When you're driving down the road and you see a rental company delivery truck that's beat up, visibly dirty and probably unsafe, what does that say about the rental company?
Answering his own question, Texada Software Inc. CEO Brian Spilak says it shows the rental company doesn't care about its vehicle and probably doesn't care about its rental equipment either. Right or wrong, that's a prospect's first impression, and it's an impression that doesn't lead him to do business with that company. Website first impressions can have the same effect.
But when websites are done right, Spilak says, they can increase traffic flow to your store, provide another revenue stream and make the rental process more efficient.
"If you can provide tools to your customers to help streamline the rental transaction process, that ultimately decreases the cost for customers to do business with you," he says. "You've made a true difference that will be very hard for any competitor to unwind down the road."
Lily Ige of Wynne Systems Inc. points out that the first thing people do when they hear a name of a product or company is turn to the Web to find out more.
"If your rental business doesn't have an effective website or has a website that's obsolete," says Bob Shaffer, president of Point-of-Rental Systems, "then you are losing money to your competitors."
Because websites are one of the most popular and cost-effective forms of advertising - and they can serve as an extension of your store or even a separate store - many rental businesses need to focus more on creating a better web presence. Some still need to create a website while others can benefit from expanding or enhancing their current site.
Organizing your website for your visitors
"A good website can create excitement about your business and the products you offer," says Ray Bonestroo, president of Genisys Software Inc. "It can create awareness about items that customers maybe didn't know you carried or didn't even know could be rented."
Jack Shea, CEO of Solutions by Computer, says websites can be exciting and informative. "Include as many product photos, specifications, operating instructions and safety tips as you can, and have the site interact with your rental computer system," he suggests. "That way, you're using the Internet to improve both customer service and revenues. It's a win-win situation for you and the customer."
But more content doesn't automatically equal customer-friendly information. "Your customers should be able to understand quickly what you do, what you offer and how they can do business with you," says Steve Milcik, sales manager for Orion Software. "If potential customers can't find what they're looking for quickly, they'll go elsewhere."
In fact, Shaffer says customers need to find what they are looking for in two to five clicks.
Preparing content that customers want
Be sure to ask yourself if your website has everything your prospects and customers want it to have.
Shaffer points out just having contact info, directions to the store and a few inventory pictures is no longer sufficient. "With the rapid growth of online shopping in a global economy, a dynamic and feature-rich website became essential in today's business world," he says.
An online shopping cart generates more business because customers can find what they need and immediately take action.
Shaffer lists the overall features of a comprehensive, integrated website: