Article written by Vladimir Kovacevic featured in Canadian Equipment Finance magazine, April 2014
Optimizing your web presence across multiple platforms is key to providing a positive user experience
It finally happened – in 2014 mobile device usage surpassed the desktop devices. In January mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States, as reported by comScore. The majority of that activity is social media related and most activity in the business world is still done on a desktop. But there is a catch – with the increased usage of mobile devices expectations are changing and the bar is being raised.
Today’s customer base is getting more sophisticated, connected and empowered. As a result companies that market and sell to that customer base must grow, adapt and change their marketing strategies.
Most companies are at least intuitively aware of this and know that their approach needs to change and it needs to change quickly. Unfortunately, most of the time this need to adopt and change is recognized as a pure technology play and it is executed with technology in mind only. This means that most businesses simply invest in being present and “visible” on whatever new technology platform is getting consumer’s attention. What is being missed is that a strategy of presence is nothing more than “let’s make sure that we are there and see what happens”. As such it is ineffective and probably more damaging than helpful.
As the number of digital platforms grows and as they morph and specialize, the amount of content and information available to users is growing exponentially. This means that user’s engagement and attention are in high demand and that anything they invest their time and attention into needs to have clarity, direction, reward and practicality.
The latest results from comScore show that users engage with major social networks predominantly via mobile. Facebook engagement is at 68% via mobile, Twitter at 86% and Instagram is at a whopping 98%. What does this mean to a modern day business that is trying to reach some of these users and get their attention?
Let’s start with an example – you invested a significant amount of time and money to grow the social media presence of the business. You even hired a dedicated young marketing expert who is getting great results and the company is generating a steady stream of tweets and posts. What would be the most desired outcome of those posts and messages? Of course, it is gaining user engagement that results in user visiting the company’s website. All good so far. But considering that the vast majority of the social media content is consumed via mobile devices, it is logical that the users will use the same device to follow the links and get to the company’s website. And this is where things start to break down. In order to keep the user engagement and provide the needed clarity and direction the website needs to be more than “compatible” with mobile. It needs to be responsive.
What is responsive? Responsive design optimizes a website for any device. Regardless of what device is being used – a phone, tablet, laptop or a watch (yes a watch) the website is rendered in the most optimal way to ensure a seamless and uninterrupted user experience. And of all things that matter – it is the user experience that matters the most. This often overlooked and seemingly not so important part of the equation is the single most critical factor in keeping the users engaged. Why? Because expectations have changed – they have grown and gotten more sophisticated, way more sophisticated.
I often joke with our team that Apple and Google have “ruined” it for the rest of technology companies. How? By raising the bar so high that everything we do gets measured against it. No one understood this better than Steve Jobs and this simple truth that user experience is what matters the most; it is what propelled Apple to be one of the most successful companies of our time.
So, how can companies achieve great user experience?
Let’s start with a definition of what the user experience is. User experience is both art and science – it involves their behaviors, feelings and emotions about using a particular system (e.g. a website). It also includes all aspects of human-computer interaction and person’s perception of system aspects like practicality and ease of use. User experience is highly subjective and it is affected by the circumstances of the environment. For example, a website that has a great user experience on a desktop may feel unorganized and completely useless on a mobile device.
In order to achieve great user experience and get positive results of engaging the customer via social media, companies need to think of the whole experience. A great twitter post that results in customers going to a company’s website on their mobile device and finding that they have to zoom in and out and fight the interface to get to any meaningful information is nothing short of frustrating. And it has exactly the opposite effect from what was intended – customer engagement that resulted in the customer classifying the company website as not valuable. In today’s world where customers have so many choices they are very quick to classify information as valuable and not valuable and take control of what they see. If an app is not working well, or if there is a better one it gets removed.
If a company that was previously “followed” or “liked” delivers questionable value and poor experience it is easy to “unfollow” or “unlike”. And once a customer is lost it is very hard to get their attention again. Having a responsive site that provides information in readable and useful form is an essential first step.
The second step in providing a great user experience is content. Think about how much can be shown on a mobile device and in a way that really delivers the intended message. Going over the content of the current website and removing any unnecessary and empty content is essential. Since mobile device usage has overtaken desktop device usage to browse the internet, the website needs to be designed for mobile device first and desktop second. In today’s digital world where quantity of information that gets thrown at the average consumer is growing at an exponential rate, the old saying of “Less is more” is absolutely true.
Unifying all marketing strategies and combining the social media team, website team, email marketing team and all other groups that may have a marketing related touch point with existing or potential customers is an important step in providing a great user experience. Sometimes combining the teams is not an option, but forming cross team committees accomplishes the same goal and it will ensure that company’s digital marketing strategy is delivered through multiple channels in a consistent manner.
The benefits of following these steps are many. In the short term, having a responsive website that delivers clear and concise content and provides excellent customer experience will result in happy customers who are able to get the information they need by using the device of their choice. In the long term, by combining multiple teams into cross team committees the quality of digital marketing will increase and team members will benefit from each other’s experience and knowledge. Also, having a single responsive website makes it much easier to manage change and reduces the overall costs.
In summary, providing a great user experience is the key to a positive social media engagement of current and potential customers. And having engaged and happy customers that enjoy using the services your company provides is worth a lot – ask WhatsApp, a company of 55 employees with less than $300M in annual revenue, which got acquired by Facebook for $19 Billion.