This article was first published on 26th June 2010 on my first professional website. What strikes me is the paradox that technology and method have massively evolved over the period, yet we still face the same challenges and business priorities.  This short paper  looks at ten ways to getg ahead of the curve online. In particular it  looks at boosting the performance of your web assets so that your digital proposition is the preferred click through from natural search.

1. Well defined content strategy.  This keeps your websites alive and fresh, with content ownership mapped-out across the business and a commitment to ensure editorial (stories and images) remain vibrant and relevant. Use content format that is appealing and sutable for target audience groups. for example, the right mix of text and images, use of video clips, user generated content, data and content feeds.  Effective SEO policy is pivotal to good website performance and must form a core part of the content strategy; From naming conventions, to tagging, to metadata.

2. Constantly test and tune your transaction funnels.  Most of your on-lines sales are likely to have bypassed the home page and main site, having arrived straight into a commerce journey from an aggregator, affiliate or deep link. Use online multivariate testing tools. This testing is completely transparent to your visitors,  but enables you to get clarity on which page designs and ads work best in each eCommerce journey, as visitors vote with their clicks which

3. Get into mobile.  Most customers expect mobile apps, web-apps, mobile first design.  To have your brand, products and services available to customers from the device in their pockets 24*7 is non-negotiable.   Entry costs do not need to be expensive.

4. Improve customer self service.  This can be personalised if delivered via a customer portal or some form of login for existing customers.  Well designed UXD and eCommerce integration will reduce ongoing operational costs by deflecting call-centre calls.  This is also a customers value proposition when they are enabled to buy products, view or download policies and tickets, make mid-term adjustments and get answers to queries,  any time day or night, from anywhere and without having to wait on the phone.

5. Integrate Web Chat.  Best delivered by small ring-fenced Sales and Service teams.  This offers your customers a real person to chat with on-line if they get stuck or have a query.  Include the ‘ring me now’ option, in-case your customers would prefer  telephone support.  Allow your sales-team to outbound calls, triggered by web chat activities, to convert some of those customer commerce journeys that may otherwise drop-off.

6. Combine your analytics deployment with customer session replay tools. 

Your business will benefit from insight into how your customers are navigating through our websites.  With the right tools in place, you can now identify areas of struggle (in near real time) on your website. You can use session replay to trigger outbound calls.

7. Invest in Social Networking. Extend the reach of your brand and strengthen your image by engaging communities in conversation on your Social Networking sites and channels. You can build your own Social Networking sites or link in with existing mainstream sites.

8. Put User Generated Content  (moderated) on your main website. How many times do you look at customer reviews prior to buying a product or service on-line?  This may not be suitable for all businesses, but worth reviewing how compelling it might for your customers to see other customer recommendations on your site, hopefully reinforcing your core values and promoting your products and services.

9. Behavioural Targeting: If executed well, targeted advertising will deliver tangible improvements in cross-sell, up-sell to  existing customers and significantly improve the rate of success in identifying new visitors who have a high propensity to buy specific products and services.  These tools are sophisticated, they require a high level of commitment to integrate  set up and into business processes  and back-end systems.

Behavioural targeting performance is directly related to the quality of data that is fed into the application.  Segmentation data can provide a set of propensity indicators for existing customers and prospects. This will be subject to the relevance and accuracy of demographic alignment against specific types of product or service. CRM  data aligned against product and availability/inventory  and pricing data will deliver a level personalised recommendations for existing customers.   In all these scenarios, business rules can be overlaid to allow prioritisation of particular particular products and services.

10. Follow best practice:   Go for website designs that are easy to maintain and keep fresh, architecture that is scaleable, apply the right methodology and process and use the best tools, technology to deliver total quality, for example:

  • Test, test, test, right the way through the project lifecycle. In particular,  test before launch (UAT, security, performance) and constantly test against the main browsers and platforms.
  • Separate the front end design from middle tier and back end services.  Take a service oriented architecture approach and ensure a plug and play future which reduces development and test times when you have another great idea to implement on your web or mobile assets.
  • Ensure your capacity plan allows you to at least double your digital sales throughput every year. Put a growth driven ‘Business As Usual’  development and support function in place to continually re-engineer middle tier architectures to enable the continual creation of additional on-line products and services and increased volume through-put across all digital channels.
  • Build your customer experience on future proofed content management, eCommerce platforms on scalable architecture solutions that fit your business now, and will flex to accommodate business growth.
  • Be sustainable and re-use where ever possible.