Websites are no longer simply the online 'face' of a business. Customers expect more than a simple home page. Thomas Vollrath, CEO of Webfusion, explains how to help customers reach your website in new ways.
To use the analogy of buying a house, how many people make a purchase based on how attractive they find the outside of a building? Buyers want to be able to enter a home, have a good look around and get a feel of the place, before making a purchase decision.
The lynchpin of customer experience
'Web 2.0', videos, social media feeds and personalised blogs have made websites the lynchpin of an engaging, interactive and developing customer experience. And every business, including yours, has the opportunity to develop groups of customers they can engage with and encourage to act as advocates for your brand.
People can access your website through desktop computers, tablets (like the iPad), smartphones, games consoles and apps. With so many options, it's no wonder customers can get confused about the best way to get online, find information about your company and interact with your business.
Educate your customers
You should consider educating customers about the different ways they can access the internet and how to manage the technology available to them:
- Get your customers online. Get Online Week is an annual event held to inspire and help people get online. One of the most astounding statistics is that over nine million people in Britain still do not access the internet. Many of these people could be your current or potential customers; so encourage them to get online by including your website address and social media accounts on all stationery, signage and marketing materials.
- App what? Many businesses are jumping on the app bandwagon without first listening to their customers. Ask yourself these questions: how many current customers use smartphones - like the iPhone - to access the internet? Would an app be useful to them, or would it confuse them? Apps can be costly to develop, so your business must be sure there is demand.
- Don't ignore technology. If your business decides there is a need for an app, listen to what your customers tell you, and design one that effectively improves your service, rather than designing an 'app for app's sake'. For instance, at 123-reg we launched an iPhone app which allows people to search for and register domain names - anytime, anywhere.
- Educate customers. If you have developed an app or mobile website, you must communicate this to your customers. All too often businesses fail to let their customers know about new developments, on the assumption customers will simply find them. The chances are they won't. Tell customers about the new ways they can access your homepage and services, give them instructions, and communicate the benefits.
- Keep your website up to date. Nowadays, people may visit your website using a whole array of different devices - not just the traditional PC. You should therefore consider investing in your business website to make it easier to use on devices that may have smaller screens, lack keyboards or be otherwise limited in what they can display - like smartphones, tablets and consoles.
Many companies can be slow to react to changing technologies. Inevitably, they often get left behind.
But by diversifying the methods people can use to access your website, technology can benefit your business. The key is to encourage customers to get online and engage through new devices, then explain how to do it - and the benefits - to overcome resistance.
In the same way that you look for a new home, there are many options for people to interact with your business online. But if you remain approachable and customer focused, you can be assured that whatever route they took to find you, the customer will use it again.
Thomas Vollrath is CEO of Webfusion