Consumers make their minds up about a company within just a few seconds of viewing their website. Marketers are therefore under pressure to ensure it entices them into engaging with their brand and making a purchasing decision. But all too frequently there’s a disparity between the B2B brand messages on websites and what customers really want to know, which holds things back.
Research from McKinsey revealed that effective supply management and specialist market knowledge were the most important themes for customer perceptions of brand strength, but were among the least mentioned by B2B suppliers. Naturally this disparity will negatively affect engagement and sales. But what can marketers do to ensure the online user experience is a positive and productive one?
Familiarise yourself with the User Experience Honeycomb
User experience requires a deep understanding of, well, users – what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations. It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project.
At the core of UX is ensuring that users find value in what you are providing to them. Information architecture and UX expert Peter Morville illustrates this though his User Experience Honeycomb where, among other things, he argues that in order for there to be a meaningful and valuable user experience, information must be useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible and credible. These are the principles behind the Government’s successful redesign of www.gov.uk and various public services. They focus on “building digital services, not websites”.
Get to know your audience by analysing their online behaviour
This is not just in terms of how they journey around your website and interact with content, but also in terms of what they’re talking about and doing over other online channels. As the boundaries between work and life blur, so too must the user experience and marketing content. The popularity of sites like BuzzFeed show how people love quirky, visual and fun information that’s easily digestible.
Consider how these principles could be applied to your company’s content. Social networking mining/mapping tools can also be used to better understand what a specific target audience is talking about so you can give your User Experience the appropriate quirky twist. For instance, it may reveal that procurement managers have a passion for gardening so you can then weave this into the way you write and design.
Use wearable technology to hone and explore emotional responses
Whilst rigorous consumer research goes some way to helping understand what users really want, the method isn’t foolproof because it fails to take account of people’s unique ability to interpret their experiences, construct their own meanings and act on these. But the rising popularity of wearable technology is changing this. Gadgets such as smartglasses can be equipped with eye-tracking technology, which when combined with Galvanic Skin Response sensors, enable marketers to understand the automatic and unconscious physical reactions/actions their audience has to messages, content and user experiences.
Consumer brand Shop Direct has actually built an in-house UX lab incorporating this very technology to improve its m and e-commerce offerings. Although for those who can’t afford a lab, all that’s needed is access to the internet, a tablet or mobile phone, application log-in and a small handheld sensor.
Be prepared to keep evolving
It may be tempting to do a big website refresh every few years, but refining the online user experience should be a continuous evolution as user habits and trends change constantly. The best way to build effective online services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release a minimal version early, test it with real users, move from alpha to beta to launch adding features and refinements based on feedback from real users. Develop a feedback process to keep this going constantly. Release often and release early.
A ‘launch’ is not the end of the project, but an opportunity to test the experience in the wild, and get feedback quickly. Acting on the feedback and continuously improving the site is the best way to ensure a consistently satisfying user experience.
If you are interested in wearables, please visit IoT Tech Expo Europe in London’s Olympia this December, 2-3, 2015.