How to create a successful franchise website

Retail franchises often face a real balancing act as they try to target both consumers and prospective franchise owners on their websites, here Sally Butters, Director of Media at Coconut Creatives, reports

Websites have many different uses and users; they create a real impression of the business that is particularly important to retail franchises. They have to target the end consumers that visit the website to find information about products and services, while also addressing suppliers, other stakeholders and prospective franchise owners. It is therefore vital that the content of the website considers these different users and engages them all, which unfortunately many franchises struggle to achieve.

A solution applied by many franchisors is to create a separate section on their website, clearly indicated in the main menu bar, targeted specifically at prospective franchise owners. Baskin-Robbins, the world’s largest chain of ice cream speciality stores, is a great example for this approach. They have created a section on their website where prospects can find targeted content. Baskin-Robbins thus provides more information about the franchise by showcasing stores and products as well as providing specific contact information, while ensuring that the remainder of their website is completely targeted at customers.

Retail franchisors can also really utilise their website to drive sales for their respective franchise owners. Some franchisors choose to dedicate a page to each franchise owner on their website. This gives prospective customers an opportunity to review products or services available in their local area and make contact directly, giving the site a more personal and relevant feel. United Carpets, is the biggest franchised retailer of flooring in the UK, have an online store locator, which provides the customer with bespoke location and contact details, as well as opening hours. Whereas, the world’s largest mobile coffee franchise, Cafe2U, offers their customers the chance to book franchise owners for local events on their website.

Other franchisors even sell their products online, yet not all retail franchises will be suitable for internet sales. Mac Tools, whose franchise owners sell tools to customers such as car dealerships, automotive repair shops, manufacturing units and engineering companies, primarily utilise their website to inform their customers about their latest product developments and company news. This creates trust amongst customers and demonstrates the ability to grow a strong brand to prospective franchise owners.

Consumers are risk-averse and, of course, franchise searchers are too. Prospective franchise owners, like consumers, will look for recommendations from friends, work colleagues or even strangers online before engaging with a new brand. Therefore, it is essential to integrate the franchise website with other online activities such as social media, as well as industry and franchise recruitment websites.

To integrate these successfully with the website the golden Coconut rule of ‘create once and use many times’ is very useful. Videos produced for social media, such as YouTube, can be added to the website to increase stickiness – where visitors will stay on the website longer. Franchise owner testimonials can be added to the website and other channels such as Twitter. The Original Poster Company (OPC), the world’s leading greetings card distribution franchise, applies this successfully on a regular basis:

“Jacqui Fisher new #Franchisee, Salisbury said she had never been in a venture where everyone showed such professionalism and initial support,” OPC tweets.

Testimonials from franchise owners are a powerful tool as nothing sells a franchise better than the positive endorsement from existing franchise owners.