The brand website is the unsung hero of marketing in today's rapidly changing communications environment. It contributes heavily to brand health and purchase consideration, and presents marketers with an unparalleled opportunity to build relationships with and influence consumers. Yet it is surprising how few marketers take steps to ensure their websites deliver ROI for their brands. And with 71 percent of consumers referencing a brand website before making a purchase, there is no telling how many poorly designed websites have caused missed opportunities to gain customers.
Website best practices for relevance and impact
The question marketers should be asking is not whether to invest in brand websites, but how to invest in brand websites so that they are impactful and relevant to consumers. Based on our analysis of hundreds of websites since 2001, CRM Metrix has determined some best practices that apply to marketers across categories.
1. Incorporate measurement. According to Peter Drucker, "You can't manage what you can't measure." Well said by one of the world's top management gurus. Developing website strategies without user insight is the equivalent of shooting arrows in the dark.
Partner with a marketing research firm that understands the power of actionable consumer insights that drive optimization. Measurement should go beyond site satisfaction research. While site satisfaction is important, studies show that it isn't directly linked with purchase intent. Make sure you are measuring key consumer metrics such as impact on purchase intent and brand opinion as well.
Once a base read on key metrics has been developed, create a strategy for optimizing your website based on what your consumers are telling you instead of basing your strategy on a hunch.
2. Avoid design pitfalls. Here are a few classic mistakes marketers make when designing their websites:
- Pay attention to key site usability characteristics such as page speed, appearance, ease of navigation, etc. Fill up the gaps between expectations and satisfaction. This will drive lifts in brand opinion and purchase intent.
- Make sure the homepage has clearly defined calls to action. Keep them limited to two to three. Visitors should engage deeper into the second page within 10 to 15 seconds. Visitors who claim to have not accomplished their goals on your website are less likely to purchase your brand.
- Go easy on the Flash. CRM Metrix has consistently observed negative reactions to too much Flash, with consistent drops in purchase intent and site satisfaction, especially likelihood to revisit. So use Flash sparingly, only where your visitors see benefits.
- Before going for a complete site redesign, consider preserving some characteristics of your current site for your repeat visitors. Consumers used to a certain structure don't like when they can't find the information they are looking for.
3. Capitalize on consumer engagement. A consumer visiting your website is a consumer actively engaging with your brand. Here are a few ways to make the most of their time on your website:
- Focus on driving repeat visits. It builds more than just traffic. Our research shows that repeat visitors are more likely to purchase your brand's products or services versus first-time visitors.
- Find the "golden web pages" that impact purchase intent the most and make sure your visitors are exposed to those web pages.
- Drive traffic from other media vehicles. Research shows that it lifts purchase intent, and by attracting multi-brand and competitive users to the website, there are opportunities for brands to acquire and/or convert customers and gain market share.
- If you offer incentives like coupons on your site, make sure you deliver as promised or else it will cost brand consideration. Special offers tend to be the least performing feature of a brand website, all too often leaving customers disappointed.
In summary, the brand website is an important vehicle for building relationships with consumers and influencing brand opinion and purchase intent. Brand websites are all too often redesigned on hunches, with no data to evaluate whether or not improvements are working. Not investing in sound website strategies and proper measurement creates missed opportunities for marketers. Start investing in creating brand websites with maximum relevance and consumer impact to make the most out of your unsung marketing hero.
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