Tips for Build­ing a Suc­cess­ful Web Strat­egy in 2016

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Content - By Fadi Sab­bagha | @fadis­ab­bagha

De­sign­ing a suc­cess­ful web strat­egy is one of the most com­plex yet most ex­cit­ing chal­lenges for any busi­ness any­where to­day. The com­plex­ity lies in achiev­ing sim­plic­ity and rel­e­vance amidst evolv­ing web tech­nolo­gies and con­sumer de­mands. As for the ex­cite­ment, it lies in the in­fi­nite cre­ative and tar­geted con­ver­sion pos­si­bil­i­ties of re­spon­sive de­sign and web an­a­lyt­ics. Con­tent is be­com­ing a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor for cre­at­ing brand equity and au­thor­ity. And mo­bile – as re­flected in the wide­spread adop­tion of smart­phone, tablet, and ph­ablet us­age by con­sumers and busi­nesses – is be­com­ing the stan­dard brows­ing mode. Add to that the need to in­te­grate your web strat­egy within your mar­ket­ing ‘ big pic­ture’ and to trans­late web­site met­rics into mean­ing­ful ac­tion, and de­sign­ing a suc­cess­ful web strat­egy be­comes even more cru­cial. Here are 10 con­sid­er­a­tions for a suc­cess­ful web strat­egy in 2016:

1. Ob­jec­tives and Strate­gic Con­sid­er­a­tions

What you want to achieve with your web­site – brand aware­ness, re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion, in­ter­ac­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, trans­ac­tion and com­merce, or en­gage­ment and gamification – de­ter­mines what your web­site should do for the user. Since your web­site – the main owned com­po­nent where earned, paid, and other owned me­dia in­ter­sect – is at the base of the dig­i­tal land­scape of con­verged me­dia, es­tab­lish­ing clear web­site pur­pose can keep your other dig­i­tal me­dia strate­gies on track. As mar­keters re­al­ize that so­cial me­dia is a chan­nel rather than a strat­egy, web­sites re­main the cen­tral axis for dig­i­tal brand­ing and mar­ket­ing.

Af­ter de­ter­min­ing the ob­jec­tive of your web­site, it is cru­cial that you iden­tify your au­di­ence. Even though web­sites can cross ge­o­graph­i­cal and user group fron­tiers, you can­not avoid do­ing proper au­di­ence seg­men­ta­tion, which will help you cater to each seg­ment’s needs. This is why it’s rec­om­mended to iden­tify per­sonas (client pro­files), and then de­fine their dis­tinct needs and how your web­site can ful­fill them.

2. Re­spon­sive­ness and Mo­bile-first Mind­set

More than 90% of me­dia con­sump­tion is now on in­ter­ac­tive screens. In 2015, 43% of the mo­bile phone pop­u­la­tion in the Middle East and Africa ac­cessed in­ter­net from their mo­bile de­vice, a fig­ure ex­pected to grow to 51% in 2019. Th­ese num­bers re­flect the im­por­tance of build­ing a mo­bile-op­ti­mized web­site. One way to do so is through re­spon­sive web de­sign (RWD), an ap­proach aimed at craft­ing sites to pro­vide an op­ti­mal view­ing and in­ter­ac­tion ex­pe­ri­ence through easy read­ing and nav­i­ga­tion with a min­i­mum need to re­size, pan, and scroll across desk­top mon­i­tors, tablets, and mo­bile phones.

3. Con­tent and Con­tent Mar­ket­ing

Your web­site’s suc­cess is highly de­ter­mined by clear, con­cise, and rel­e­vant con­tent that de­liv­ers the right mes­sage and com­pels ac­tion. Con­tent re­mains king, but it’s be­com­ing more of a dif­fer­en­tia­tor. It comes in many forms: text, video, pho­tos, vir­tual tours, whitepa­pers, and oth­ers. Choos­ing the right form of con­tent is highly de­pen­dent on the con­sumers’ pref­er­ences. Brands are striv­ing to cre­ate per­ti­nent and en­gag­ing con­tent to cater to ris­ing de­mand. There is a no­tice­able shift in bud­gets from paid pro­mo­tions to con­tent that au­di­ences want to con­sume. Global con­tent mar­ket­ing rev­enue is set to be­come a $313 bil­lion in­dus­try in 2019, ac­cord­ing to PQ Me­dia’s Global Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Fore­cast 2015-19. The con­tent you cre­ate should fit your con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­egy, and once it is pub­lished, you should mon­i­tor your au­di­ence’s en­gage­ment level and act ac­cord­ingly.

4. Sto­ry­telling

Hey Grandpa…can you tell me a story? Re­mem­ber how this story would res­onate with you? Re­mem­ber how per­sonal it was? And it still is. Just like Grandpa, brands are keen to ap­proach their au­di­ences in ways that will en­hance the emo­tional bond, which drives per­sua­sion and con­ver­sion. And your web­site is the per­fect place to host your sto­ries. Sto­ry­telling is one of the most pow­er­ful tools your web­site can use to per­son­ify your brand. The mo­ment you give your of­fer­ing a per­sona and start shar­ing sto­ries that re­late to it, you cap­ture your au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion and em­bark to­gether on an ex­pe­ri­en­tial jour­ney that speaks to them per­son­ally and brings them back for more.

Con­sumers long for per­sonal con­nec­tions. Sto­ry­telling builds emo­tional bonds, as long as the sto­ries you cre­ate are au­then­tic, cre­ative and in­spi­ra­tional. Peo­ple con­nect with peo­ple. The closer your web­site can get to your con­sumer, the more suc­cess­ful it can be. In­stead of just say­ing it, tell it with a story!

5. Con­ver­sion Ori­ented

To drive con­ver­sions, web­sites should be de­signed to build readi­ness for ac­tion. Your web­site re­mains your key con­ver­sion and ful­fill­ment plat­form. One in­di­ca­tor of its suc­cess is its Con­ver­sion Rate Op­ti­miza­tion (CRO), the process of op­ti­miz­ing con­tent, user ex­pe­ri­ence and user in­ter­face de­sign to raise con­ver­sion rate. Since web­sites’ suc­cess met­rics dif­fer, you must de­fine your con­ver­sion goals to mea­sure your web­site’s suc­cess. Th­ese can be in­creas­ing your over­all web­site traf­fic, grow­ing your com­mu­nity of so­cial me­dia fans, in­creas­ing email mar­ket­ing opt-ins and sales, or lead gen­er­a­tion via form com­ple­tions.

Your goal should be achieved through clear, ac­ces­si­ble calls-to-ac­tion. It should be prop­erly tagged to be mea­sur­able, and should be eas­ily ad­justable to cor­rect any flaw in your users’ jour­ney. Con­ver­sion can take the shape of a sale or pur­chase; form com­pleted or leads gen­er­ated; phone call; signup to a ser­vice or ap­point­ment made; or in­for­ma­tion down­loaded.

6. Calls-to-ac­tion, In­ter­ac­tions, Mi­cro-in­ter­ac­tions

For your web­site to con­vert, it re­quires a call-to-ac­tion – a but­ton or link invit­ing peo­ple to take ac­tion through cus­tom­iz­a­ble copy and re­spon­sive po­si­tion­ing. Chang­ing the but­ton’s color can have an im­pact of up to 35% on con­ver­sion. Since op­ti­cal ar­eas are no longer the sin­gle pa­ram­e­ter and one screen is no longer the main fo­cus, but­ton po­si­tion­ing should con­sider pa­ram­e­ters other than left or right and top or bot­tom, de­pend­ing on whether you need to ed­u­cate your user first or quickly ask for ac­tion. Po­si­tion­ing fac­tors in­clude close­ness to thumb, in­dex fin­ger, other de­sign el­e­ments, or the side of the mo­bile screen or the po­si­tion rel­e­vant to the fold.

Your call-to-ac­tion copy re­mains a key driver for Click-throughs (CTR). “Sub­mit” ver­sus “Down­load your free copy” can re­sult in dif­fer­ent CTR rates. Call-toac­tion copy can be op­ti­mized: “your” can be the ac­tual user name, and “Reg­is­ter” can be­come “Reg­is­ter from Beirut”. There is no sin­gle recipe for call-to-ac­tion suc­cess, but track­ing and mea­sur­ing can op­ti­mize and im­prove per­for­mance.

From small in­ter­ac­tive com­po­nents to data cap­ture forms to gamification, in­ter­ac­tions and mi­cro-in­ter­ac­tions within a web­site will amuse and please. This trend – en­com­pass­ing funny im­ages, ex­pres­sions, hid­den func­tion­al­ity and smart per­son­al­ized data – will be par­tic­u­larly use­ful for com­pa­nies who want to give their web­site users an el­e­ment of fun.

7. Per­son­al­iza­tion

Your web­site’s user ex­pe­ri­ence (UX) should be per­son­al­ized, as that’s what to­day’s con­sumers ex­pect, not just aes­thet­i­cally but also on the func­tional level. Per­son­al­iza­tion can take the form of thought­ful con­tent sug­ges­tions in which ecom­merce sites sug­gest prod­ucts based on in­di­vid­ual user in­ter­est, nav­i­ga­tion his­tory, and so­cial in­ter­ac­tions. It can also take the form of per­son­al­ized no­ti­fi­ca­tions and ac­tions, fa­cil­i­tated by in-depth an­a­lyt­ics and big data.

In­stead of adapt­ing ev­ery­thing to mas­sive seg­ments, con­tent will be re­designed to fit ev­ery in­di­vid­ual. Fastlearn­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will know our pref­er­ences and goals bet­ter than ever. Even the aes­thetic will be led by the func­tional: One web­site UX trend on the rise is split screens that al­low vis­i­tors to choose their own ex­pe­ri­ence.

The bet­ter your web­site can per­son­al­ize tar­get­ing and cus­tomiza­tion, the bet­ter it can reach in­tended users. To­day’s kids – to­mor­row’s con­sumers – ex­pect ev­ery­thing to be su­per-fast, ac­ces­si­ble and per­sonal, on their sched­ule and in the for­mat they pre­fer. This is why web­site mes­sages and au­di­ences should at­tempt to tar­get not just seg­ments but in­di­vid­ual con­sumers.

8. Rich Me­dia and Video

Video is a must-have on your web­site, es­pe­cially if you want to en­gage with younger gen­er­a­tions who pre­fer dis­cov­ery and en­ter­tain­ment on-de­mand. Dig­i­tal video is more pop­u­lar than ever, and its spread is in part due to the wider avail­abil­ity of high-speed broad­band. Brands will be com­pet­ing to pro­duce high-im­pact videos to achieve broad ob­jec­tives from aware­ness to per­sua­sion.

Glob­ally, ac­cord­ing to Cisco, con­sumer in­ter­net video traf­fic will be 80% of all con­sumer In­ter­net traf­fic in 2019. Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 In­vodo re­port, if you can con­vince a shop­per to watch your video, he or she is 70% more likely to buy. Video con­tent, en­gag­ing and im­mer­sive, brings prod­ucts and ser­vices to life. Videos also help build trust be­tween the vis­i­tor and brand and are an ex­cel­lent means of in­tro­duc­ing com­plex prod­ucts or ser­vices.

9. De­sign Trends

Web de­sign trends are de­vel­op­ing at an ex­cep­tional pace. With the ex­pan­sion of mo­bile use and so­cial me­dia that pro­vide end­less con­tent streams, scrolling with our thumbs has be­come se­cond na­ture. This gives web de­sign­ers the op­por­tu­nity to do what mag­a­zines have been do­ing: full-screen im­ages, and im­age ti­tles with no text/links vis­i­ble un­til one scrolls down – the days of fo­cus­ing on the fold are gone.

Other mo­bile-in­spired trends are burger menus and card de­sign. Burger menus are the lit­tle three-bar icons you see in the cor­ner of many web­sites, which trig­ger a slid­ing menu. Card de­sign (also re­ferred to as tiles) is dom­i­nat­ing de­sign due to its ease of use and fa­mil­iar­ity. Burger menus and card de­sign have great com­pat­i­bil­ity with mo­bile screens and are aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing for mo­bile users.

As for prin­ci­ples of de­sign, Google in­tro­duced Ma­te­rial De­sign, which makes more lib­eral use of grid-based lay­outs, re­spon­sive an­i­ma­tions and tran­si­tions, pad­ding, and depth ef­fects such as light­ing and shad­ows. Ma­te­rial De­sign is flat de­sign with a re­al­is­tic feel, which shows lay­ers, di­vides space, and in­di­cates mov­ing parts. Fea­tures in­clude de­lib­er­ate color choices, edge-to-edge im­agery, large-scale ty­pog­ra­phy, and in­ten­tional white space to cre­ate a bold graphic in­ter­face that im­merses the user.

An­other web de­sign trend be­com­ing pop­u­lar along­side con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment in in­ter­net speeds is GIF’S and an­i­ma­tions. Since a flat de­sign can look mo­not­o­nous, an­i­ma­tion can help a web­site stand out and pack more in­for­ma­tion into a small space. The pri­mary goal of us­ing an­i­ma­tion is to help users ab­sorb and process in­for­ma­tion more ef­fi­ciently.

10. Mea­sur­a­bil­ity: An­a­lyt­ics and Big Data

Web­site mar­ket­ing an­a­lyt­ics have made mar­ket­ing guess­work a thing of the past. Clients de­mand data be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to val­i­date re­turn on in­vest­ment. Since data proves re­sults, you can­not have re­sults with­out an­a­lyt­ics. Big data, once the fo­cus of IT de­part­ments, is now at the core of what mar­keters do be­cause it can un­lock growth op­por­tu­ni­ties. Nu­mer­ous tools make it easy to mine and man­age data.

Web­site met­rics in­clude con­ver­sion met­rics, which help de­ter­mine how vis­i­tors are in­ter­act­ing with your site and from which pages they act on your callto-ac­tion. En­gage­ment met­rics mea­sure how en­gaged users are with your web­site con­tent, and ac­qui­si­tion met­rics mea­sure aware­ness about your or­ga­ni­za­tion and com­mu­nity sup­port.

In con­clu­sion, amidst dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, main­tain­ing on­line agility and rel­e­vance in your web strat­egy in 2016 is as im­por­tant as main­tain­ing pur­pose. Your web­site is the core of your suc­cess­ful web strat­egy, but it can’t stand on its own and should sup­port your larger dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strat­egy to at­tract tar­geted traf­fic. You also need to op­ti­mize your earned and paid me­dia to max­i­mize con­ver­sion.

Web de­sign is evolv­ing to­wards per­form­ing re­sult-gen­er­at­ing, richer, dy­namic and per­son­al­ized dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences. We’ll be see­ing smarter so­lu­tions that sim­plify the way we work, con­nect, dis­cover, learn, and play on­line.

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