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
So 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.
Take 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.