Where we've been this year, and where we're headed in 2008.
It's that time of year again: the time we reflect on the past year and wonder what the new one will bring. We covered a lot of ground in this column over the year. He's a short recap for those who joined our program already in progress. At the end we'll talk about trends to watch out for in 2008.
Unlike any other year, I focused quite some time on design topics. It's easy to write a column about analytics or theoretical ways to increase user experience. But at some point, we need to get down to brass tacks and look at designs that work and put real guidelines and best practices in place for specific types of pages on your site. While I tend to concentrate my examples in the retail space, it's so everyone can understand them. Using an esoteric B2B example isn't really universal enough.
We looked at:
Then we looked at search and browse paradigms and pointed out how they seem to be converging. In "Converging Search and Browse" we looked at what some companies are doing, and where this convergence is headed.
One of the most user-unfriendly pages on your Web site is the one that returns search results. We spent a fair bit of time discussing what should be on a search results page, and definitely not an empty search results page.
We discussed "horizontal browsing," or ways your site allows users to find products and content without going down the categorization scheme.
Importantly, we also discussed ways to "devolve your site," because in all the hype of new technologies we've forgotten there are different people. Some have browsers that support Flash, AJAX and the like, while others are on slow connections. In other words, building a fancy (heavy) Flash site, and then building an HTML backup for those without Flash isn't good enough. Most of your target audience is Flash-capable, and if they're still on a dial-up connection they wont get the HTML version. They'll get the Flash version. Slowly.
Multi-Channel Marketing and Widgets
Multi-channel marketing is a passion of mine. More specifically, understanding how to build the pathways between channels in an effort to "embrace" and then "trace" multi-channel marketing is what gets me excited.
One new channel that really made a splash was widgets. We spent a fair bit of time talking about widgets and where they'll play in the e-commerce world.
I started with a fairly bird's-eye view of the widget landscape and why widgets are important to your business.
Specifically, we will continue to see the idea of "decentralized commerce" take hold fast in the widget world then we have in other areas on line, simply because the technologies and Web services needed to support widgets make this much easier than it has been in the past.
Tying together a few topics I write about often in this column, we discussed the analytics that must underlay a widget implementation.
We also looked at Amazon's entry into the widget landscape and understood what it meant.
Acquisition in Q4 and Q1
Two columns this year were geared specifically for those with a Q4 push, followed by a Q1 lull. In the first, I advised we don't waste Q4. I set up some basic best practices for how to interact with customers in Q1 based on their Q4 behavior, including avoiding some common traps we've seen before in overzealous companies.
Then we looked at a customer return strategy. While the advice in the column mentioned above is for customers who bought from you in Q1, this "return strategy" is a wholly different animal. The "customer returns" strategy I put forward is about acquiring the recipient of the gifts as a customer, using a return of merchandise as your trigger.
I spent a little time discussing marketing this year (acquisition and retention). We looked at the importance of trigger-based e-mails that increase both relevance and immediacy in e-mail marketing. Relevance has long been a buzzword in e-mail marketing, but you'll see immediacy become a stronger idea in the coming year.
Finally, I returned to my roots to talk about personalization. I've been in the personalization space since 1997, and a 10-year retrospective on the topic seemed apt. Personalization is coming once more into the fore as new technologies, Web services, and increasing customer sophistication demands our dreams of 10 years ago to be finally implemented correctly. A lot of new companies (including mine) are getting back into this are of the industry in fairly significant ways.
So what's coming up?
We're going to see a lot more in the way of decentralized commerce in 2008. This goes hand-and-hand with an explosion of Web services, and much more highly personalized customer interactions. This includes personalized user experience, customized products, and customized Web sites and services that cut across multiple brands and stores, all coming together to fill the needs of an individual.
Companies must adopt these new technologies to compete. Those relying on technologies of yore will be left wondering what happened to their customers and their hope for a cutting edge brand.
Happy New Year!
Until next time,
Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.
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