Future-Proofing Your Web Site

How future-proof is your Web site? Is it prepared for the coming consumer generation — a group that will, in all likelihood, conduct most of its transactions online?

According to the BRANDchild study, 22 percent of tweens (kids 8 to 14) have already purchased online. Seems strange. Not many credit cards allow children to buy, and there are few widespread alternate payment methods online. Despite my misgivings, the figures illustrate such a dramatic rise in online purchasing rates. Site owners simply can’t afford to overlook this.

What’s more, close to 60 percent of tweens decide what brands their parents purchase. This, combined with rising online purchasing by kids, has clear implications for Web sites. You must prepare for a generation completely unburdened by any fear of the online environment. These kids are more likely to purchase products online than off-, and feel more comfortable in an e-commerce environment than a real-world one. Prepare your site for a generation that wouldn’t hesitate to boycott a brand if it failed to offer a full palette of online services. A brand could well fall out of favor if it didn’t offer more than its offline equivalents.

Future consumers will conduct most of their transactions online and via mobile phone.

Below, a future-proof test for Web sites.

Challenge 1: Are the services and products you offer online as comprehensive as those available offline?

Consumers expect some benefit in their online dealings. The advantage needn’t o be momentous, but must be obvious. It could be anything from a discount for large purchases to free gift-wrapping, complimentary delivery, or advice at no cost or obligation. The level of offline service we once expected from stores is fast disappearing. The gap needs filling.

Challenge 2: Have you leveraged the value of interactivity by designing products and services to leverage this online characteristic?

This is what the music industry forgot and Apple got right. At Apple’s music store you can purchase one song for $0.99. Only online capabilities and interactivity make this possible and justify the price.

Challenge 3: Do you use symbols, icons, and signage consistently across all communication channels and ensuring 100 percent brand synergy?

We depend on heaps of symbols for all communication, including our brand messaging, online, offline, and via wireless. Signage, graphics, language, design, and color schemes must be consistent in the offline store, the online store, and all information touch points: directions to cash registers, discount notices, exit signs, disclaimers… you name it. Product design, shelving arrangements, and point-of-sale (POS) materials should be adapted to your Web site and your wireless presence. Consumers will recognize your brand and won’t need to repeatedly relearn its personality and procedures.

These three rules require attention to myriad complex details. They’re challenges most brands haven’t met, even after eight years on the Web. The clock’s ticking. The music industry is feeling the effects of the next generation’s consumption preferences. The results register on the bottom line.

Prepare your brand to meet these three challenges — soon.

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