Having just returned back from a week chock-full of events and meetups, I sat down to take a look over the pages and pages of notes I had scrawled down over the last 7 days. This would have been a much easier task if my handwriting wasn’t that of an immature man-baby. In reality, working in digital, I probably should have been tapping away on my tablet instead. Oh well…
After reading over my notes, I felt there was one topic in particular that should have been discussed, but didn’t ever seem to come up. Before I do the grand reveal, I thought I’d give a bit of context.
The last 10 days have nearly been an information overload. We attended some awesome events including Marketing Nation Roadshow, Build Your Content Empire, Silicon Beach, MeasureCamp and Digital Sport London. We learnt a huge amount about digital marketing and analytics. Although very insightful, I felt there was a severe lack of conversation about the most basic of digital mediums - The website.
There were presentations about how to measure your website’s success, how to create your website’s content, how to engage your visitors once they have signed-up to your email list and even discussions about the future of web design. The problem is, everyone seemed pretty comfortable defining a website as a one-size-fits-all experience. No one was challenging the actual idea of a website. It seemed it was already carved in stone.
Since the inception of the website, we haven’t made too many big strides in terms of concept. As my colleague Sam suggests, there are only a few categories that websites seem to follow. I actually would go a step further and boil this idea down to just three archetypes: Content, services and eCommerce. 95% of websites can fit into one or more of these three categories. Facebook? Service and content. Amazon? eCommerce. Youtube? Content. The list goes on.
Why is this important? Well, if we have managed to refine the idea of a website down to three types, is there cause for concern? Have we stopped progressing the website concept? Are we too comfortable with its current form? Everything around it has changed; social media, ppc, seo, etc… I think it’s time we challenged the website.
Currently, nearly all websites offer the same experience to everyone, regardless of what that person might actually want. This is especially harmful for eCommerce websites, or websites selling a service. Take TSB’s current website as an example.
They tote the copy; “If you’re buying a home we’ll pay your council tax.” - When I was looking for a new bank, I ignored this, as it wasn’t relevant to me. Instead, I headed off to the Savings section to look at what their savings offering was. If I had taken a different route, and typed ‘savings account TSB’ into Google, I would have been given a relevant offering with a specific landing page.
This is a more appropriate offering for me, but this sort of content personalisation is only happening when I come in from a third-party search engine. When I revisited the website later on during the week I was hit with the old, irrelevant homepage, geared up to sell me a mortgage - A product I had shown no interest in.
The question is, how can we adapt our online experience to offer something more personable? It’s simple. We turn the website into an ever-thinking organism, understanding how you are using it and automatically making relevant changes to it’s own personality to better suit your needs. Ok… so it’s not simple, but it is certainly possible.
There are many tools available now that can track a user’s journey through your website. We can now know which pages you visited, which pieces of content you actually read and even where you came from. As soon as a contact detail is relinquished, this activity can then be tied together to form a profile.
We already have this in the form of advanced website analytics - Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, amongst others, all offer this ability. Currently this sort of information is being used to make manual design and marketing decision. What if our website could understand this data itself and make subtle changes to give you a better experience?
Imagine if I visited the TSB website and viewed a piece of content on their blog. I really liked the advice they had suggested, and decided to subscribe to their ‘Expert Money-Saving Advice’ email newsletter. 3 months later, I revisit their website and am hit with a slightly different homepage.
“TSB makes it easy for you to get into the Savings habit. Apply for an eSavings account in 3 clicks.”
“Ooooh - I’ve been meaning to get a savings account.”
Boom. Relevant copy, offered by a website that knows what you like. Only 2% of people purchase your service online after their first website visit. 98% of people will leave and return back at a later date.
This is where I think the power of real user knowledge could fuel a totally different web experience. I’m not talking about drastic website changes. Instead, I think subtle differences based on the content a user is interested and engaged with will make a huge difference to the personal experience. We can take a leaf out of the human salespersons book. You wouldn’t expect a car dealer to offer you expensive sports cars after you had obviously been checking out their latest family offerings. Why should this be the same with our web experiences?