The end of corporate web-sites … as we know it

According to some industry watchers, 2014 will see the end of traditional corporate web-sites. Although, and rather famously, “reports of it’s death are greatly exaggerated” its certainly going to change a great deal this year. The role of brand in this space is evolving as traditional corporate website visits are declining and becoming more expensive to serve. And rather too quickly for most.

We are seeing too much product promotion and a blinkered drive to measure calls-to-action and outmoded conversion rate optimisation. Customers are now largely blind to this inconsistent and disconnected approach as they scan and leave sites because they are not interested in corporate products, they are looking for useful content to help them in their own journey.

In the vanguard for precious online time are those that understand consumers are looking for stories, advice and authentic interaction – not product features. These progressive brands understand that core values, community and authentic voice is what now engages – rather than tedious product content.

2014 is offically the year that dull content died, and when (interesting) content becomes king. It is also the year of opportunity for those that understand their community, and use the web as a hub of engagement – putting their customers first. Overnight, it seems, we’ve all got to become bloggers and sharers of knowledge.

We are faced with a transformation, moving from the old “traditional marketing site” into something rather different, an experience that immerses customers in the same way printed magazines did in the past. The old adage of “people buy from people” has never been truer and brands will need to show (share) themselves in an authentic way.

Content must cease to be stale pages sitting in dusty corners of the Internet, unloved and unread. Content becomes fluid, engaging and have a life that extends out to social media, community and customers – intersecting with consumers at different stages on their journey. The fluid nature of content suits an agile approach to marketing, and we will see an unparallel rate of content change on corporate websites.

Google understand this, and are actively seeking content that matches the changing needs of consumers. At this stage it is manifesting itself by favouring web-site that changes frequently and also those that have blogs. This is quickly moving to favouring full-blown content platforms, such as WordPress, that prioritise content publishing over technical wizardry and clever user interface designs (does anyone really care about “parallax scrolling”?)

In reality, all brands will evolve to being customer-focussed without too much fuss and as part of the natural order of change. However, those early adopters will make gains as the old-world becomes disrupted by the new and agile. Starting with a simple blog and migrating your site to WordPress would probably tick enough boxes for companies to get ahead of their competition, together with an understanding that consumers need to be at the heart of what you publish, and that the conversation extends beyond the boundaries of your home page.

We are seeing the direct effects of this now, as a web agency we used to be judged on our creative output – the codebase we built and the clever systems and applications we built. Whilst very successful in the noughties, the democratisation of programming skills and the shift to simpler web development platforms such as WordPress in the last 5 years has seen that change.

Gone is the interest in product features, replaced by clients who seek a deeper understanding of who we are and how we work. Our clients buy-into our thinking, our approach and our beliefs – it naturally generates closer relationships as core values have a closer match. To do this successfully we share our experience and thinking and place this centre-stage, at the heart of how we communicate.

Technology changes so fast, and has become largely consumable, that product features are no longer a reason to select a supplier. As we said above, people buy from people.

By Martin Dower