The Real Purpose of a Website

Websites are like a “shop window” for your business and so it is really important that you care enough to create a great website.

But what is a great website? Because probably you have a website already or you’re thinking in building one it is important to consider: what defines a website to be a great website?

I don’t want to sugar coat it: A great website is one that converts.

What does it mean to convert? Converts what?

If your website is an e-commerce shop then conversion means selling. If your website isn’t a store then conversion normally means capturing data information about potential prospects (minimum an e-mail address).

A website will also help with your branding – positioning the brand, recruiting key talent and establishing authority and credibility in the market. But if the website is just there for the branding then I don’t think it’s a good bet. If you’re thinking of your website like a business card or a brochure we all know where those all go in the end – into the bin.

We must remember we’re living in a crowded consumer market and it’s simply not enough to present your brand to the world – every business needs to step up if they want to win.

Google, for example, has made a ton of research into how consumers buy online, in a study called Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and there is a lot to be learned from it.

Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

Marketers have used for a long time this 3 step mental model for how people buy products:

1) There is a stimulus – when the client sees an ad or a friend with the product;

2) Shelf – when the client goes to the store and buys the product – this is called the “First Moment of Truth”.

3) Experience – when the client takes the product home and experiences it. They can have a good experience or a bad experience and then they share it with others – this is the “Second Moment of Truth”.

Conventional thinking was that if businesses spend enough time on each of these steps then they would succeed. But that is simply not true anymore.

When Google conducted a research with 5 thousand shoppers across 12 different product categories: groceries, cars, financial services, etc their key question was what influences people to go from undecided (unsure to buy) to decided (completing a purchase)?

Google knew that when buying online people do a lot of research before buying. But just how do they go about doing that research and how many sources they include? Google found that on average the American consumer was looking at 10.4 sources in 2011, up from 5.3 in 2010 - before completing a purchase.

These sources include searching online, talking with friends & family, seeing ads, etc with varying degrees of influence.

When Google started lining up the responses of their research a fourth step appeared in the marketing mental model – the Zero Moment of Truth. This is when consumers do their research, get smart about product alternatives, read reviews, look for coupons and comparisons – all before going “to the shelf”, i.e. doing the purchase.

Have you kept up? Or are you still using the old marketing mental model? There is a new mental model now. And businesses that now focus on this new step gain a very competitive advantage in todays marketplace.

Is your website helping the business? Or just sitting there doing nothing?

I don’t have a clear number of websites I’ve seen so far in my life but it is surely up there in the thousands. I’m also sure you’ve seen thousands of websites yourself – so of the top of your head what are some great websites you like and some that really suck?

If you thought of Apple or any of Google’s websites I wouldn’t be too much surprised.. After all those are very powerful brands with a lot of investment being made into them.. What I wouldn’t be able to guess is what websites you think really suck. And that’s because there are just – too many of them. 

Some adjectives people use to classify websites they consider great are for example: clean, modern, fast, simple, intuitive.. And on the negative: confusing, bulky, slow, old fashioned, cheap, poorly built, out-of-date and ugly.

For me the positive ones are just signs that it is converting. The negative ones mean people are finding roadblocks and not completing the conversion.

When it comes to metrics we are normally evaluating 3 key things:

1) Number of Visitors – is the site being visited? By how many people across the span of a day, a week, a month? And where are they coming from? What sources and locations?

2) Session time – are visitors staying on the site? For how long?

3) Data Capture – are you effectively collecting data about potential prospects?

Other things to evaluate include:

Is your own contact information easily accessible?

Can the visitor accomplish most things on the website under 3 clicks?

Does the website loads fast?

And if we’re talking about an e-commerce website what is the revenue it generates?

If you already have a website look at these areas to evaluate if the website is really helping the business. If you’re planning on a new website consider these areas and how you will otimize for them.

Conclusion

Like I said before a great website is one that converts, but in today’s reality this doesn’t necessarily mean a purchase or a client contact. It most likely will mean you helped the consumer become smarter about their own research.

Websites must perform a basic function - connect what the visitor is looking for to what the business offers but through an education process rather than a selling approach. It means educating customers on why your business is the best choice - if it’s really the best choice- or pass the client along to whoever will serve them best.

If the website achieves this well, i.e. there is a “match”, then you can say the website is helping the business. For the prospect this will mean he will be happy and will consider “he found what he was looking for”. This doesn’t mean the client is going to purchase from you or send a contact request just yet.. But it will be a definite step in the right direction.