There’s no question that Internet technology has changed the way people connect with each other.
And given that the web is made up mainly of independent sites, many of the changes are precipitated by companies and the individuals behind them.
Let’s take a look at how the web has changed things during the past five years.
Way Back in 2010
Back in 2010, we were far from technologically-challenged. We were “way up there” with conventions such as:
- Searching online using laptops or notebooks as a portable alternative to the desktop computer
- Using pay-per-click ads like Google and Yahoo
- Getting excited about QR codes, which we thought would become the “next big thing”
- Listening to podcasts as an alternative to reading online
Even then, however, websites led the charge by providing the cornerstone of all online activity. Without company websites, there really wouldn’t have been anything to advertise via pay-per-click or to offer destinations for QR codes, and no way to search for goods and services.
Here Today (and Maybe Tomorrow)
So, how are things different in 2015, and what will they look like going forward?
- Right now, your company website likely offers existing and potential clients a clear way to find what they are looking for. It’s (hopefully) designed to be responsive for optimal viewing on any devices. These have a more than 50% chance of being smartphones or tablets, according to January stats from Internet Retailer (up by 18% from 2014). In other words: you’re connecting with customers using different devices from those used in 2010.
- Customers want solid, informative content from you in formats such as blogs, video, podcasts, images, ebooks and white papers—and you’re providing it. Or you should be, if your company website is to be a success. Clients reach your site through your posts on social media, your paid social ads and highly-developed, organic search optimization. In other words: you aren’t waiting for them to stumble on your site, you’re bringing it to their attention in the places where they play.
- You’re connecting with them outside of the website too, using email marketing to nurture them along until they reach the decision to buy. This is done by collecting contact information and data about their position in the buying cycle, based on their behaviour on your website. In other words: you aren’t waiting for them to ask for more information. You’re sending it to them, at the right time and using the right channels.
Simply put, how can these methods NOT be effective? How can a company prefer to operate the way it did in 2010?
Where To From Here: The Next 5 Years
We don’t need to pull out the crystal ball to determine at least some of the website marketing trends you can expect to see by 2020. A few are already making themselves felt, some are being actively created and still others are enjoying attention from experts in the field. The most common of these are:
Getting Up Close and Personal
There’s something about personalization that plays into your prospective clients’ ego very effectively, and big data gives us the opportunity to personalize, well – everything! Once you start to mine your data and identify your customers’ needs in real-time, you’ll be able to create value so beneficial that they’ll happily give up the most personal information. Like the chicken and the egg, the advantages of being able to delve into details such as health status, financial position and relationships is already starting to create a new “intimacy” with clients. This is likely to lead to new business models, new services and processes based on available data. Five years from now, your client won’t know whether they are dealing with a computer or a live person, because both aspects of your customer relationship management will be equally intuitive and knowledgeable.
Enjoying Global Connectivity
Worrying about Wi-Fi is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and by 2020 I believe connectivity will be universally available. Whether it’s in the form of wearable tech, virtual reality or other smart devices, your website will be available to customers whenever and wherever they are. Privacy settings might prevent you from reaching them, but if you can create enough interest through your corporate website design and your offering, you’ll be able to persuade them to open the hatches, so to speak.
Diving Into the Data Well
There’ll be no escape. You’ll find it essential to have intel on your customers and their behaviour, and you’ll need to know what data is most important to collect—and how to use it without being overwhelmed. Companies will need access to programs that can crunch huge quantities of data, not just to provide statistics but to identify what questions you should be asking (and their answers). This will change the way your website connects you with clients by enabling you to create detailed solutions to the most complex problems.
Securing Client Information
As technology expands its capabilities, so too do threats increase – in number and destructive potential. More than 40% of IT professionals aren’t confident that their company’s website security systems can protect clients, and some of the recent hacking episodes we’ve seen lend credence to this. Five years from now, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to “self-design” a basic website using free templates and have customers use your e-commerce application safely. Actually, you can’t do that now, unless you’re willing to assume a hefty level of risk. Connecting with your clients in 2020 is going to be about more than protecting their credit card number, too. Having a client-focused website is likely to require comprehensive identity protection and substantial insurance cover.
Vital, Not Simple
Nobody said it was going to be easy. What I can say, however, is that it’s going to be vital for every business to have a comprehensive company website that’s optimized for search, with active, engaging social media profiles and a digital advertising budget that connects with prospects and drives them to your online properties.