The internet has revolutionised the way in which we search for and purchase products and services, forever shifting buying power from vendor to consumer. Long gone are the days when consumers sat passively by, waiting to be hit by the next wave of slick advertising messages through TV, print or radio campaigns.
The internet empowers consumers, giving them an unprecedented level of choice and they’re using it.
InsideView estimates that 89 per cent of organisational buyers start their buying cycle by using a search engine. Add to this the fact that according to IAB Ireland (the trade association of the digital advertising industry) 85 per cent of Irish adults have access to an on-the-go device and 53 per cent use it as their first choice to go online, and you have the perfect storm of digital disruption, which many organisations are struggling to come to terms with.
But no matter what the complexities of our new digital world, one guiding principle remains – the quality of customer experience delivered through your digital assets and in particular through your website, will ultimately determine your level of business success into the future.
A good online presence needs to be your best sales person according to Chad Gilmer, managing director with digital web agency, iPLANiT.
“Your website should ask customers the right questions and based on their answers, take them on a personalised journey, specific to their needs. This is what we call our customer-centric approach. By asking and answering the questions customers want to ask and need to know, your website can deliver on better engagement and add more value to potential leads,” he said.
Gilmer also points to the fact that all pillars of a digital marketing strategy need to be executed to the highest possible standard to maximise return. He uses the analogy of baking a cake.
“Just like any recipe, all the ingredients need to be great. If you were baking a Christmas pudding, it would be pointless adding Louis XIII cognac, if the flour, eggs and currants were of poor quality, or the eggs were rotten. It’s the same with any component of your digital strategy. One rotten egg destroys everything.
“A business can deliver a product or service that is Louis XIII standard, but if their website is not up to the same standard of quality then the overall taste is not good. The role of the web is fundamental and is the base ingredient to any successful digital strategy,” he said.
According to the CSO, 49 per cent of large enterprises, 43 per cent of medium-sized enterprises and just 23 per cent of small businesses were trading online in 2014. But that only tells part of the story.
It’s estimated that up to 40 per cent of Irish organisations have no online presence at all. In the context of an online spend by Irish consumers of over €4 billion annually, that’s a pretty shocking statistic and one which clearly points to lost business and a valuable opportunity to stem the flow of much-needed domestic spend away from our European neighbours and beyond.
But it’s a statistic that companies like eircom are trying to change through its ‘Digital Boost’ program, a sponsored initiative to get organisations online.
Now in its third year, Eircom will invest €250,000 in 2015 and the program is delivering real results, according to Gary Disley, marketing director with eircom Business Solutions.
“Phase one of the program concentrated on getting companies online. In phase two, we evolved that into building apps. It’s based on a similar principle but we acknowledged that customers’ usage had fundamentally changed. You not only need the online side, but also some kind of mobility strategy,” he said.
Disley cites the example of real estate company, Carlow Property Management.
“We built an app for them and it fundamentally changed their business. For example, people were coming in to pay their rent over the counter. If prospective customers wanted to organise an appointment they had to ring up. But with the app, tenants could pay their rents electronically, make an appointment for an inspection or report a faulty shower,” he said.
“This project compounds my view that there’s a huge opportunity for all businesses to benefit from this technology. I would find it very hard to justify why any business doesn’t need to have some kind of online presence.
“And that could be to better serve their existing customers or to drive better efficiencies within their business. So there’s two parts to it and that’s something companies of all sizes are wrestling with and having varying degrees of success with,” he said.