amount of financial chump change. Looks like it's time to pimp out the year 2010. Again. 

Let's put it this way, if you're looking to open your own retail store do you seek out the cheapest real estate in the seediest location?  Skimp on signage? What about the features inside the shop?  Are you going to toss meager pennies in the pocket of your interior designer to just "make do?" Unless you're in the business of going out of business, the aforementioned new biz suggestions probably make you want to hurl softballs at baby pigeons.

Creating an attractive and inviting establishment requires building an experience like none other. This also rings true to how your website should fully represent your business and create a valuable experience for the consumer from the moment they land on your homepage.  If you are able to create this experience in your retail shop then the increase in demand for what you are selling is an obvious one-off.  The same goes for the message your website should be sending to your consumers. Powerful message =  Memorable impressions. Memorable impressions = People talk.  People talk = People return. You get the idea. If you don't, well stay with us. We all know successful brands that have knocked this out of the park - Starbucks, McDonalds, IKEA and Barnes & Noble just to name a few (giants). They way I look at it, don't feel small. Get even. 

Your website should be a gateway to creating that same on-site experience for your user but creating it online. Do your visitors and potential customers spend more time in your physical store-office or on your website? I must say that very rarely do clients and potential new business partners ring our office without having already scoped out our website. If you're in the tourism industry, most all booking and the entire research process occurs online without a user ever having to pick up the phone.  Yep. Travelers are making entire purchase decisions on what tourism destination gets their green without ever having to talk to a warm body for assistance. Furthermore, did you know that less than 10% of all tourists ever take a stroll over to the destination's actual physical visitor center, yet over 50% have perused their website? Hmmmm. Insert image of The Thinking Man here.

If you are a travel/tourism destination and you are selling a beach with the smell of tranquil breezes and relaxing beachfront experience, your website must try to replicate this experience for your visitor online. Simply said, they need to FEEL it. This post is not as much about serving up ideas for HOW to do it (which, of course, is always fun) but more about encouraging businesses to invest in what it will take for them to develop a website experience that generates excitement and attention and is something people will remember. The long and short of it  - if you're cheating your website, you're cheating your business. Cheating = bad. Just don't do it. 

Some folks claim that your "brand" is what people say about you when you're not around. I dig that. If that is in fact true, then your website is where people are scoping you when you're not around. So make it relevant. Make it matter. Make it you. 

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