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Marketers need to understand the Website Experience

In a past CMO Magazine article, Hurwitz & Associates claimed that Marketers need insight into the online experience in order to build the brand and offer better customer service and more customized products – and I very much agree with the thoughts made in their great article.


 

IT managers or Webmasters typically have various ways to monitor the performance of a company website which may include real-time performance and availability alarms and dashboards. Sometimes these monitoring methods provide excellent technical information, but may fall short of describing the problem from the end user’s point of

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view. The effectiveness of these methods is increased if managers have a way to experience the site exactly as a customer would and implement technology which allows them to capture the entire user session and archive it in such a way that someone analyzing the customer experience can see the exact steps that a user went through to the point of failure. This can allow Web administrators to get to the root of the problem quickly before it impacts the business. Tealeaf is one of the companies that offer such technology solutions. Understanding what a customer is actually experiencing can go a long way to enhance that experience and build a better brand image.

· Brand – The value of brand cannot be underestimated. A site with a lot of ongoing problems will lose its reputation quickly, resulting in fewer sales.

· Increasing conversion – If users can’t complete a transaction, or are frustrated with navigating through a site because they have come to a page with an error on it they aren’t likely to become a buyer.

· Customer retention – If an established customer is having consistent problems with the site then there is a good chance of losing that customer.

· Decreasing cost – Finding problems with a site can take a long time, especially if someone cannot reproduce the sequence of events that led up to the problem. Between calls to customer support, and work done by engineering and QA, this can be a costly proposition.

Many of the top concerns of today’s Marketers are related to managing and strengthening the brand. Companies with a strong brand identity have usually been successful at incorporating a positive corporate or product image within the culture of the organization and enlisting support for maintaining that image from sales, customer service, and other functional areas. However, the important connection between online customer experience and the brand has often been overlooked. This needs to change given that today’s Internet users have expectations for website functionality and online customer service and security that are significantly

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higher than just a few years ago. In order to compete effectively, some companies roll out changes to their website every few weeks. The risk of online failures is high under these conditions and anything short of optimum performance has the potential to impact revenue and customer retention and create significant damage to the brand.

Companies with a concern for brand awareness need to know much more than the standard metrics used to monitor website availability and performance can provide. One barrier to gaining additional insight into the exact nature of user confusion or difficulty with a website has been the inability to see exactly what the user is seeing as they move through the site. So situations where someone is navigating through a site and all of a sudden they get an error message. can be pinpointed to avoid significant revenue loss and ultimately impacting whether a customer will return to a site, and how they view the brand as a whole.

Back in 2003, a ZDNET website user survey revealed that company websites that are not to be found on the first 5 pages of the major search engines are not regarded as having a web-presence at all, and a poor website is reflected by consumers as a poor company. I am sure this is even more prevalent today.

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