Terri Misters, Marketing Specialist at LCN, explores why businesses must consider all aspects of their online presence
Studies suggest modern consumers now interact with up to six different touchpoints before purchasing. For businesses, this is both a blessing and a curse.
Those with a healthy presence across digital platforms may reap the rewards compared with their siloed competitors. However, it means a single negative experience on one channel can see businesses lose custom.
A business’ website is usually the final destination for customers – with all their marketing activity aimed at driving traffic to specific pages where users typically convert.
The worry for these businesses is that it takes less than a second for users to form an opinion of a website. So, if they’re not instantly impressed – due to loading speed, accessibility issues or even visual design – they won’t hesitate to bounce.
In a second, targeted marketing activity across multiple platforms can prove fruitless.
Minimising bounce rates and abandoned checkouts means carrying out regular website reviews to make sure it offers an effortless and intuitive user experience.
Thankfully for small businesses and e-commerce start-ups, there are plenty of tools available to support the auditing and design of websites without the costs associated with hiring a team of web developers.
Website builder tools, for example, are ideal for those with a limited budget. These provide businesses with pre-packaged and proven website design templates.
The result is responsive, eye-catching and speedy website pages that load instantly on all devices. When users reach these landing pages, they’re able to intuitively navigate them, find what they’re after and interact with clear calls to action.
Similarly, free tools like Google’s ‘Lighthouse’ allow businesses to audit their site’s performance among those with accessibility issues – such as users with sight and hearing loss – and even provides actionable tips for improving these aspects.
Meeting user needs
Global consumers are becoming more distrustful of brands, often due to poor customer service experiences. Such is the risk to online businesses now, studies suggest 75% of consumers would refuse to buy from a business they don’t trust – regardless of how highly they value the product.
The difference between winning, losing and retaining custom can come down to trust, authority and recognisability. But how can businesses build these qualities online?
The key is to deliver a safe, secure and consistent online experience, encompassing branding, design and usability. Consumers must have the confidence to engage and shop with brands without worrying about data security.
Firstly, businesses should keep their domain and branding credentials consistent. This means aligning website and email domains so users feel confident contacting the business. Working with a single hosting provider makes it simple and cost-effective to access and manage these.
Where possible, social media channels should also follow the same naming and design guidelines, so users know they’re engaging with an official page.
Businesses must also be able to provide a stable and secure website connection. Downtime or slow response times are likely to deter potential consumers who worry about the website’s credentials.
Investing in the right web and email hosting services gives businesses the peace of mind of 24/7 up-time across their website and email platforms. These services should also include immediate technical support, so they can pass this responsiveness on to consumers.
Find your customers
Online businesses have a clear idea of where they want to drive customers – typically a product or service page on their website, where users convert. But their audience won’t simply land on these pages by luck.
It’s important to understand exactly where the target audience is interacting, engaging and searching online throughout every stage of their journey. Businesses can then meet them in the middle with relevant content to solve their problems.
Google Analytics provides a useful platform for this data, letting businesses see where their website traffic has come from and how users are behaving around the site. This information can then be used to improve website design, to help users move around it naturally and optimise calls to action to turn visits into leads and even conversions.
However, this data is limited to just on-site users. It doesn’t provide data on those who haven’t yet reached the site – and often aren’t even aware of the brand. Businesses must identify the gaps in their online presence to make sure they’re reaching users in every stage of the research, review, compare and convert stages of their buying journey. They can then produce relevant content to build brand awareness and share product or service information.
For example, producing thought leadership content for the business’ website – and even to be shared across relevant industry publications – places businesses as experts in front of those searching broader queries.
Similarly, launching paid advertising campaigns lets businesses rank in search engines for more specific search terms and even directly promote products to those in the comparison stage.
A comprehensive multi-channel online campaign keeps businesses front of mind when consumers come to make their purchases. So, making sure contact and website details are available across all channels – including social media and Google My Business profiles – helps them move naturally to the website to complete their journey.
Ultimately, those able to understand consumers’ needs and put them first with their digital activity will be best placed to attract and retain customers.
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