In the first part of our ‘On Websites’ blog series, we looked at some core criteria to address before starting your business website. In this second part, we will look at the importance of having your customers and prospects at the centre of your business presence online.
A brief understanding of your customers and prospects online
So you have the need for a certain type of person to visit, and hopefully buy, from your website. It’s important to ask the right sort of questions and take your approach to addressing them. A good place to start is typical ‘vital statistics’ about your potential customer. You can build a ‘profile’ of them starting with their age (age group), their income levels, their qualifications and educational status, their residence in relation to your business and their marital status. You can go even deeper by attempting to visualise their lifestyle: what is their work pattern? How active are they in their social life and hobbies? What kind of websites would you expect them to visit and follow, apart from your own? When do they have time to buy from you? Having a holistic view of your target audience can take you that ‘extra mile’ in understanding your customers online.
The customer is “king” (or “queen”)
You may know your customers better now than ever before, but do you know how to address them online? It’s vitally important to make that first impression with your website, offering a striking design (as relevant to your industry) and clear presentation of your website can go a long way towards removing a first-time prospect’s concerns and reducing their ‘fight or flight’ response to your website. Getting the message across in a compelling manner; through words, images and good design are fundamental to a successful customer experience online.
Your website needs to establish trust and instil credibility in your business, when you’re not physically available to talk to your customers and prospects. This can be achieved through testimonials from existing customers, badge/accreditation from your industry bodies, facts & figures as relevant to your organisation, awards & accolades for your business or major/noteworthy customers to whom you currently provide your services. Of course, you’re not limited to these approaches, you may even think of creative approaches to get ‘buy-in’ from your website visitors from the homepage.
Providing value for your website visitors
You can continue to provide value to your customers well beyond the ‘first impression’ you make with the website. There are numerous tools available at your disposal; from writing timely news about your business, offering helpful advice before or after they make a purchase and giving them specific tools to evaluate their purchasing decision (for example, a custom form that lets people get a quote based on the criteria they’ve filled in).
Useful tools to get you started
A large part of understanding customers online involves analysis of data and statistics of website, search engine and social network usage. Although showing how to take online research is out of the scope of this blog, there are a couple of tools that give you good, if general, indicators on customer behaviour online.
Google Insights – This is a great free tool provided by Google, that lets you view, search trends data by entering certain keywords and filtering for different countries, over a period of time, for specific business/product/service categories, amongst other options. You can find the tool here.
Socialmention.com – This tool lets you view social media content, comments, opinions and conversations from across the social web. Just enter a keyword or keyphrase and you get a range of filtering options that let you understand brand sentiment, strength, reach; sort by time range and export to a CSV file for Microsoft Excel. You can find this tool here.
There is of course Google Analytics, which give you specific information on your website such as hits, unique visitors, bounce rates and how people reach your website. You can find more information on Google Analytics here.
Your journey to understanding your customers online is a broad and deep one, it is an area that every online business owner should be mindful of over the short and long-term. Online customer data acquisition and interpretation is a niche field in its own right and one that major brands spend thousands of pounds on a monthly basis to make business and sales decisions. However, so long as you understand how your customers behave online compared to the way they behave in your physical store and identify the distinct differences, you can take the right steps forward to making your online business a more profitable one.