“Technology is changing your customer, and your customer will change your company,” reports Forrester Research CEO George Colony in a recent blog post. “The 2009 customer is unrecognizable from the 1999 customer. … If your business looks the same now as it did in 1999, you are risking irrelevancy.”
How different is your business today than it was in 1999? And more specifically, how different is your Web site now than a decade ago? Because online technologies and consumer use of them has grown rapidly in the past several years, if your business website looks and acts the same as it did even just a few years ago, you might not be supplying what your customers require—or what they desire—to do business with you. It’s a good time to revisit exactly how well you’re catering to your customers online.
What Customers Require
You might be tempted to think that what customers require from a Web site today isn’t much different than what they required 10 years ago—but that’s certainly not the case! The development and adoption of new (and superior) Web technologies since 1999 has escalated customer expectations—and often customers are quick to reject a business that doesn’t provide the functionality that they’re accustomed to using.
Here’s a short list of requirements that today’s customers expect a business website to deliver:
- Easy “findability” through search
- Valuable content that presents objective information to help with purchasing decisions
- A direct and clear path for completing specific tasks and actions as quickly and painlessly as possible
- A secure, easy-to-use interface for online purchases
- Interaction with you and others in brand-based and industry communities
- Experiences (e.g., authoritative content, authentic engagement) that build trust
- Compatibility with major browsers (e.g., Chrome, FireFox, IE, Safari)
- Accessibility in all screen resolutions
- Consistent messaging and seamless experience with offline channels
- Easy accessibility to your presence in social networks
What Customers Desire
Desirable Web site features are many and frequently focus on factors that help customers save time. Some desirables, though, are unique to specific types of businesses or industries. For example, if you’re an online retailer (think Amazon.com), customers might desire a custom, “smart” checkout system that takes advantage of personalization and past-purchase history over a basic shopping-cart system.
With that in mind, here are typical desirables that customers want today’s business Web sites to deliver:
- Readable text (e.g., large font size, dark text on light background)
- Professional design that supports and enhances task completion
- Easy-to-find information (e.g., onsite search functionality)
- Familiar, intuitive navigation
- Quickly scannable content (e.g., short paragraphs, bulleted lists)
- Obvious access to a corporate blog and social networks (e.g., large, easy-to-find tabs, links, buttons)
- Fast-loading pages
- Content and features (e.g., blog, tool, game) that spark and sustain interest and encourage exploration, engagement and visitor contributions
- Enhancements for mobile accessibility
Become a Caterer
So, how well does your Web site cater to today’s customers? If you’re like most businesses, on close inspection you’ll likely find there’s room for improvement. Perhaps you’re very good at meeting basic customer requirements, and for that reason, you’ve been content to maintain the status quo. But keep in mind that if you’re not taking strides to evolve with your customers online—and your competitors are—you won’t retain or grow your market share. Take time to determine how your Web site can better serve your customers. They—and you—will be glad you did.