Today’s industrial websites are similar to most other sites, but they have specific features that help users get the most out of them.
The purpose of most industrial websites is to attract and convert visitors as leads, or to drive sales directly through eCommerce.
The features listed below will help all industrial websites reach these ultimate goals.
Basic Components for Industrial Websites
All industrial websites (any websites, really) need a basic set of key features to be successful. Here are the bare-bones requirements.
Content is king on the web. It should go without saying that your site will need content.
However, don’t just use any old content. You need content that is top solid — content that speaks to your customers and that will establish you as a subject matter expert in your field. This does not mean buzzword-y and jargon-y copy with compound adjectives like “people-focused” and “paradigm-shifting” (unless you are experts in people focusing or paradigm shifting).
Instead, take a moment to develop a content strategy and see that your content is executed properly.
Smartphones are not going away and they are slowly overtaking desktop browser usage.
All modern industrial websites need to be built with smartphones and small screen devices in mind. Moreover, industrial websites should be quick to load and easy to navigate on a phone or tablet.
If not, search engines will penalize your site and more and more users will leave to find a site that works properly on their phone.
Ways for Users to Get in Touch
Your visitors may have questions that are not covered by your expert content. If they do, you want them to be able to get in touch easily. Moreover, chances are that these questions might lead to RFQs or other sales opportunities.
Phone numbers, contact forms, email addresses, and live chat will all do. Be sure to include the contact methods most appropriate for your customers and sales process.
Functionality on Older Browsers and Hardware
Industrial websites occupy a special corner of the Internet and need to cater to some older browser technology.
Often, industrials are too busy making things, moving things, or storing things to update their browsers, operating systems, or computer hardware. Your site should not prohibit these sorts of users from getting the information they need.
It does not need to be a perfect experience, but when Joe out on the line is using Internet Explorer 8 on a 10-year-old Windows PC to look for a part on your site, he should be able to find it.
An Email Signup Form
You absolutely need some form of email capture so you can engage your audience on an ongoing basis. Email is a great way to tell them about upcoming product releases, sales, company news, or anything else that may be important to your customers.
Analytics are used to measure how well (or how poorly) your industrial website is working.
You’ll need analytics to get a handle on where your traffic is coming from, what your users are looking at, how they are searching, and all kinds of other useful details that can help improve your site.
Good news: One of the best analytics solutions is the free Google Analytics service.
Links to Other Online Presences
Industrial websites can’t be created in a vacuum. They need to be part of a network of online presences, mainly social media profiles.
The links to your social media URLs are really easy to implement.
The hard part is setting up and maintaining these other online presences, which is really what this point is about. You can’t have an industrial website these days without being active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at the very least.
Privacy is a big concern nowadays as industrial websites cookie visitors and capture their contact information through forms.
Specific Needs for Lead-Generation Websites
Industrial websites that are designed to generate sales leads, requests for quote, or simple contact form submissions should have the following features.
A Request for Quote (RFQ) Form
You want your visitors to inquire about obtaining your products or services. Of course you’ll have phone numbers and other ways to get in touch but it pays to have a dedicated RFQ form that users can use to submit all the information you’ll need to start the quoting process.
A well-designed RFQ form is the quickest way for visitors to get you their request. It’s convenient for them and it’s convenient for you.
The form should collect only the minimum amount of info you need to start quoting and the form should be easy to complete on a mobile device. You may want to allow users to upload engineering diagrams but don’t make that a requirement if you think it will prevent users from filling out the form. The more complicated the form is, the less likely they are to use it — it’s a balancing act.
Lastly, make sure people who fill out your RFQ are served a nice success page after they fill out the form and that they receive a follow-up email that lets them know their quote is in process.
A blog can be a big part of establishing yourself as an expert in your field (see “Expert Content” above).
Publishing regular and relevant articles shows your users you know what you are talking about and can provide a good lift to your SEO, as well as keep people on your site for longer periods of time. When visitors are engaged, they’re more likely to become customers.
Be warned, however, that a proper blog requires a steady drum beat of content. Having a blog with a single post from months or years ago will do you no good.
Requirements for Product Catalog Sites
All industrial websites that are basically online product catalogs, with or without eCommerce functionality, should also have the following features.
Search Functionality, Filters & Taxonomies
If your industrial website is designed to show multiple products to users, you should make it easy for them to find what they are looking for.
Searching is a great start and is useful for users who already know what they want. But filtering (by color, temperature range, etc.) and categorizing products into larger groups or taxonomies can aid visitors in discovering products that meet their needs.
An Easy Checkout Process
Selling things? Your checkout process should instill confidence.
Make it easy by following established design patterns like those developed by popular eCommerce solutions such as Magento and Shopify.
Boost users’ confidence, comply with legal requirements governing eCommerce, and maintain site security by serving the site over SSL. Note, though, that SSL is complicated. Call in the industrial website experts if you need help setting things up.
If you’re not selling but instead using your industrial website to administer sales quotes, your searchable and filterable product catalog will need to funnel users to an RFQ form. This form should allow users to submit RFQs for specific products and multiple products, as well as just general RFQs. This process can be designed so that it is similar to a checkout process for an eCcommerce site, allowing users to add many products to a quote request list to create a single RFQ.
Creating an Effective Industrial Website
Your industrial website isn’t a static billboard on the Internet — not a “set it, and forget it” type of thing. It’s a dynamic entity that should be integrated with your business — or, at the very least, with your other marketing efforts. To function properly, your site will require ongoing work as visitors’ behaviors change and web technology advances.
Moreover, there are a bunch of other things to consider that didn’t make it onto our list of essentials. Among them are internationalization, marketing automation, and live calling/chatting.
If your site appeals to a global audience, you may need to support different language versions of your site.
Live chat and click-to-call can up the conversion rate of visitors on both desktop and mobile. But be sure you have staff available to chat and field the calls that come in.
Getting a website for your industrial business is easy, but getting an effective industrial website is as challenging as it’s always been.
At Industrial Strength Marketing, we’ve helped hundreds of industrial companies build effective industrial websites. Visit our site for some examples or reach out to us if you’re looking to develop a well-oiled industrial website.