Does your store’s website have all the elements it needs to succeed? Can customers really find what they need on your site, or do they get frustrated and leave? What, exactly, could your online storefront be doing better?
If user testing isn’t in your budget yet, no worries. You can get guidance on improving your customer experience (CX) with a free tool from Google.
Grow My Store will scan your website and give you a CX report card you can use as a to-do list. (Why check your CX? Customer experience improvements can boost revenue by up to 15% and reduce business costs by as much as 20%.)
Grow My Store debuted in 2019 and has been gradually rolling out support for multiple languages. Its goal? To help small and midsized retailers do a better job of giving customers what they want.
Right now, Grow My Store is available in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German and Swedish, plus a new Italian version that launched in April 2020.
So, if you have a retail website in one of those languages and you want to see what you can do better, grab your store URL and follow along.
What kinds of businesses can use Grow My Store?
Google’s Grow My Store is built to evaluate retail websites only, including eCommerce sites, online stores run by businesses that also sell in-store, and websites for strictly brick-and-mortar retailers.
That means you don’t have to sell products on your website in order to use the tool and get suggestions from Google. It also means that Grow My Store won’t be much help for non-retail businesses like accounting firms or freelance photographers.
How do you use Grow My Store?
Getting started with Grow My Store is super simple.
- Visit the Grow My Store page and paste in your store’s URL.
- Hit the send arrow.
Then you wait for Grow My Store to scrape and analyze your site. This can take a bit.
When it’s done, you’ll need to sign in to read your report, which will list the steps you can take and link to information you can use to make your site more customer friendly and, ideally, earn you more traffic and more sales.
What exactly is Grow My Store looking for?
Google said when it launched the tool that Grow My Store rates each store on as many as 22 best practices for customer experience, based on studies conducted with its research partners.
How does it decide the ratings? The Grow My Store tool searches sites for keywords that correlate with those research-based best practices. Then it checks to see if those keywords appear on the site pages that make the most sense, and it checks to see how many pages those keywords are on.
For example, if your site doesn’t mention “return policy” anywhere, or only on one page, Grow My Store might flag your store’s return-policy practices for improvement, because the information is hard for your customers to find.
And while Google doesn’t specify all of the metrics it might use to evaluate a particular site, it’s reasonable to assume that they’re drawn from retail best practices Google has previously published, such as:
- Easy to find prices and product information on product pages, with the highlights visible “above the fold” so shoppers don’t have to scroll down to find them.
- Easy, intuitive site navigation, with the most popular categories at the top of the menu. Here, Barnes & Noble makes it easy for gift shoppers and people looking for entertainment while they’re stuck at home to find what they want.
- Live support options like chat so customers can find what they need without having to search through the site.
- A streamlined checkout process, to keep shoppers from abandoning their cart before they hit the “pay now” button.
Google does spell out a few specific things that Grow My Store always looks for:
- Page load speed, which is critical to keeping customers on your site. Fast is good, amazingly fast is better. After waiting three seconds for a page to load, the likelihood that visitors will bounce increases by 32%.
- Mobile friendliness, which matters to shoppers who are searching and buying on their phones. And that’s most shoppers—Google found that 94% of US smartphone owners do local searches on their phones, even when there’s a computer nearby.
- HTTPS, which means your site has an SSL certificate and encrypts traffic between your web server and your visitors’ browsers. (Need an SSL certificate? Find the best option for your store.)
All three of these are also factors that Google uses to rank sites for display in search results, so optimizing them delivers both CX and SEO wins. If you need to make improvements, your Grow My Store report will connect you to the information you need to get it done.
What if Grow My Store can’t check my store?
Google says Grow My Store can’t scrape all retail sites, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of user-experience improvement options. Here are a couple more you can turn to—in fact, they’re worth checking out even if Grow My Store does work with your site.
UX Playbook for Retail
Google wrote the book on digital retail user experience, and if you have time to study all 108 pages, it’s a very useful read. The UX Playbook walks site owners through six key areas of the ideal retail website, from homepage to checkout. For each area, there are quick lists of best practices and detailed explanations of what works and what doesn’t, with real-world examples.
Google’s “digital product coach” decision tree will steer you toward the Google resources that will be most helpful to your business, based on your business goals and where you sell your products: online, in-store, and/or on digital marketplaces. Manufacturers can also use this tool to learn how to set up and optimize direct-to-consumer sales.
Retail Trends Playbook 2020
Microsoft has its own guide to boosting retail CX with AI-driven product recommendations, stepped-up customer service and smarter use of customer data. All of these are things the average SMB can do by using apps, plugins and extensions on their e-commerce platform.
SCORE Small Business CX Resources
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s SCORE mentoring partner has free information about improving customer experience, including a recorded webinar on customer journey mapping tools for CX improvements and an e-guide to SMB customer service.