Boosting Website Engagement

Online Content Strategy

With consumers spending an increasing amount of time online (up to 16.1 hours per week in Australia), some may naturally think this means that their site will benefit from users spending more time engaging with their site. However unfortunately this is not the case.

With browsers firmly focussed on spending their time in the social media space, Web 2.0 along with increased online competition has shifted marketers focus from eyeballs to engagement. And whilst many experts have continued to argue over what metrics should be utilised to measure site engagement – we all know it is important. So how can a brand maximise site engagement?

Back To Basics

Many websites are considering how to improve engagement with consumers through new tools and content however many sites still fail to deliver the fundamentals. Whilst improving engagement goes well beyond refining the user experience, this is a very critical place to start. In this day and age, your competitors are only a click away, and as consumers are unforgiving a poor experience can lead to deflection from the site before real engagement has begun.

What is important is for marketers to focus on refinement of the sites defining moments , the points that make or break your user experience. For instance if your site is a publishing site in industries such as automotive, real estate, jobs or news – state of the art search capability is integral. Whilst if you are in the eCommerce business such as travel or retail it is the entire booking process that can make or break you.

Give them ownership

Audience EngagementSo much site development is done by without consultation with users. And even if you are doing some basic usability testing, it is not going to set your user engagement on fire. But putting the power in your consumers’ hands could be just the ticket to improve site engagement. We can learn a lot from Starbucks and Dell who have shown the value of collaborating with the community to improve product offerings.

So rather than just benchmarking the competition to determine how you you can improve site engagement, why not apply a similar concept to that of Starbucks and Dell to your site development process. By enabling users to generate new ideas for your site, and allowing users to vote for new functionality that they will find useful, you not only get to leverage an untapped resource for innovation, but you get a far better understanding of the uptake of new site tools and functionality before you invest in it.

Learn from the experts

If there is one thing that we can learn from Microsoft’s latest attempt at ousting Google, it is that users are not just seeking information but want to make decisions. With a plethora of products and information online, sites need to consider how their site delivers on this primary need. Consider what tools are going to help your users research, plan, review, exchange ideas, structure and decide on the key decision area for your space rather than simply providing the ability to book or order.
In the web 2.0 world there are many ways to leverage and re-package content, or to fuse content together through mash-ups. By doing so, it can negate the need for consumers to seek out this content off site and provides users with a more engaging experience.

Innovate, innovate, innovate

With the web being so transparent, it is no wonder that sites in the same industry provide the same site experience. As a result, sites particularly those that are pure plays need to invest in innovation and continually push the creative boundaries in order to differentiate. Your users probably in most cases don’t need another forum or social network, so if you are considering such a strategy to improve site engagement you need to consider why users will engage in your forum over the hundreds of others out there. If you struggle for innovative ideas, start by considering how others, outside of your competitive set, or your industry have innovated and how you could potentially apply such a concept within your site to provide users with new tools or social functionality.

Online Content StrategyTake your content beyond SEO

Many organisations have sculpted site copy to become SEO friendly, or prepared content for the prime purpose of ranking in search engines. With engagement becoming pivotal marketers must make sure the user is at primary target audience for site content. The concept of content innovation is key in the process of improving site engagement.

Evolve Beyond Site Boundaries

The reality is, most of the time your consumers spend online is not on your site. And whilst as hard as we try to woo our visitors back, they are sometimes too busy to do so. So whilst this article focuses on improving site engagement, brands must also consider how to maximise brand engagement offsite. Portability here is key. Marketers must consider how site elements and content can be made accessible in a users own online environment ie Facebook etc to extend the online experience beyond site boundaries.

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Where is The Innovation in The Online Travel Industry?

Content Marketing

The travel industry is often said to be ahead of the digital curve, and is one of the most lucrative online categories in Australia. So it is somewhat surprising to see that the travel industry is yet to truly innovate in the consumer engagement arena – particularly when it comes to site functionality.

Consumer InteractionWhilst I have held this belief for a while, it was interesting to see this validated in a recent article on eyefortravel.com which stated that the travel industry has some way to go in order to compete with ‘best in breed’ companies in the website engagement category. Whilst this was a European study I definitely believe this rings true for the Australian market.

The top tier players WebJet and Wotif and other market leaders such as Expedia have to date partly relied on an unsaturated landscape, strong acquisition strategies and consumer appetite to purchase travel online to drive online revenues. So whilst this approach is proving very successful in the current environment, increased competition could turn the industry in Australia on its head. Thus in a sector where the customer base is particularly promiscuous – switching brands for a better deal, a lack of innovation to engage consumers could be commercial suicide.

So where is the industry lacking?

Whilst the travel industry was quick to embrace collaboration tools such as UGC, many of the large players both locally and globally have failed to push the boundaries and differentiate in its use of this content.

Further to this, most sites are not providing the content and tools to support travellers beyond the booking process. Many sites do provide a lot of solid product content, however when it comes to content that supports preliminary decision making for travel – it never goes beyond basic destination information – thus where is the differentiation?

Content MarketingWeb 2.0 has enabled key industries to innovate in very engaging ways. Mydeco.com is just one example of how one player in the home renovations / furnishings industry has bought together a large range of products and combined it with inspiring ideas, 3D design tools and a plethora of community functionality. This provides DIY lovers with complete support throughout the renovation process and several reasons to revisit the mydeco site on an ongoing basis. Whilst the fashion industry has seen the rise of many social fashion sharing sites and community based applications. One such example is Kaboodle.com which enables shoppers to share and discuss the latest fashion along with finding the best prices online.

So what has this got to do with the travel industry right? Travel has one important ingredient that both the home renovations and fashion industry has – consumer passion. Consumers are passionate about discussing their travel experiences and planning their next getaway – but to date I am yet to see leading travel retailers and aggregators in Australia really tap into this and use it to improve brand engagement.

Thus I ultimately believe the travel industry must now push beyond reviews and ratings and differentiate their site through innovative content and tools to provide a truly engaging experience and develop deeper relationships with their consumers.

Those that do could prosper the most in the Australian market in the coming years.

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