Just look at the money Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. are generating online. Even the more conservative businesses such as John Lewis Partnership are reporting mind blowing growth in online sales.
So do you feel a bit left out? Do you feel as if the world is having a party, and you are not invited?!
It is hard to think of any business without a website these days, but it is not too hard to find businesses that are unhappy with their website performance. In this instance performance really means contribution to the revenue line and the profitability. Given the incredible rise of online sales why is it that most websites fail to deliver and are just an overhead? This is incomprehensible in the environment that is seeing online business growth in double-digits, and the general buzz around any Internet business.
The problem is that websites are still treated as a bit of creative work and not designed with any particular purpose, direction and objective measurements that would determine its success or failure. Be honest, how many of us started our Company website project on the basis of “everybody has a website so we should have one too”? How many of us were more worried about the aesthetics and the funky design rather than focusing on usability, loading speed, and purpose?
The reality is that most companies focus on the exciting and sexy stuff such as the creative design, colour, branding, etc. with only very few who actually ask the important question of “Why do we need a website?”.
Depending on the objectives then the design, navigation logic, content, the tone, and underlying technology we use will all have to be different. If we want a successful website, we need to first define its role and then set benchmarks, whereby we can measure and assess its performance. Website are no different to our employees who need clear defined duties, responsibilities and measurements that can assess their success or otherwise.
Most websites I come across have the feel of the “Orphaned Project” or worst still “Designed by Committee”. They all suffer from “It is on the website” syndrome. Sure enough the information is there, only if any ordinary mortal could actually find it. Somewhere buried deep under the Mount Everest of pages, hidden amongst the Amazon Jungle of content, is the information visitors want.
Websites are filled with “Products” sections which are mostly copies of the manufactures brochures, “About Us” that tells visitors how fantastic the company is (let’s face it, they won’t say anything else), “Case Studies” which is great if the visitor cared, and finally a “Contact” page. Sounds familiar?!
This approach is fine if we want a reference site for sales people or somewhere for existing customers to browse through, but it will not produce leads or generate revenue.
Revenue generating (or lead generating) websites have a distinct feel. You do not have to be an expert to discover their target keywords, or be a genius to find the “Buy Now” button. You do not need a degree in Psychotherapy to discover what the website is selling and guess how it feels today! There are no hidden and subtle messages. From the moment you land on the website it shouts “BUY”, “BUY”, “BUY”. It does not have to be crass, as you can achieve this with style and panache.
Products that are highly customised are difficult to sell unless you have an effective online Configurator.
For example at Cognisant Hosting we sell Dedicated Servers and Virtual Private Servers (VPS) online. They are highly configurable with many variations, however, we have “Packaged” 3 most common or popular setups for online sales. The rest there is via “Contact us” button.
We all know pricing for customised solutions are complex, but complexity does not work for online sales. Simplification does mean compromise. You will not make a fixed margin on all sales, but over the long run the margins should remain within your targets.
Create simple and easy navigation for visitors. Avoid dropdown menus and do not put “Revenue Generating” pages more than 1 click away from the homepage. Important “Information” pages should not be more than 2 clicks away.
Nowhere is it more important than in website design. Busy and flashy (in both sense of the word) pages put people off. Too much noise and clients can’t hear your message. Don’t be tempted by snazzy Flash Files, Animated GIFs, Pop-Up, etc.
Makes sure you pay attention to what the website stats are telling you. Interpreting these correctly and adjusting your products, pricing, navigation, presentation, process, etc. are an ongoing task and critical to success.
Note: This article also appeared on “Comms Business” a leading magazine for telecommunication industry.
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