A simple test of your website’s true effectiveness
You have to love the cut and thrust of small business. Just when you think you have a fairly good understanding of your market, something will come across your desk that will literally stump you.
Take the following real life case for example.
A prospective client – let’s call her Jill – wrote to me in an exasperated state. Seems she had tried all the web marketing techniques in the world to encourage incoming leads, but no matter how hard she tried, and how much time and effort she expended, the queries just wouldn’t come.
In other words, she had a high “bounce” (click off after visiting just one page on your website) rate.
So naturally I started to investigate some of the causes. As it turned out, it didn’t take long to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
Because despite doing a great job to attract and drive traffic to their website, she had a fundamental problem
Their website was awful.
Great web marketing, shame about the website
Ugly and with amateurish snapshots of the product, poorly laid out and generally repellent, it soon became clear why none of the considerable traffic decided not to take the transaction any further.
The reality was, the website was so poorly presented that it was turning away hot prospects.
That’s right, even if that business had the best product at the best prices with the best service in the world, the fact that the website was so poorly presented meant that prospective customers simply chose not to do business with them.
The good news was that the problem was easily fixed, or so I thought.
A very tough nut to crack
Because despite promising to resolve all the offending issues at a reasonable price, and showing her examples of professionally presented websites, she still wasn’t convinced that presentation was so important.
With a larger business, you would simply hire a usability lab and some testers and examine their reactions. But small businesses don’t have that kind of dough.
So I suggested she simply follow the standard online behaviour of a prospective customer to get an insight of how well her current website stacked up.
Here’s what I wrote to her:
“Imagine you have an urgent need for some equipment that you stock. You don’t have time to shop around – once you find what you are after and are happy with the price and availability, you are likely to want to order and pay immediately.
You're not happy with your current supplier (if you have one) so you do a Google search for either that specific item or the general category, probably in your capital city or regional centre.
The result of that search will be thousands of pages pertinent to it.
So there is criterion number one – are you on the front page of Google – either “organic” (unpaid results) or advertising (paid)?
Q: How prominent is your business on Google?
Next you visit some of the webpages returned by Google. Some will “entice” you with professional design and layout, others will repel you with an amateurish presentation. Remember, it takes just 50 milliseconds to make a judgement on the website you are visiting.
There is criterion number two – your website is professional looking and enticing.
Q: How professional and enticing does your website look?
Once you have found a site that presents itself professionally enough, you then peruse its contents.
There is criterion number three – your content is professional and comprehensive.
Q: How professional and comprehensive is your website content?
Once you have found the product you are after you will then check its price and availability.
There is criterion number four – current pricing and availability information.
Q: Does your website include current product pricing and availability?
If all of this stacks up for the prospect, they will then do one of two things. They will either look for your ordering mechanism or they will look at other sites to check the price is reasonable.
IMPORTANT: If your website gives the impression that you will provide better service and support, they may be prepared to pay extra for the same product.
Hopefully they will continue the ordering process with you.
Then there is criterion number five – you have an immediate ordering and ideally payment mechanism.
Q: Does your website include “real time” ordering and payment mechanisms?
If, like many business operators, they are time poor, they will not be interested in leaving messages, playing phone tag and generally delaying what we have already established is an urgent need. So unless you have an immediate ordering and payment mechanism like a secure shopping cart, they may well go to a competitor who does.
What is critical about this typical scenario is that it is not just about eCommerce. It is about the very success of your traditional business as more and more customers choose the convenience and savings of shopping – and product research, in this way.
Jill, if you take on the role of this prospect and replicate their behaviour, you will soon identify how your website and in turn business stacks up compared to your competitors.”
Unfortunately, Jill (to date) is still not convinced.
So for me, it’s back to the drawing board to find more evidence of the perils of a poorly presented website. I’ll keep you posted on my success!
Did you get better results once you renovated your website? Tell us all about it by commenting below.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.