Global eCommerce sales are expected to reach $5 trillion in 2022 and $6 trillion by 2024. Last year almost eight in ten (79%) internet users in Ireland purchased goods and/or services online. That's a lot of traffic going to one location, making it imperative that on digital channels, your brand is recognisable, easy to find, and, critically, offers a consumer experience that meets or exceeds the modern shopper's expectations.
Most brands understand the importance of having a digital platform. However, what many misunderstand is that simply having a website or app does not equate to having a digital strategy, let alone one that ensures longevity for a brand or, indeed, a business model. Establishing and maintaining a successful digital presence requires many factors and should be thought of as more of a digital ecosystem with a reach expanding into various experiences, users, and channels.
Establishing your brand's digital presence
So here are my recommended top steps to future-proof your brand online.
#1 Analyse your data
Socrates, and I'm paraphrasing somewhat here, encouraged us to know ourselves. While it is unlikely he was talking about what motivates consumer behaviour online, his advice is spot on. Brands must get to really know their customers to understand what they expect when interacting with them online. Far too often, we meet with brands who apply the same service rules and rely on traditional offline customer norms when designing their digital product or service.
We have observed two effects of this; they invariably end up with a scenario akin to the ‘leaky bucket’ - they heap plenty of cash into the digital project but fail to see any significant return.
Continually checking in with your audiences and quantifying their preferences is key to ensuring continued engagement that results in real traction. Embedding this approach into your brand's digital roadmap is a surefire way to eliminate any design decisions based on insubstantial and subjective ideas. At All human, we conduct volumes of research before we begin designing anything. And then, as we build, we continue to assess performance through A/B testing so that what results is a digital experience that results in action.
All human continues to assess performance through testing
Examples of insights to look for when conducting your research
- What drives brand preference and brand experience
- What shapes the range of products/services customers want
- What shapes communication and target market
- What shapes online and offline product and proposition development
- What directs innovation
As your online presence expands, you'll need to test and maintain your site's design regularly. Testing regularly will optimise your brand's online performance, security, and stability, and its applications can be improved to ensure the success of your website. As part of your ongoing maintenance, here are some key performance indicators (KPIs) that you should track.
- Time visitors spend on your site
- Where they go on your site
- What visitors are clicking on
- At what stage is the cart abandoned
- What are the preferred payment options
- What device are customers operating on?
- How they are finding your site.
Once you have collated and analysed the metrics, you can make the necessary adjustments to your site, if any.
#2 Design for voice search
The movement away from using a keyboard for searches is gaining momentum. Consumers like it- this year, voice-driven shopping is estimated to reach $40 billion. At the same time, 71% of executives at companies believe voice search will improve the overall online user experience, and 66% say it can help drive conversion rates and boost revenue. It's now up to businesses to stay up with the changing landscape of voice search by optimising their interfaces, platforms, and websites.
It's time to start listening to what your customers have to say. In this voice search revolution, brands and organisations need to consider the tone, word choice, and phrasing that people typically use in voice search and then leverage this in their marketing and ad copy. This blog, 8 Quick Voice Search Tips for Copywriters, offers some sound advice, including why it's important to write in a conversational tone and use lots of long-tail keywords.
Executives believe voice search will improve the overall online user experience
#3 Define your digital roadmap
Establishing and maintaining your brand's digital presence is more complex than building or refreshing a website. To create a solid online experience, organisations must consider all aspects of the customer journey and meet them in every area. Today's consumer expects brands to offer an omnichannel presence - meeting them on whatever platform and device they prefer. This digital ecosystem can present challenges - from bandwidth issues to consistent messaging and customer service across relevant platforms.
The breadth and scope of such an objective can be daunting. To alleviate the strain on resources, brands must prioritise initiatives based on their measurable impact.
At All human, we work with customers to ensure that their digital strategy correctly aligns with and prioritises the list of activities on their roadmap appropriately. Usually, we identify early wins, which are sometimes small, to create maximum impact and build internal momentum. We focus on the right improvements to reduce the risk of a diminished customer experience and/or wasted budget.
#4 Focus on security
We all want to feel safe - off and online. When making a purchase, there is an assumption by customers that brands are taking every precaution to ensure that their data, especially sensitive information like bank details, are stafe. However, the fact remains that data leaks and breaches happen. The HSE website was hacked in 2021, leaving thousands of patient data at risk of exposure. Other recent high-profile cases include Apache Pizza, Bank of Ireland, and MyHome.ie. Earlier this year, the Irish Data Protection Committee(DPC) imposed a fine of €17m on Meta Platforms Ireland Limited (formerly Facebook Ireland Limited) over data breaches arising from GDPR infringements.
Customers want to feel safe off and online when making a purchase
Brands can suffer financial and reputational damage arising from these data incidents. Consumers also lose trust in the brand's ability to keep their data safe. Therefore brands must develop digital experiences that take proactive measures to protect people's data. One of the ways All human provides customers with security features on their websites is by following the guidelines set out by the International Standards Organisation (ISO), which provides requirements for information security management systems. Using these standards enables organisations to manage the security of assets such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details, or information entrusted by third parties.
#5 Create for the human behind the digital
I'm aware that there is a dichotomy between human and digital for some, and others might even suggest that one contradicts the other. However, it is not as simple as that- we can make digital more human and replicate the human-to-human interaction in the virtual world. Brands can deliver on this by establishing two-way communication whereby you get to know your customers, and they get to know you. As you learn what drives and excites them, you can use this wealth of data to make purchasing experiences more human.
What are some ways brands can interact with people? For the most part, humans crave surprise and spontaneity. Visitors to your website enjoy engaging with new and exciting ideas demonstrating your brand's human side. Share different forms of content, such as surveys and polls, and prizes and contests to stimulate people's emotions further. Surveys and contests are also an excellent way to learn more about your consumers to serve them better.
There is also an excellent opportunity to build in and promote brand loyalty. Creating communities through events, campaigns, and brand initiatives is a surefire way to attract and retain your customers. And again, think long-term- the goal here is to create long-term relationships with customers that endure and grow over time.
#6 Deliver a positive customer experience (CX)
This one follows on from my previous point- consumers are people. And people have expectations around interactions with brands. Recently we worked with Failte Ireland to design a website that would attract more visitors to holiday in Ireland. We conducted lots of research to discover what people want and need to plan their holiday. The insights we gleaned from these studies informed the design, development, and build of the award-winning website, DiscoverIreland.ie.
Award-winning website, DiscoverIreland.ie
We spent a lot of time brainstorming before the build on what someone looking to book a holiday would want. One of the best ways to ensure that the location you book is the right fit is access to reliable and trusted information. We incorporated content- presented in various formats- to showcase Ireland's environs, counties, towns, tourism attractions, and particular interest areas such as coastal escapes, outdoor experiences, and city breaks. Visitors to the site now have access to over 160 articles, 372 destinations, and 20 collection pages to help them make an informed decision.
A key component of any customer experience is the service provided during and potentially after the purchase. Presuming that all the action is virtual means customer service is not a priority is a huge mistake. Brands must continue to offer a superior level of consumer service as part of their digital strategy. Consumers want to feel special, that you as a supplier care about them for the complete end-to-end experience.
#7 Keep innovating
Technology is not static. In recent months, we've seen a massive change in how people pay and interact with platforms. TikTok, relatively unknown last year, is accelerating at a phenomenal pace, and I'm sure there is another new platform being tested somewhere. While online shopping is hugely popular, there is still a lack of 'purchase certainty' for some consumers. Will the shoes be a good fit? Will the cushion match my rug? To resolve this, brands need to invest in immersive technologies. Consumers will feel more connected to products if they can interact with them through virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), interactive video, or whatever immersive technology fits the purpose. However, trying to mirror an in-person experience online is not sufficient. Think instead of using the opportunity to create new fun or digital educational experiences that will engage the consumer in a way that cannot be done in person. Lean into the digital and be creative.
Virtual reality - Consumers feel more connected to products they can interact with
Finally, innovations are not always big- All human sees them instead as something organic, part of the digital experience, and folded into the day-to-day process. It can equally be in the form of a complex, immersive AI experience or a micro change on a check-out flow - they all add up to create a positive customer experience.
John Mitchell6 mins
John Mitchell 6 mins
Cheryl Young8 mins