Web Development Strategy, Part I: Who Will your Website Serve?
Within a few blinks of an eye, your website needs to define who your company is, what you offer, and what differentiates your brand from the others in your space. For a website to be effective it must be customer centric – stationed as the gateway of your digital, print, and in-person marketing strategy. This is because it is where the sales process often begins (by attracting potential customers online) and is propelled (through conversions like requests for information, trial offers or contact with sales).
With these points in mind, it is essential to concentrate and zero in on the needs and behaviors of your target market and the job(s) they are trying to complete before a line of code or single design element is considered. (While the idea of starting with the customer in the process is obvious to many, the vast majority of new websites are driven by what the competition is doing or to only update the existing design).
In less than 8 seconds, potential customers that first land on your website decide if there is a potential fit, or not. The key to converting website visitors to prospective customers is in charting out an experience that resonates with them and aligns with their expectations. This is done by determining, in advance, the potential problems that would give them reasons to visit your site, and alternatives or elements of a viable solution. The process begins with a “true” understanding of your target market by learning first-hand what potential customers may need from your company, what drives your audience to respond, and how your website can provide what they are looking for.
In this post, we’re going to delve into the tools and processes that shed light on the why’s and how’s of your target market using practical, non-statistical methods that require observation, an open mind, and empathy. Using these tools and techniques will provide insights on how to best present your company in the digital space, elicit behaviors that increase your rate of conversion and accelerate the buyer’s decision-making process.
For a sense of how your products or services fit into your target markets’ lives, observe their behaviors in the context of where they would use your products and services. Ethnography is a form of field study that requires your presence at their location so you could pick up on peripheral and environmental cues that play a role in their daily activities. By observing a target segment in their natural settings, you will learn what you don’t know and help define their latent needs.
A Journey Map looks at a sequence of activities that occur before, during and after a studied event (in this case, evaluating websites in search of a solution). Its purpose is to provide context and meaning to a potential customer’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It helps people working on your website build empathy with the target audience. Journey Maps are also helpful in defining your customers’ expectations and experience during an event as well as what they do after an event. The journey is based on choices, decisions, incidents and influences in the digital space as well as in real-life throughout the buying process. A Journey Map is an excellent tool for identifying and appreciating customer pain points, identifying opportunities for improvement, gaps between expectations and perceptions, sharing a common vision with your marketing partners and across your organization to identify overlooked sales opportunities.
It takes three simple steps to map your customer’s journey.
- The first step is gathering research on your customers and their experience.
- The second is documenting and illustrating your findings.
- The third is refining its accuracy and adding what might have been missed based on feedback from your customers and others in the organization.
Task Analysis takes a deeper dive into an event, which is in this case, is a potential customer’s behaviors on your website. You want to study and understand a visitor’s journey on your website and answers to questions like what do they expect to find and how will they move through your website to achieve their goals? To develop a Task Analysis, ask the following types of questions and play out realistic scenarios based on the answers.
- Where are they in the decision-making cycle?
- What types of tasks are your website visitors looking to accomplish? Do they want to get information, receive assistance, connect with a person or make a purchase?
- Is their need time-sensitive so they expect to be able to interact with someone upon visiting?
- Would high-quality images help with their buying decision or will they make their decision based on interaction with your sales team?
- What follow up do they expect after they’ve completed their selected tasks?
Understanding your target market before you begin a website development project gives you the groundwork to speak directly to them for the most effective, engaging, and positive experience. Investing time into the steps above not only ensures your website will resonate with your audience, but that it will convert contacts to customers as effectively as possible. It’s time well-spent, and a critical first step to a high performing website.