Once upon a time, all businesses had to worry about was keeping their brick-and-mortar locations in tip-top shape, launching outbound marketing campaigns, and keeping the profits - and people - rolling in.
Times Are A-Changing
Suddenly, with the Dot-com boom at the turn of the millennium, things got a little hairy.
From 2001 and onward, most businesses have jumped on the internet bandwagon and launched their own, branded, unique website. In the early days of the internet, having an online presence, in the form of a basic website - or brochure, as they called it back in the day - was sufficient. Original business websites served as more of a “hey, we’re here too!” than an actual informational resource to help potential customers make a purchase decision.
As with all good things, the more the news spread, the more companies launched websites, and the more websites were launched, the more crowded the arena became.
Now, just having a website as a sort of placeholder and proof of adaptability in the market is not enough. Your company needs to stand out, but it takes more effort and skill to do so than ever before.
Your company needs to stand out, but it takes more effort and skill to do so than ever before.
The Bottom Line Is...
Unless your business is entirely referral-based, in which case the need for a website is more of a want, having a stupendous website is imperative. In fact, for smaller businesses, it may even be a survival tactic in a tumultuous and crowded market.
In order to successfully make a difference in the world, your business needs to first make a profit. Profit comes from happy, converted customers, of course.
If you’re not yet sold on this whole customer-first website idea, consider the fact that a measly 22% of businesses were satisfied with their conversion rates in 2016, as found by Econsultancy. The beauty of websites is that, when designed and executed well, they can become a lean, mean, customer-converting machine, which is why having a quality, customer-centric website is a must in this day and age.
Consumers have matured, and boy, do they know what they want, how they want it, and even where they want whatever it is that they want. Hence, user experience (UX) was born. As consumers continuously demand higher standards and better websites, companies need to be ready to respond with their best foot forward.
After all, the whole purpose of having a business website is to anticipate your customers’ needs before they even know what it is that they need.
The whole purpose of having a website is to anticipate your customers’ needs before they even know what it is that they need.
That’s why it’s crucial, in every step of the web design process, to ask yourself: why would a customer need this? Why would they care? Otherwise, you may find yourself wasting a whole lot of time and money.
The Truth Is in the Numbers
The data doesn’t lie, either. You have 10 seconds to leave an impression and tell your prospects what they’ll get out of your website and company, according to NN Group. If you fail to deliver, poof, they’re gone. On to the next search result.
Then, there’s the whole vibe that your website emanates, too, that’s under the microscope. 95% of respondents in an Econsultancy study confirmed that “good user experience just makes sense.” Your site should have superb UX, or its existence just won’t be logical - it’s as simple as that.
Furthermore, Adobe found that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive, which is a solid chunk of prospects that you miss out on for totally avoidable reasons.
At the end of the day, your website serves as a place for prospects to convert into customers, so your content needs to be convincing enough to make the magic happen.
Kibo found that a staggering 92% of consumers reported that interactive content influences them to make a purchase - which means that having a stagnant, empty, or otherwise lacking website is simply unacceptable if you want to maximize your success.
This brings us to an important question you must ask yourself: what is the function of your website for your customers? I know it’s your website - your baby, even - and you may think you know how to make it the best it can be, but you must be able to step back and look at the purpose of its existence through the lens of the customer, not the business owner or manager.
Function of Your Business’ Website In the Consumer’s Eyes
Designing the perfect website for your business can be a slightly mind-boggling process, so take a deep breath in, exhale, and read this handy checklist of most important factors your website must have.
1: Provide proof of why you’re the right fit
Besides having a clear and strong unique value proposition, the best way to convince prospects that you are the brand for the job is by case studies, reviews, testimonials, and other tangible evidence.
Kibo found that, within the last half year, 93% of consumers have reviewed product ratings before purchasing an item. Ideally, product-based businesses should have reviews or testimonials front and center, especially since 72% of people also entrust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations when making a purchase decision.
Also, 47% of website visitors check out a company’s products or services page before they look at any other section of the website. This means that your homepage should have a conveniently-located link to your products or services page in order to let prospects easily cut to the chase.
For service-based businesses, including a portfolio is highly valuable, since prospects can browse your work and see what they’re going to sign up for with less risk. Besides, this is the perfect area of your website to flaunt your stuff and wow the crowd, so take advantage of it!
2: Establish trust and authority
Content marketing is key here: having a blog on your website, or other form of content that helps your customers answer the questions they need answered, pays off big time. In the case of B2B businesses, marketers that use blogs get 67% more leads than those that do not, and they are 13 times more likely to achieve a positive ROI on their efforts. Additionally, blogging is a very cheap form of marketing, requiring only time, creativity, and a platform to broadcast from (such as - you guessed it - your website).
Reviewing blogs has become part of the customer’s research process before making a purchase, with 47% of buyers viewing around 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep, according to the 2016 Demand Gen Report.
This statistic coincides with the fact that, in the public eye, blogs are ranked as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information. Therefore, the blog section of your website is the perfect place to dispense some savvy knowledge and prove your worthiness to the customer and their needs.
3: Make it easy for prospects to contact you
If you keep in mind that 44% of website visitors will leave your website if there’s no contact information, such as a phone number, do you even need to think twice about including it on your site? Having a contact form at the bottom of the page, or easily accessible from anywhere in the site, is the difference between a prospect reaching out when ready and hitting a dead end.
Providing multiple ways of contacting you is valuable too, as some people prefer to talk on the phone with a human, and others are more comfortable submitting a ready-made form online.
Give your future customers the luxury of choice. After all, it’s the American way.
Unsurprisingly, KoMarketing discovered that more than half of people think that “thorough contact information” is the most important element missing from company websites.
What’s surprising, though, is that there are still companies out there without contact information on their websites! Do yourself a favor and get ahead of some of the competition by adding contact information to your website.
It’s such an easy advantage, it’s almost laughable.
4: Anticipate the answers that people are looking for
Customers come to your doorstep with oodles of questions, so invite them in for some answers. If you don’t, they’re sure to go knocking on your competitor’s door instead.
All metaphors aside, always keep in mind, with every page of your website that you design, that you are there to help your customers find the answers they need to be ready to make the leap to closing the deal.
At any point in their buyer journey, whether they’re figuring out what exactly their problem is, what your brand offers as a solution, or even how exactly it will change things for the better, be ready and eager to help.
Customers come to your doorstep with oodles of questions, so invite them in for some answers.
Since we are in the digital era, contacting a salesperson with inquiries has generally been replaced with independently cruising through a company’s website instead.
Consumers are good at doing their own investigations too, with 94% of them conducting online research before ever visiting a store, according to Kibo.
That’s why the top priority for your website’s content is to anticipate everything that prospects will ask, provide answers and solutions, and win over their hearts by showing that you know what they want, you’re there for them, and you will help them succeed every step of the way.
5: Know how customers will access your site
Mobile phone usage is exploding faster than a supernova. Well, maybe technically and physically speaking, that may not be true, but you know what I mean.
Seriously speaking, mobile phones truly are taking over: 4 out of 5 consumers these days shop on their smartphones, as found by Comscore. Furthermore, mobile devices now account for nearly 2 of every 3 minutes spent online.
And most importantly for you, dear reader, is that 40% of people will bounce and choose a different search result if the first is not mobile friendly - and that number is sure to slowly rise with time and smartphone purchases.
So what does this mean for you? Having just a desktop-friendly website means you may miss out on a whole lot of prospective customers.
Don’t let that happen; have a mobile-friendly site to accommodate all the preferred browsing styles. It’s worth the investment when you look at the facts.
The bottom line is that your website exists purely for the sake of your customers to know who you are, why you’re the one for the job, and to answer the questions they have before they can make a purchase.
Make all these things happen, and your site will be a mighty, customer-converting machine, just like it was always destined to be.
Do you have any other tips on how to make the most of your company website? Please share your thoughts or valuable bits of wisdom below!