Modern consumers now interact with around six different touchpoints before making any purchasing decision – from websites and Google search results to social media profiles. This represents both a risk and an opportunity for online businesses.
Those who actively manage and monitor multiple online channels mark a chance to beat the competition. However, it also means that a single poor experience across one touchpoint can undo the positive brand reputation created through all other online activities.
So, it’s no longer enough for businesses to just focus on a single channel for growth. Businesses must understand where their consumers are engaging online and meet them there.
A digital home for your business
Websites are typically the most crucial channel for online businesses to make sales, so it’s worrying that it takes less than a second for consumers to form an opinion of a website. It means that even when content looks perfect across all platforms, a business can lose leads at the last minute due to slow page loading speeds or design and accessibility issues.
To increase conversions, decrease bounce rates and minimize abandoned checkouts, regular website reviews and audits are a must. These reviews may reveal immediate issues, like broken or unresponsive pages, as well as more subtle design issues like inefficient calls to action or lack of natural linking between pages.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to help drive tangible website improvements for those on a budget or with limited resources. For example, website builder tools provide page templates that load instantly, are visually appealing and include built-in extras like contact forms, maps and call to action buttons.
The result for businesses is an efficient website that works hard for them as part of a holistic digital campaign. When users reach the website, they’re able to effortlessly locate the products, services, and information they’re after.
Similarly, free tools like Google’s ‘Lighthouse’ allow businesses to audit their site’s performance for those with accessibility issues such as sight or hearing loss. There are 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK alone, so businesses risk losing out if they don’t create an accessible site.
- Here’s our list of the best website builders for small businesses (opens in new tab) right now
A secure and consistent experience
Trust has always played a critical role in the success of online businesses. Shoppers want guaranteed security when sharing personal and financial details and to be confident that products will be true to their descriptions. This is especially important as they are unable to see, feel or try products before they buy them.
In the wake of the pandemic, over half of consumers claim trust is their primary motivation when choosing an online retailer. And studies suggest 75 percent of consumers would refuse to buy from a brand they don’t trust – regardless of how highly they value the product.
The difference between winning, losing and retaining customers can come down to trust and authority.
As users engage across various online platforms, they need to know they’re safe and can trust who they’re interacting with – from social media accounts, newsletters and mailing lists to making a purchase.
Consistency is key across domain and branding credentials. Website and email domains should be aligned to give users confidence they are interacting with an official brand channel. Working with a single hosting provider makes it simple and cost-effective to access and manage these. Where possible, social media channels should adopt consistent handles and imagery too.
Trust is most important once consumers land on a business’ website. If they believe any of their data may be at risk, they will leave immediately. By providing a secure ‘HTTPS’ connection via an SSL certificate and offering reliable up-time, businesses can deliver a safe user experience.
Downtime is costly for businesses, with the potential for lost conversions and damage to brand reputation from inconsistent performance. However, by investing in web and email hosting services, businesses can access 24/7 up-time and instant technical support for any issues that arise.
- Check out our rundown of the best website builders (opens in new tab) today
The digital marketing mix
The goal for online businesses is to meet potential leads with the right content at every stage of their buying journey – from research to brand comparison to finally making a purchase. The challenge, however, is knowing where to find them and the ability to deliver relevant information.
Once users land on a website, businesses can track their behavior via Google Analytics. This provides detailed insight on their activity, including how they arrived on the website, how they move around it and which pages or forms they interact with.
This information is invaluable in helping businesses tweak and improve their site based on authentic user data, for example, adding calls to action or internal page links to encourage natural movement around the website.
The challenge is finding the users who haven’t yet reached the site. Firstly, businesses should break down the user journey and identify the content that will be helpful for consumers at each stage. They can then conduct an audit on their online activity to highlight any blind spots in their content.
For example, producing thought leadership articles to answer common questions and solve user problems will help brands appear in search engines when consumers research the industry. Similarly, paid advertising campaigns let businesses bid on key industry terms or phrases to appear in front of users searching for specific products or services.
These users will then move onto the comparison stage of their journey, looking at brands in more detail and interacting with their online channels and profiles. So, it’s important to be active and responsive across channels like social media, email and even website live chat services to turn these inquiries into sales.
It’s also crucial that contact details are accurate and updated across all channels to help users move naturally through their journey. Website URLs should be included on all social channels, and brands should also manage and update their ‘Google My Business’ profile to drive traffic to their website.
Ultimately, those able to understand consumers’ needs and put them first with their digital activity will be best placed to attract and retain customers.
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Terri Misters, Marketing Specialist, LCN (opens in new tab)