Use your customers to define your web strategy

So often I hear of web strategies taking a top-down approach from the business, trying to translate (a quite successful) traditional “offline” (that is, not online) strategy and developing this online.

“our customers do such and such, so the website needs to do such and such”

Consumers use websites in different ways. Individuals use the same website in different ways. They use different websites in different ways. Customers use call centre, bricks and mortar, online in different ways. If you walk past a shop and see some nice jeans in the window, what do you do first? Take a closer look? Check the design and picture yourself wearing them? Check the price tag?

What next? Walk into the shop? Walk away? Ok so you like them and you walk in. You see the sign post for ‘Men’ and find the ‘jeans’ section. You see the jeans that were on display and take a closer look. You like them, you find the correct size, you try them on, you buy them. Now imagine how you would do this online; you display an ad banner targetting men, 20-35, with images of jeans. The user clicks. They land on your website. But there aren’t any jeans on the homepage. So the user clicks the ‘Men’ link. They find the jeans section. They view the image of the jeans. They like them (that zoom-in and pan feature worked!). They select a size. The purchase them. Sound ideal? Well that was a highly idealistic journey comparison and research will find that it is just not that easy.

So my comparison with the shop window was an ad-banner. The ad-banner is competing with other ads just as a shop-window competes with other shops. Once they come closer, perhaps the shop-window is comparable with your website homepage? That’s where the comparison ends. Once you walk into the shop, in a matter of seconds you can pan around and get a good feel for the ambience of the shop, the type of people the shop attracts, the lighting used, the music played and of course, the types of garments on sale. All in the space of a few seconds. If the music is hard-core rock, what’s your interpretation of the shop? What if the music is classical? There are so many different touch-points in a bricks and mortar environment that cannot be reproduced online. Ok so your website has ambient music. I don’t browse with my sound on. Do you? Does your customer? So when they land on your website, do they know what kind people are attracted to your website/brand? Can the sense the quality? Do they feel they belong as they might by walking into a shop? Can they quickly scan the homepage like they might a shop and get a feel for what you have?

Using your customers

I’m an advocate of consumer feedback. It sounds so simple yet so many continue without it. Converse with your customer. Ask them why they’re here. What is their impression of your website? Do they understand your brand/website? Don’t second guess your customers! Your analytics package (you have one right?) will tell you what, but not why.

Part of setting a strategy is understanding why people come to your website. Understand why they are on your website and compare this with what they actually do. Spot the opportunities.

There are many ways to model this; find out why they’re here. Here are a few tools to get you going: and – and get a good consultant to interpret the data.

Match this against your KPIs to determine how closely you really are serving your customers and to identify opportunities. Collect feedback. Read it, action it.

The bottom line is your website has a purpose

Your commercial website has a purpose. Your business has a goal. Your job is to meet business demand, online. Your business thinks they know what you need to do with your website, you’re a ‘techie’, you know this online stuff so you need to make it happen. What you need to do is to actually push this back to the business. Find out why people visit your website and action this insight. So you sell furniture. Your business wants to sell more online and reduce the call centre burden. Your boss wants you to make it happen. You create a website, with a shopping cart and product info, the perfect shopping portal! Your marketing team are doing great, 5k UVs/day in 3 months. Money is rolling in. Your share of business is 10% and things are looking good! A year on and you’re still at 10%. 18 months and nothing has changed. Revenue is up, as is the whole business but your share has remained constant. So what’s wrong? Your website is good, your marketing is good. But people are not buying online. Find out why! If you’re attracting a fairly constant stream of traffic to the website (and assuming they’re not ‘bouncing’) then they’re interested in your product, to some extent. Survey them!

Ok so survey’s are not 100% perfect due to their self-selecting nature but it will give you a good insight into what is really happening on your website. Perhaps most people visit your website because of that fancy new tool you developed to allow your visitors to plan their new living room? Perhaps they visit to view the products before calling to place their order? Perhaps there just is not enough information on your website to allow them to qualify their needs? What if 20% of those that visited intended to buy but only 2% of them convert on any given day? Potential? Is the data correct?

Your website strategy

Your website strategy will be made up of wide-ranging tactics, insights, plans and deliverables but if there is one thing for sure, involve your customers. Find out what purpose your website has for them. Don’t assume they’re going to fall into line and act as your business wants them to act. Getting your business demands and customer needs to meet 50:50 is a big task but with a little insight, you can make it happen


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