I rarely see websites that are dynamic and really customer-focused. But here’s my vision of how this could work…
The problem was really about determining how they calculate their shipping costs, as the variations can be complex (flat rate, weight-based, quantity-based, distance shipping, speed shipped, supplier used etc).
I was rolling the problem around in my head, a bit like a mental Rubik’s cube, when something else occurred to me.
Most websites today are either built from a designer point of view or a technical point of view, and sometimes from a commercial point of view.
However, websites that are built from all three points of view are extremely rare.
Most commercial websites have an extremely varied audience; existing customers, potential customers, competitors, potential employees, journalists and a variety of others.
If we drill down a bit further into the audience that probably matters the most to website owners – “potential customers” – we can normally also see a lot of variation in size, industry and location.
However when a website claims to be dynamic, most technical people are referring to the way web pages are generated “on-the-fly” from records in a database.
I rarely see a website that is really dynamic and customer-focused. And in the case of organisations selling old world industrial products or consultancy services, I have never seen it.
(I should say though that this is an area where many of the so-called Web 2.0 websites are really good, remembering who you are and what you are interested in.)
Now I’ll put my hand up to say design is not my forte, however I can say that I have a strong grasp of both the commercial and technical drivers of a website. Therefore I’m thinking that I would like to see a website that works in the following way.
The website would have two levels of public access. The first level is full of fixed pages, such as company address, an overview of what the products and services are etc. The second level is then accessed through a gateway, and provides information customised to the person visiting the website.
Potential customers would have incentives to go through the gateway, as free resources (checklists etc) would be available on the other side.
The gateway would probably ask the following questions:
- What’s your industry?
- What’s your location?
- What’s your size?
- What are your contact details?
The second level would customise the information available to the visitor.
Rather than have a list of articles, products or services generated from a database (as is the norm), the list is still generated but now the information that is most likely relevant to the customer is at the top and highlighted.
From a customer experience point of view, it would appear that you specialise in organisations just like them. I kind of see the website like a large virtual Rubik’s cube. Once you know what the potential customer looks like, you can rotate the faces to give them an optimised view of your organisation.
So why is this good thing?
Reason no. 1 – Your website is now working for you by actively capturing leads for you to follow up (with some useful reference information).
Reason no. 2 – The potential customer now thinks your organisation is exactly the right one to help them with their problem, as you appear to specialise in their industry, size and location.
Brendan Lewis is the founder of two IT service firms, Edion and Verve IT, and executive director of the Churchill Club.
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