As a web developer I encounter so many people who take their business online without a solid idea as to why. Because I want my clients to succeed, I try to discover what it is they want to accomplish with their web. The most common answer I hear is, “because everyone else is” or “because it’s the thing to do”.
It’s a fact that fewer and fewer people are using Yellow Pages, newspapers or other traditional methods of advertising to find businesses. Google (at the time of this writing) is the most accessed source for business information. But to use a web as a digital business card or ad for your business is limiting the reach you might have into the marketplace.
People use the web to gather information. Phone numbers, addresses and opening hours just scratch the surface. Today’s buyer is pretty savvy. They want more information. Just look at the big guys. On Amazon you can search a huge database of books, get recommendations for similar books, know the number of pages, the age group, the theme and access other readers’ opinions. Policies for shipping and returns are right there and easy to find. Navigation makes sense and is easy to use; information useful to visitors is presented in increasing depth and in an organized fashion.
The big guys know what their customers want. They have a clear idea as to why they are on the web. They try many different models for their webs, they experiment and find a solution that works well and then they continue to explore more options. They also have massive budgets that allow for experimentation and can afford to fail and try again. You can’t!
What you can do is understand the customer experience at the “big guy sites” and think how you can improve your customer’s experience on your site. Don’t over-promise. You won’t have a chance to correct small errors or misconceptions and in sales of any kind … everything counts.
Once you know why you should be on the web, your website can begin to become the business tool you need to succeed.