We are moving ever more to a world dominated by pure information and the traditional role of brands is having to evolve, whilst I’m not suggesting that the world of information packs, leaflets and brochures is dead what we are starting to find is that they play a lesser role in the minds of consumers. Over the past few years the power of user-generated content has grown to such an extent where consumers are frequently trusting this growing army of amateur reviewers far more than the marketing lines trotted out by the big companies.
With search engines being the usual starting point for a customer’s journey, companies are still, largely, trying to attract site visitors via carefully crafted content or special offers. How different, really, is your home page from your competitors?
This approach has a limited shelf life as the search engines are starting to abstract the information from the marketing fuzz on web-sites. So where does that leave companies that want to promote their brand values?
Embracing user-generated content is a good starting point and every internet-enabled business should be running headlong into social-media, review sites, forums and blogs. There is, however, a largely overlooked approach that shifts the game away from information and towards action. Visitors to your site want to do stuff as well as consume information.
It is easy to incorporate brand values and imagery in applications and this is a much under utilised approach. Picking out one of two key brand strengths and converting them into a useful and branded application can easily put distance between your organisation and your competitors. It is much harder to abstract or re-create the applications elsewhere so it is possible to establish a real “home” for visitors to drop in to. At the same time, if the application is strong enough it will actively discourage your potential customers from visiting your competitor sites and when they do they will, hopefully, dismayed by the absence of this useful application.
Delivering this is easy as gadgets and micro-applications and by definition they are more interactive and compelling as the visitor can find out answers and achieve his or her actions without having to browse through lots of pages. Better still, if the applications are tailored to the visitors stage in the sales process and built with the intention to move them onto the next stage you’re able to mix content, brand and call-to-action in a single application.
Applications need to be learned, even the very simple ones, so you have to make them compelling and easy to use. Better still, make it an application that the visitor will need to use time and time again and the investment the visitor makes learning your application reduces the chance they will be tempted to use another application provided by a competitor. As humans we are just a little lazy so once we have learned one way to do something we really don’t like trying new stuff; look at the dogged loyalty you see with applications such as Ebay, Amazon and Google.
So, if the future lies in creating application then you need to look at all aspects of your sales cycle and see where you could introduce a function or a feature that requires visitor interaction and gives out information. This is easier than you think. For example, if you sell double glazing and part of your sales cycle is a visit from an estimator then you have a tailor made hole to drop an application into. Add a “Online Estimator” button and take the visitor to an application that gathers the raw data required for an estimate (number of windows, size, type, opening, glass type, location etc) and let them fill the information in, add some personal contact details and bingo, the application spits out an “estimate subject to survey, click here to book survey” which in turn takes the visitor to an online booking application (one of the great killer micro-applications online). Job done.
Decisions must be made pretty early on about the technology platform you are going to use as very few technologies work on all platforms (eg Flash). The critical choice here is deciding what percentage and what type (mobile, home, office) of customer you are trying to snare. You will also have a set of much wider considerations surrounding your internal systems, scale and compatibility as it is highly likely you will need this applications to talk to a number of your existing systems. This makes the selection of the application developer less of a marketing choice and more of a capabilities and compatibilities discussion.
You’ll need help at the stage so why not talk to us about the best way to approach it, we’ve been building successful web applications for nearly 15 years.
We laugh now but in the mid 90′s, there was this crazy notion that if you put up a web-site, any old web-site, then the money came rolling in. Even more crazy is that it worked…by the bucket load. Then along came “big” marketing and dragged us down some odd “brand-orientated, synergy-busting and paradigm-shifting alley”. Most of us got lost. Lost in banner impressions, land-grab, click saturation and massive paranoia about “giving away the crown jewels”.
Sadly what had happened is that really good personal relationships and transparency got smacked over the back of the head by mass-market tactics and thinking. It was wrong and a few companies avoided the headlong charge into “flash banner pages“, curious navigation and obsessive prettiness. You’ll recognize the companies that stayed away from this party, names such as Ebay, Zappos and Google spring to mind – there are a thousand others.
During what I call the “dim ages” many companies flocked to the outpouring of flash designers and online brand consultants. I feel sorry for them, during that period (2000-2003) we lost a fair few high-profile clients as they created their animated works of art that nobody wanted to sit through (remember the link “skip intro” appear on a thousand home pages?)
The dim ages were broadly a copy of old mass-marketing or 1:x broadcast style marketing. But what made the t’interweb so good in the beginning was the sheer vertical nature of the content, it started pretty much as a 1:1 media and that was it’s success. Thankfully we are now starting to see a shift back towards a 1:1 Internet and that is where its future lies.
You simply MUST focus on the needs of the individual when thinking about your Internet strategy and that means, due to the volume and disparity of people using the web, you must have a web platform that can identify individuals and serve them personalised content.
There are various platforms available but only one commercially available with open APIs. VITES 3.0, code-named 1:1 Superhero, offers everything you need to serve up personalised content to each and every visitor to your site. Regardless of how they arrive at the site.
License costs start at £500 per month and implementation from around £20k for a full turnkey service to slide under your existing site seamlessly and open up a whole new world of sales, data and conversion opportunities.
Due for restricted launch at the end of Summer, VITES 3.0 brings a whole new set of features for market-leading organisations to rip into and turn into huge competitive advantage
Here is a brief outline of what you can expect in the next release of the worlds first, commercially available, personalisation and customer journey platform
Initially released in 2006, VITES was designed to dramatically improve on and off site conversion rates by providing a scaleable platform that offered proper customer journey management (ala Amazon, Ebay etc) combined with a suite of testing tools that allowed accurate testing of new content, CTAs and traffic streams
Since it’s release, every client using the platform has seen at least a doubling of conversion rates and huge reductions in cost per enquiry/sale
The latest release is a ground-up rethink of what our clients and marketplace needed and part of this was a massive simplification in deployment of changes, testing and profiles
All current clients are on a migration plan to complete the porting to the new version by the end of 2010 and all new clients will automatically get the latest version of the platform
License charges remain unchanged, starting at just £500 per month for the basic 10k users per month version
Contact Liam, Martin or Nick now to find out more about how VITES 3.0 (Rangoon) can supercharge your web strategy.
VITES remains the only commercially available off the shelf journey profile and testing platform
Contact our licensing team (Liam, Martin or Nick) for further information.
System integrators and agencies should contact our CEO (Martin Dower) to discuss how VITES can help your clients
What? Yup, we’re opening 1,500 sq ft of cool office space to anyone who wants to use it
We already have quite a few friends and clients who use our office space and we thought, “to hell with, invite everyone In”
We’ve got FREE ultra high-speed Wi-Fi, hot desks, huge LCD screens, sofas, colour printers (A3/A4), usability testing suite, a great library, parking, a massive conference table for 18 people, breakfast bar, all-day cafe (not free, sorry) plus an art gallery to refresh tired creative juices.
You will also have access to some of the best brains in the web marketing world, for FREE
We’re running this experiment until the end of year so why not drop us an email, find us on LinkedIn, visit our Facebook page or just drop in and say hello.
We’re open from 10am every working day. Our coffee pod machine is a Krups Dolce Gusto so bring along a pack of pods, mine’s a Cafe Lungo.
Even if you are not strictly creative in terms of pretty pictures, maybe you are just creative from an entrepreneur point of view, maybe you simply crave the company of bright, link-minded, people.
In recent years we’ve seen the size of digital displays increase, whether you’re talking about 32″ iMacs or 50″ widescreen TVs. However, it seems that this trend is now in full reverse with the explosion of micro-screen devices, including the market-dominating iPhone/iPod. 2010 is then set to see the growth of much smaller devices, 9″ net books, iPad and now we see Apple, the leader in this field, rumoured to be producing a smaller screen version of it’s high-end Mac Air shrinking the already small 13″ screen down to less than 12″.
What’s driving this?
Largely the very overdue explosion in mobile Internet linked with the unstoppable growth of cloud applications.
We are starting, thankfully, to see the adoption of far simpler applications and the death of overkill desktop applications from traditional suppliers who spent their huge development budgets on developing more and more complex applications that consumers don’t actually need.
The twin challenges of small screens and mobile Internet is a major challenge for the web in the next few years as developers struggle to adapt to less space and lower bandwidth. It’s kind of strange as we may have to return to some of the thinking that dominated the mid-90s … That of lightweight, fast pages designed to work inside 800 pixel screens. It will certainly be a test of good practice, clear design and brilliant UI. Bring it on.
See our other cloud related posts here:
Time to leave the right click-world
Project management…..collaboration stylee
Often we’re asked “can’t you change it quickly whilst I’m on the phone?” or “It’s only a quick tweak, can you do it straight away?”.
To project manage, we use Basecamp and like most of the big boys in the internet/software development world (including Google Android), our development environments use a host of version control, testing and deployment systems including Git and Capistrano to name a couple. Basecamp enables collaborative management of changes and our develpoment environment enables complete version control over all our websites/applications, branched development, more secure testing and living of projects, real world test environments and complete backup of the our code bases.
It does however mean that ‘quick tweaks’ take just a few minutes longer to be completed – small price to pay for a fully tested application that just works? An added bonus of this slight ‘delay’ means some of our partners think twice about why they are changing things, if it’s really required and if so, how it can be better organised.
We had an occurrence last year where one of our web server had a hardware failure, the quickest solution was to reinstall on a completely new server. Our partners, Rackspace, very quickly configured the new server and after a bit of configuring, we were able to ‘deploy’ four websites, a host of web applications and micro-applications, the systems which communicate to the clients data warehouse, eShot providers and fulfillment houses, complete with the VITES databases (containing all the visitor learnings/tracking data) all fully functioning in only a few hours.
Take a look at this simple Deployment Process diagram Sam knocked up to see how it works.