12/11/2010

By Thomas Vollrath, CEO, Webfusion

Websites are no longer simply the online ‘face’ of a business. Customers expect more from a company’s website than a home page. To use an 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 a house, before making a purchase decision.

This is a similar to websites. Web 2.0, videos, social media feeds and personalised blogs have seen sites become the lynchpin when engaging, interacting and developing customer experience.

Every business, including yours, has the opportunity to develop groups of customers who they can engage with, increase awareness, and encourage to act as brand advocates.

Businesses should keep in mind the many ways they can interact with customers through their site, because increasingly, new technology is enabling more consumers to get online and access your website.

While this may improve traffic, the array of different ways to access your website, including through desktops, tablets, Smartphones, consoles and apps, is leaving customers confused about the best way to get online, find out further information and interact with your business.

Because of this, businesses at large should consider educating customers in the different ways they can access the internet and how to manage the technology available to them.

So how can businesses help customers make the most of the different ways they can access the internet? Here are our top tips:

1. Get your customers online. One of the most astounding statistics is that over nine million people still do not access the internet. Many of these people could be your current, or potential customers; so help to encourage them to get online by including your website address and social media accounts on all stationary, signage and marketing materials.

2. App what? Many businesses are jumping on the app bandwagon without first listening to their customers. Business must pose themselves these questions: How many current customers have Smartphones and use them 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 before entering the app market.

3. 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’. 123-Reg for example, responded to upsurges in the number of domain names being registered by launching an iPhone app which enabled users to search for and register domains anytime, anywhere.

4. 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 that they have developed new ways in which the business can be contacted or accessed, in the assumption that customers will simply find them. The chances are they won’t. Inform customers of the new ways they can access your homepage and services, provide instructions on how to do so, and communicate the benefits.

5. Keep your website up to date. The array of new technology enabling people to access the internet means more people may visit your website through different devices other than the traditional PC. You should therefore consider investing in your business website to make it more accessible to people browsing your site through Smartphones, tablets and consoles.

Computers, the internet and mobile devices are all seen as essentials by both businesses and customers today, but this was not always the case. Many businesses can be slow to react to changing technologies, and inevitably they get left behind.

By diversifying the ways of accessing your website, technology can prove beneficial to your business. The key is to encourage customers to get online and engage through new devices, and educate in how they can to do this, 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.


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