Monday, 11 May 2015

Corporate Websites 2.0; it’s all about business 1/3



 Corporate websites seem handicapped in the digital era.

They have traditionally been underused, as a corporate front or shopfront with a product catalogue.  That’s 20% of its potential; tech firms edge towards 100%.  By adding the capability to engage consumers, a wider market can be developed. By adding specific business processes, they could carry out market studies, product or sales development whilst lowering costs. And by improving the overall user experience, revenue would increase. 

Many websites of Asian businesses are a facsimile of the cover page of annual reports, some in the care of IT departments.  But today they should be all about business.  Pre-dot.com (2000) it wasn’t. The mentality was that it must be a thing of beauty.  That’s because websites then were merely a presence, an address on the internet.  You’ll want your shopfront to look good, won’t you?

Corporate website 1.0 provided company information.  Business oriented ones added product listings, with contact information but sales continued as they normally do - offline.  Use the telephone if you want a response!   It has improved, adding more responsive customer service, better selling but except for the hits counter which barely moved, they are mostly static.  By static I mean the website is not actively engaging the consumers but waiting for potential buyers.  With revenue increasingly moving online, more can be done.  Turning it into an active shopfront with revenue-generating activities, both direct and indirect is a way forward.

This post suggests how firms can align their websites to their business operations, rather than simply sales.   And since online, businesses play by different rules, it further suggests incorporating digital mechanisms to improve customer experiences.

What can be done depends on size. Small firms will continue focusing on sales while the large may execute a gamut of initiatives from business development, R&D, branding to long term real-time trend harvesting. 

Lost in translation

Web 1.0 was during the period companies first recognised the internet as a place for business.  It was without precedence.  In designing their websites, they took inspiration from the early dot.com’ers who in turn took it from media.  That phase was all about portals. They saw themselves as the new media, thus the newspaper-look.  This has now changed as other digital business models emerge.

Three factors that drove website 1.0 now look out of place.  It is a lesson we can take from.

1. Treating websites as real estate - every open space must be filled

By aping newspapers, Website 1.0 acquired the complex look.  Companies even thought they could sell ads on their websites like newspapers!

Today, witness the new digital firms where the bland look is common. And that’s not because it’s fashionable.

As the new and the old entered their turf, ‘their competitors are only a click away’.  This changed everything.  Looking pretty gave way to making the site impactful.  User experience became design rule number one.

This means the site got to be fast.  The days of loading a beautifully made video on the corporate homepage is over.  Amazon has data to show that delays of microseconds manoeuvring their site costs them millions in lost revenue.  A site needs to serve up content quickly and as directly as possible.  And so distractions, whence once was thought of as a scheme to keep eyeballs on the page became passé.  Now the aim is for a customer to ‘get in, get out quickly’.   The.simple model was born. 

2. Treating the internet as an IT tool

Traditionally, IT is perceived as a tool for back-end operations such as accounting.  The internet was lost in this translation.  Most firms do not regard internet tech as a tool for business, associating it with IT.  In fact media treats AirBnB as a tech firm but really it is in hospitality using internet technology immersively and at the front to drive business.  Similarly Uber would be classified in the transportation sector, not tech in time.  Conventional firms could adopt tech as they have, deliberately, systemically to run their business, at the front and back.

I associate the term ‘tech’ with technology used to drive front-end revenue while IT automates back-end operations.

The next post continues with the third factor, ‘misguided use of websites’ and how to move forward.




@tommichen7
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