Future-Proofing Your Website

“My business is doing well today.  My concern isn’t right now.  What I want to know is, what do I need to be doing now, to ensure my business is doing well 10 or 20 years from now?” 

A business owner posed this question to me as I sat in the conference room of his industrial distribution company.  It is a great question and one I think we all need to be thinking about.

These days, customers and businesses have a ton of information at their fingertips.  They have expectations that are created by the culture of instant information.  People expect things to be easier, faster, and more personal than ever, and the future is pointing toward an even more automated and digital culture. 

Many businesses are behind in terms of meeting their customer’s expectations and future needs.  I find this to be especially true for businesses who have been in existence for 50 years or more.

Easier

We all want to work with companies that make our lives easier.  We are willing to pay more for things that are easy and save us time.  Ask yourself, “How does our web experience make it easier for customers to do businesses with us?” 

Don’t limit yourself to considering how your competitors are using the web.  Look at how your customers interact with your business/brand either directly or through dealers.  Then, think through how your website and online presence could simplify that for them.

Younger people don’t like to talk on the phone.  Are there things you can provide digitally so people don’t have to talk to someone directly?  Live chat, FAQs, and online knowledgebases are all great tools to support customers in getting the answers they need. 

When someone comes to your site, it should be easy for them to find what they are looking for and accomplish it.  A common mistake on many sites is to add several pages to your menu and your home page as a way of making sure they can find what they are looking for.  Don’t give them too much. That makes things more complicated rather than simpler.

Giving them fewer choices makes it easier for people to quickly find what they are looking for. Simplifying can require some hard choices, but it is a worthwhile process.

Faster

I can order something from Amazon and get it delivered tomorrow.  Being faster is a real competitive advantage.  One US-based textile manufacturer gained business that would have otherwise gone to cheaper overseas competition because they were able to ship the majority of products out within 24 hours and they provided clear visibility into shipping timelines.  Another client of ours achieved a 95% same day fill rate after we integrated their eCommerce site with their ERP system.

How can you work toward making your process as fast and efficient as possible? 

Speed is also key for your web experience. If your website is slow or down or erroring – people won’t stick around.  There is a wealth of data showing that faster sites yield more conversions.  Ensure that you are paying attention to the performance of your site and work to improve it over time.  This requires tweaks to design, coding, 3rd party services, your hosting environment, along with ongoing testing and continuous improvement.

Faster can also be about communication – providing answers to customer questions or getting them a response right away. This means you want to ensure you have staff available to answer questions via live chat or email.  There are chatbots that use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide quick answers and reduce the time required by your customer service team, but for many companies, we work with they are able to have their existing customer service team leverage live chat as they initially prove out the value of eCommerce for their business.

Personalized

These days, you have to do more than give your customers a product at a good price. You have to add value to their experience

Have you ever been in a shop and someone who has spent some time with you says, “I have something I want you to see,” and then they direct your attention to something that you love?  Or, what about when Amazon recommends books you might like, do you ever find yourself excited to check them out?  I get excited to look at what new things Amazon knows I might like.

Think about how your site can offer a personalized experience for your visitors.  If you are just starting out, the easiest way to do this is through “Customers who bought this also bought” or “You may also like”.  Depending on the platform you have today, there are some low-cost ways to add this, and other ways that cost more but offer a clear return on investment with a large growth potential.

Beyond product recommendations, think about how you can use your visitors’ behavior to give them a better experience.  Based on the pages they visit on your site, you can highlight certain resources or products to them.  Based on what page they started on your site with, you may want to change what offers you show them.  This more advanced personalization typically requires content management software that specifically is built for this capability (like Episerver), but this can be a game changer for your business in terms of your ability to provide an online experience that customers find valuable. 

Customers will give up a lot of information in order to get the service they desire.  Just think about Stitch Fix where customers will spend 15-20 minutes filling out a questionnaire to get clothing recommendations specific to them?  How can you blend technology and people to offer your customers a better experience?

A First Step

What is the next thing your business can do to move toward the future?  If you try and do everything at once it can be overwhelming.  “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” 

We believe in identifying a project where you can see a quick return on investment, executing that and then making a commitment to ongoing testing and improvement for your digital presence.

We can help you prioritize your online improvements to keep up with the changing expectations of the digital age.  What does your future look like?  Contact us for a free consultation and we can build the path together.

Lori McDonald

President & CEO

About

Lori McDonald

Lori graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer-Electrical Engineering and leads Brilliance Business Solutions with over 20 years of computer engineering and software development experience.  She is an Episerver EMVP, a Microsoft Certified Professional and a regular contributor on Practical eCommerce. Her status as a recognized industry expert has resulted in regular speaking engagements at business conferences.

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