eStrategy: eBusiness Rainbow and Your Pot of Gold




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Have you ever tried navigating Microsoft.com? On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest, the pain and suffering involved in this experience is a 55!
Here is a gist of the experience. When you enter the domain, you might as well have entered a maze. There may be an indication of where you are but there is no indication of how to get anywhere else. The URL provides no logical guidance. The page format and color provides no clue. The navigation structure is non-existent. You want navigation aids/pointers? Getting an appointment with the pope might be a more realistic expectation!
Without the “search” function, these websites might as well be dead. The complexity of the website makes searching so complex that it is hardly a solution to the massive problem that such websites are.
At first glance it appears that this is a bad user experience – to your average Joe this is a website design issue, Dude! Unfortunately, the damage is much wider, deeper and long lasting:

  1. Higher customer churn: Needless to say, horrible user experience leads to lower customer satisfaction and longer term the customer leaves for greener pastures
  2. Lower sales:
    1. Lack of ability to leverage each visit into a “sale.” If your customer cannot find their “pot of gold,” they cannot buy it from you.
    2. Lack of ability to foster repeat visit: The golden rule of sales is a “multiple contacts” – in a way, each chips away at the buyer’s resistance. In the online world, repeat visits are absolutely critical – the 5th or 7th visit will actually result in a sale. A badly designed website severely hurts sales by killing repeat visitors:
      1. A painful visit does not exactly motivate someone to come back for more.
      2. When they must, they will not remember where they were so the search will start from scratch and so will the pain – except, pain is cumulative and each visit will keep filling the glass with more sorrow
      3. Unhappiness does not translate into sales. To the contrary, it forces customers to look elsewhere
         
  3. Lower share of wallet: Lack of ability to foster repeat visit leads to lower “sales” of more products to the same customer
    1. Cross sell other “products/services”
    2. Up-sell other “products/services”
  4. Lower word of mouth sales: Users tell other users who tell other users. Pundits call it “viral marketing” but the fact is that your best endorsement comes not from celebrities but from your current customer telling their family and friends. This is effective not because they do this service for you for free. This is effective because they have rubbed off their trust on your product/service. This is effective because they have done a “low threat” infomercial for your product/service in a collegial environment. So what does a “bad user experience” translate into?
    1. Bad start off the gate: If a user is extremely dissatisfied, then why would they tell someone else? People do not talk about bad experiences till they cross a threshold of pain. If your website helped them reach that point then congratulations, it is being talked about but the only bad news is…read point b below.
    2. Bad reference: And when they decide to talk about you, dissatisfied users will not sing your praise. Imagine someone telling their spouse: “Honey, I visited this really crappy site. Why don’t you take some time to buy something from there?”

That might seem like bad news but it isn’t. A few months ago it was a 550! Microsoft has made a concerted effort to improve user experience and it shows. Unfortunately, the changes are putting lipstick on a pig – they have a long way to go to create an elegant user experience.
If you think that Microsoft is an isolated example of a chaotic web presence then think again. Most large organizations, especially those with large amounts of data, have boxed themselves into a corner with dysfunctional websites and a vicious cycle they cannot get out of. With few exceptions, these organizations spend millions to create a nightmare for their online visitors (read: Customers) and lose billions in the bargain.
Unless your organization is a monopoly or some government entityJ, where you can ignore the customers who will keep coming back because they have no other option, you must pay close attention to your website’s design.
Is this a website design issue or a failure of the eBusiness capability? We discuss that in Part II…
About the Author:
Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit www.StartSmartS.com. Or feel free to contact Sourabh at [email protected] 


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