What makes a great website?
What makes a website great for your customers?
What makes a website great for your potential customers?
The answers to these questions will help you to publish a successful website. One that encourages current and potential customers to both see and engage with your content. And hopefully buy your products and services too!
I already published a post on this topic a few years ago. It is “The 7 essentials of Customer Centric Websites.” But things change – fast. Today, with mobile more likely to be the screen of reference, we have gone from a “no scroll” to a “must-scroll” format. Words have given way to more images and now also to videos. We have gone from information to entertainment, from push to pull and from “ours” to “theirs.”
The “Top nine attributes of effective websites” is a post published by Craig Reardon on smartcompany.com.au. It explains what makes a good website for small businesses. I found it to be a great starting point for my topic for any sized business, so I would encourage you to check it out.
Still, I do have a couple of criticisms about the post – sorry Craig. It starts with technology and also includes company rather than customer priorities. But you, fellow customer centricity champions, know that everything should start with the customer! So I’d like to build on both his post and my earlier one, to lay out what it takes to win online these days.
Checking a website is often the first step a customer makes when they are interested in a brand or manufacturer. Therefore we should ensure ours responds to their needs, whatever the reason for their visit. I have chosen the nine essential elements of a customer centric website below.
Let me know what you think.
1. It’s for the customer, not you. Although your website is about you and your company and/or brands, it is your customers, both current and potential, that need to like it.
Therefore start by thinking about for whom you are developing the site and what their desires and needs are. Use our 4W™ template to ensure you go as deep as possible in your understanding of them.
2. An intuitive structure. We don’t have time to read, let alone learn how to navigate a website. Customers will leave if they can’t immediately find what they are looking for. This explains why many – dare I say most? – businesses have a 50% plus bounce rate. (See the RocketFuel analysis for more on this)
You may still need a sitemap for those visitors who need help in navigating or are less logical. However, it no longer needs the prominence it once did. Put it at the bottom of the page and don’t waste valuable real estate by placing it at the top. If you make it easy for people to find what they are looking for, they will never need to revert to a sitemap.
3. Customers can contact you with ease. Contact links or your full details must appear on the home page, including telephone numbers, email, postal and street addresses and social media accounts. With the global nature of the internet, a customer has the right to know where you are based.
They also have the right to connect as they wish, by whichever media they prefer. (>>Tweet this<<)
Do away with impersonal forms and drop-down menus, which force customers to use your classification. Instead, make them feel special, valued and appreciated. Make them feel like you are waiting to hear from them and that you want to know what they have to share or ask. Above all, customers want to be treated as individuals, not as just one insignificant member of a mass. (>>Tweet this<<)
4. A list of your products, brands or services. Today’s customers demand information. They want details about ingredients, sourcing, limitations of usage, distribution and availability.
They want reassurance about your practices. Are they sustainable? Is your vision acceptable and your practices ethical? The more information you provide, the less need people will have to contact you for such requests.
5. Details about you. No longer can you hide who you are. An “About” section must provide clear information about all aspects of the company. Topics to include are your management structure, operational areas, mission statement, values, strategy and culture. You should also add the latest company news, both for investors and customers.
With the continued rise in the interest of visual content, incorporate a media section too. In it, you can provide images and videos of your products and advertising. This has the advantage of making it easy for customers to both comment on and share their favourite ones.
6. Valuable content. Regularly updated content is good for your SEO rankings as well as for appealing to customers. Think about the topics of most interest to them. Perhaps you could answer common questions they have through a FAQ section or blog. Or provide useful recipes, styling tips or other relevant information that your customers will find appealing.
As mentioned above, visual content is vital today as people read less. If you struggle to create content, then customers are often happy to provide it. Purina has successfully turned user-generated content into advertising. And many other brands have been inspired by what their customers share with them.
7. A responsive design. We are all multi-screen users today, moving seamlessly from smartphone to tablet, and from a computer to TV. We expect the same quality of experience no matter what screen we are using. So a great website needs to be optimised for this.
A further reason for having a responsive design is that Google penalises those which aren’t. Your potential customers may never learn about you because you won’t appear on the first pages of search results.
8. Include entertainment. Even if your customers come to your website looking for information, they are often also expecting some form of entertainment. Whether through useful tips and guides, or quizzes, games and competitions, customers demand to be surprised and delighted by their experiences online.
We all love to learn more about ourselves and the rapid rise of fitness bands and Facebook quizzes are a clear indication of this. Who can resist an invitation to discover “What your favourite colour means” or “What your favourite foods say about you”? or “How male / female is your brain?” Incidentally, the second one was developed by Unilever’s Knorr brand.
I bet you just clicked or plan to click on one of those links, didn’t you?! See how powerful quizzes can be?
9. Be secure. Companies ask more and more information of their customers. In return customers expect their details to be kept safe. While it remains your responsibility to ensure a secure environment, you can also help by only asking for details that you will use for business purposes.
Do you really need telephone numbers if you will never call or text? Do you need postal addresses, occupation or other details that may be possible to collect? By only asking for the information that you will use, you will not only reduce the chance of being hacked, due to a lower value, but you also risk losing less information about each of your customers.
Of course, no matter how much information you collect from your customers, you need to protect your database from cyber attacks, whether the risk is high or low.
When I wrote the original post on customer centric websites, I mentioned Reckitt Benckiser as a best-in-class example. Today, when I look at the leading CPG / FMCG websites, I find many that deserve a mention. I, therefore, decided to ask you, the reader, what your favourite customer centric website is and why you consider it to be a great website?. Please share your ideas below in the comments.
And if your own website doesn’t pass the above nine essentials test, perhaps it’s time to make some changes? We can help.
For more ideas on how to better engage customers online: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/