Conference Preview: The way to a winning website
The most effective websites need a fine balance of good design, functionality and usability, writes Joe Thomas.
Book now to learn how to optimise the effectiveness of your brand's website. Call 020 8267 4011
Lower costs and the improved accessibility of broadband have greatly increased the number of people using the internet, with everyone from pensioners to tech-happy 12-year-olds browsing, buying and networking.
The web 2.0 phenomenon has demonstrated that attractive, interactive and user-friendly websites can provide a platform for two-way interaction and deeper brand engagement.
The competition to capture customers is tougher than ever, having been compounded by the potential economic downturn. In this climate, websites can help create the buzz needed to attract consumers to a business.
However, making sure all elements of a website are well-executed is vital. The best ideas can still flounder if the design and functionality are wrong.
Flash technology and videos have changed the way we use and view the internet and, as a result, marketing over the web has blossomed. However, as Steven Zuanella, head of online UK at Prudential points out, while creative can attract eyeballs it's the quality of content that keeps people there.
Understanding what works and, more importantly, what doesn't, is crucial and not just in the initial planning of the site. Continuous monitoring of user behaviour must take place, using analytics to measure customer activity.
Harry Speller, web analytics manager at tourism body VisitBritain, believes that websites need to take account of customers' needs, which can be achieved only through continuous monitoring.
'As a website develops it is vital to start using analytics, customer feedback and usability testing to fine-tune the site and ensure continual improvements are made,' he says.
Finding areas that need improving, or culling some aspects completely, will assist the overall success and customer experience, according to Speller, but any action needs to be backed up by measuring marketing spend.
'A customer can visit the site multiple times via various marketing activity such as PPC, email or banners. The trick is to be able to attribute return on investment proportionally to each of those activities,' he adds.
In essence, web analytics can be used to determine the complete infrastructure of a particular site.
'Path analysis will identify a top customer's journey within the site in order to gather some key information, such as the top sources of traffic, which are linked to ecommerce data, what source generates the most revenue and which pages may not be working,' says Speller.
As with any marketing campaign, the target audience and suitability is vital. 'Our audience is older, in some cases very old, so they're not web-savvy and stick to old processes, which means that they will generally read long pages of content,' says Prudential's Zuanella.
'Whizzy tools and interactivity can often scare them. If your content is compelling, related to consumer needs and speaks in a voice that engages them, they will stay on your site longer, listen to what you have to say and are more likely to purchase from you and return in the future.'
As businesses strive to differentiate themselves from their close competitors, so there is a danger of straying away from the core product.
Simon Lilley, director of marketing at airline Flybe, says: 'It is important to understand what is relevant for the customers that book your core product, without overburdening them with extras that either are not relevant or are too big and therefore create, in effect, a legacy bundle. Integration of extras within the booking is key, just so long as the product is right.'
Positive user experiences will lead to an increased number of returning customers, something that can be achieved only through extensive knowledge of the consumer.
'A good CRM programme is core in order to profile customers and serve up the content and services they want instantly once they have logged on,' says Zuanella. 'There's a fine line to be struck between being pushy and presumptive and genuinely useful. 'We want to be able to forecast users' needs based on where they are in the customer life cycle and offer the right services at the right time.'
Knowing how fickle customers are, marketers must use innovations on websites with clarity to meet the expectations of the customer.
'If a page doesn't load quickly, users disappear in a heartbeat. If the layout is bad, they take a virtual walk, and if they can't see the information that was suggested in their search engines, they'll be back to the results scanning for the next most likely,' adds Zuanella.
Attractive up-to-date websites are now a necessity for brands to drive business and keep people returning. However, they also need to fine-tune the level of interactivity and technical wizardry so that they do not alienate their core base of customers.
The speakers at Marketing's up-coming Interactive, Engaging User-Friendly Websites conference next month will offer a range of insights on this most delicate of challenges.
DATA FILE - INTERACTIVE, ENGAGING, USER-FRIENDLY WEBSITES
Date: 22 September
Venue: The Grange City Hotel, London
Speakers include: Patrick Allen, executive director of marketing, The Co-operative Group; Gerard Tempest, marketing director, Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants; David Oliver, head of marketing programmes, Hertz Europe; Steven Zuanella, head of online UK, Prudential; Harry Speller, web analytics manager, VisitBritain; Jonathon Brown, director of multi-channel, B&Q; Mike Anderson, managing director, Web Marketplace Solutions; Martin Aylward, head of acquisition, EDF Energy; Jon Davies, head of ecommerce and customer management, Eurostar; Paul Hecht, product director, Cheapflights.co.uk; Jeanette Turmaine, head of online development, Dorling Kindersley and Rough Guides; Simon Lilley, director of marketing, Flybe.
To book a delegate place call Haymarket Events on 020 8267 4011 or visit www.haymarketevents.com.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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