Talk to many marketing executives, and you will quickly find out that web design is not at the top of their agenda. They care about branding, social media and customer analytics, but for many, web design is a foreign domain that they prefer to stay away from. They may be opinionated about visuals and making sure that key messages are delivered on the web, but web design is about much more than that.
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To start with, when you run a marketing campaign, your goal is to get customers interested and in the door. This applies whether you are mounting an online campaign or a media campaign. However, all of that effort can go to waste if your web design isn’t up to the job. Obviously, this starts with visuals on your website – a poorly designed, unprofessional website can completely destroy the credibility of your business, and by extension all your marketing efforts.
In fact, according to usability.gov, “Nearly 75% of respondents reported making credibility judgments based on the content presentation rather than by evaluating the content’s or creator’s authority, trustworthiness, reputation, or expertise. It has been well established in advertising that how a product is presented visually impacts sales.” Given the fact that many potential customers will check out your website even if you aren’t focusing on the web as a primary marketing and sales tool, this means that creating a credible impression through web design is always important.
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However, it becomes even more important if you are running an online campaign – and simply having credible and attractive visuals isn’t enough. Subtle changes can make a big difference to website conversion rates, even though they do not have a big effect on visual presentation. For example, presenting potential customers with too many choices can significantly lower conversions, as can the order in which information is presented. Serious web design should include a significant amount of A/B testing to establish what works best – while marketers may not care about the details, they need to care that there is a proper program in place to ensure this happens. Remember, the goal is to drive sales, not just interest. A campaign that raises traffic by 25% can be more than offset by poor design that reduces conversions by 50% – and this is perfectly possible.
At the same time, site architecture is also incredibly important. No matter how functionally perfect your site is, poor performance can completely undermine your brand – you only have to look at the recent problems with healthcare.gov to see what effect poor site architecture can have. Again, marketers need to care about this – not only can this affect a particular campaign, it can have a long-lasting negative impact on the company’s brand. Therefore, marketers should be directly involved in the choice of web development contractors and helping to scope out the requirements involved. For example, marketers may need to push for a blog and an easy way to create landing pages.
Flexibility is another key aspect that needs to be addressed when it comes to web design – and again, this has to be driven by marketing requirements. There is no point in being locked into a particular set of capabilities without having the option to introduce new ones. For example, you may not want to go beyond basic social media integration today, but a site design that precludes this or makes it prohibitively expensive to add has to be rejected out of hand. Similarly, if you need the option to change pricing schemes easily, or even modify pricing depending on the channel through which a customer arrives – for example, renewals vs. new purchases – these requirements need to make it in to the site design up front, rather than trying to retrofit them as an afterthought.
Finally, remember that marketing does not stop once a sale is made. It is equally important to ensure that existing customers are satisfied – even if they are only making a one-time purchase. Customer support needs to function flawlessly on your website, and has to integrate with backend systems and processes – otherwise, you’re heading for disaster. A single dissatisfied customer can influence a thousand others, particularly with the vastly increased profile of social media and review sites. It is so easy to throw away all the work that has gone into creating a positive company reputation simply by providing poor levels of customer service, or by making these services too difficult for customers to access.