Originally published on Forbes
What is your first touchpoint when evaluating a company? According to research from DemandGen , 71% of B2B buyers say that a company’s website is the most influential touchpoint when making a business decision.
The corporate website is currently undergoing a significant transformation. Back at the turn of the century, the buzz was about engaging customers with shiny content on social media, and very few marketers were able to document any direct business impact. Today the corporate website has evolved into an intelligent platform. It dynamically tailors relevant experiences to the needs of users, which is mission-critical for corporations to stay competitive, attract the best brains and serve impatient investors.
Consequently, every company, regardless of industry, now has to think in terms of this digital experience. When looking for a new product, 87% of shoppers begin their search in digital channels, according to data in a Salesforce report. For those involved in the B2B buying process, 71% of researchers start with a generic search, as noted in a Google survey.
As consumers increasingly rely on search engines to find what they need, the role of the corporate website also grows in importance. Search results often bring customers deep within your website, and you want them to find useful and relevant information without much effort. Your website is no longer just a brochure; it’s a platform that should provide value for your customers and elevate your brand. It is the spine of your digital ecosystem.
Vertic recently partnered with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and The Internationalist to analyze the websites of 100 leading corporations in 13 different industries. In the study, we evaluated corporate websites using three criteria – user experience, relevance and the use of technology – and uncovered three major trends that span industries, location and segments.
Some of the insights were unexpected. Among the five top-performing websites, two were from heavyweight global brands – Nike and Amazon– but the other three were from B2B companies – Airbus, Accenture and TATA – that aren’t necessarily household names. The industry conclusions also contained interesting takeaways. We expected to see a strong performance from companies in the technology, media and retail industries. Digital transformation hit these sectors early on, and they moved toward the major trends before others. But it was a surprise to find that the aerospace industry was one of the top performers, while companies in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry – brands that have mastered traditional advertising – ranked below average.
Each of the most successful websites share attributes that promote a meaningful user experience:
Today’s consumers are navigating a complex world with an abundance of options. Top-ranked companies make it extremely simple for users to find the information they’re seeking.
They do this in two main ways. One, they embed an intelligent search functionality into the site so users don’t have to make sense of convoluted menus or navigation. And two, they adopt a circular content architecture so customers never reach a dead end on the website. They can always keep clicking to access more relevant content that is aligned with their decision journey.
A decade ago, companies created customer personas based on traditional segmentation, featuring demographics such as age, location, gender and income. But now, successful companies are focusing on individualization, tailoring the digital experience for an audience of one.
They track and analyze customer data – pages visited, content consumed, products purchased and so on – to develop a more intimate relationship with each individual. Companies leading in personalization drive increases in revenue by 5% to 15% and marketing-spend efficiency by 10 to 30%, according to results from a McKinsey survey.
Top-performing companies are creating value-adding experiences for their customers, fostering "entanglement" by connecting with their audience beyond a simple transaction. Through their websites, these companies are providing experiences and content that resonate with customers’ interests and values. Instead of trying to give information to customers, they are designing experiences with them.
Use the insights from this study to strengthen your company’s website. Start with these simple steps:
Gather user data and study your customers’ behavior on your website. Explore their decision journey from a need basis. Why are they visiting your website? What is their mission or objective? How are they discovering and consuming content? Are they finding what they need?
Once you have a deeper understanding of customers’ digital behavior, build your content architecture around their decision journey. Think of how you can apply simplicity to the navigation of your site. Do you need to restructure your menus or search functionality? Would a chatbot help answer FAQs? Is the content organized in a way that is intuitive for your customers? Make it easy for them to do business with you.
Use what you know about your customers – what their pain points are, what interests them – to produce content that speaks with them, leveraging their own taxonomy and syntax. Think of your company as a business partner working with them to add value to their lives. What insights could you share that are relevant to their career or industry? How could you help them solve an ongoing challenge?
Your website is one of the most significant investments you will make in your company’s digital marketing strategy. By leveraging insights from these global trends, you can design meaningful and memorable experiences with your customers. That's why we're committed to continuing to update our website index and educate brands about improving their websites to keep pace with industry peers and other digital leaders.
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