The Role of a Website in a Business10 September 2011 Online Innovations
A website is not just a marketing resource - it's a business tool as well. In other words, why settle for an internet billboard when a website can do so much more?
Even the smallest business can utilise the power of the internet to be more efficient and to build revenue. Once you start thinking about it, it's easy to get excited about the potential for your website.
Things like new sales leads, an increase in average consumer satisfaction, decreased support calls, more subscriptions or completed surveys are all measurable goals that mean something to your company. The question is, what are you using your website for?
Identifying the Role of your Website and its Target Audience
If you think long and hard about it, your website adds value in at least one of these four areas:
|Facilitate transactions/orders||Sales and logistics|
|Support||Sales, marketing and help desk|
|Save money||Human resources, production, accounts and public relations|
By identifying and understanding the goals of your website, it becomes easier to identify your target audience and plan the following:
- how you’re going to capture them;
- what you’re going to give them;
- and how you’re going to keep them.
Too many people have traffic (SEO) as the goal of a website. But think about it: would you rather have 1000 people visit your site and do nothing; or have 100 people visit your site and take action? Does a good PageRank mean anything to the real profitability of your company? These abstract, relative numbers don't make a difference by themselves and should not be the ultimate goal of any website.
When your website goes live, it is instantly accessible to the world. Your brand, products and contact details are available to anyone 24/7. How do you want them to see you? Let’s say your customers and prospects Google you and your competitors before making a decision on which brand to use. I think it will be safe to say that their decision will be based largely on your website. So, you need to ask yourself the following: are you showing your company and product in the best possible light? Are you giving the end-user a reason to contact you over your competitor?
Much of the traffic to your website will be directed there by sharing and traditional above-the-line media and advertising (where uses will enter the website address directly). This aspect is very important however, with millions of users out there making use of the search engines to locate providers of products and services, it is vitally important that the mechanics, structure and content of your website are optimised for optimum search engine indexing (SEO).
Credible and Informative Content
Are you sending your audience the correct and a strong brand message? Are you actively using your website to build trust? How often are you updating it and how else are you communicating with your prospects? Are you using Twitter and Facebook?
The simple truth is that people are more likely to trust your brand if:
- it is consistent and professional;
- they know more about you;
- if they know more about your products and services.
Functional and Convenient
The simple fact is you are not building a website for your company or yourself; you're building it for your customer and for their convenience.
In our experience, it’s very rare that the expected success of an online shop is realised. What works in the US, UK and Europe is not necessarily going to work in South Africa. The challenges that we face in South Africa are related to the following:
- Logistical infrastructure and capacity;
- Market size, user habits and competencies;
- Reliability and dependability;
- Banking laws and currency restrictions
The above challenges make it very difficult to maintain or rollout a successful e-commerce business. All too often the required back office infrastructure, construction, target market size and budget (development and marketing) are not considered rationally.
Careful consideration must be made when identifying the target market and the size thereof. In South Africa, we have close to six million users that have access to the internet (that number is set to double by 2014). If you start whittling down the numbers, the target audience in SA will be remarkably smaller when considering that USA has over 250 million internet users.
Let’s say you’re selling lawnmowers. There are potentially one million credit card holders in South Africa with 50% of them being in the home owners demographic.
Potentially there are 250,000 lawnmower users that have a credit card in South Africa. Let’s say that on average, we purchase a lawn mower every 10 years – and if all users buy a lawnmower online from you (unlikely) over a 10 year period - you’ll sell one lawnmower every month. That is if you have 100% of the market, with all credit card owners having access to the internet, prepared to transact over the internet and all buying their lawnmowers online.
These numbers are by no means spot-on, but accurate enough to deduce the obvious - selling online to South Africans is going to be a challenge.
Your website should be used as a gateway to communicate with your prospective clients. CRM is about building a relationship that will last. If this is done correctly, it will be you sales force and aftermarket care division rolled into one.
Because they are available 24/7, websites offer instant gratification. The right content and online systems can alleviate your businesses’ support and help desk load.
Other than the obvious – selling of goods or the generation of leads - a website can improve your bottom line by complementing and, in some cases, replacing existing systems:
- Innovative online processes can streamline key business processes and in-doing-so, save on operating expenses.
- Online statements, recruiting and centralised file and document libraries are just some of the opportunities that a website has to offer.
- Promoting your products and services for much less than sending out catalogues, brochures or placing print ads and target specific psychographics, demographics and techno graphics for minimal cost.