Digital marketing requires keeping up with the constantly evolving expectations and habits of customers. As we face an ongoing explosion in channels and rising expectations around the quality and consistency of online experiences, it’s more critical than ever that organizations have a well-developed digital reach strategy.
While companies are facing escalating demand for convenience, consistency, and data privacy, consumers are expressing extremely low tolerance for online interactions that don’t meet their expectations. Research shows that 53% of mobile site visitors leave pages if they take longer than three seconds to load and almost half of consumers will share these negative experiences with friends and family.
Creating a digital reach strategy can help promote customer satisfaction, increase awareness, future-proof businesses, and growth. Here, I’ll look at the initial five pillars of digital reach that any business involved in digital marketing should be paying attention to: speed, findability, accessibility, privacy, and consistency.
Perhaps one of the most prosaic, yet most impactful, elements of digital reach is the simple speed at which the experience reaches the consumer. Studies show that page load speed is directly correlated with bounce rates (the share of your visitors who leave an experience without engaging with it). Consider:
• Pingdom discovered that the average bounce rate for sites with page loads of three seconds or less was 9% but skyrocketed to 38% if the page took more than three seconds. Yet, many web operators don’t monitor their own page loads daily.
• Akamai, the world’s largest content delivery network, analyzed their customers’ data and learned that a delay as small as 100ms (1/10th of a second!) reduces conversion rates by up to 7%.
Organizations need to focus on streamlining their experiences, making sure that only critical third-party tags and scripts are loading, that pages are well designed, and that their web content systems are not needlessly delaying dynamic content.
Search is the #1 way for online consumers to discover new brands and products, so it remains critical in 2020 that web experiences are discoverable via organic search. Most companies will outsource their organic search strategy to a SEM (Search Engine Marketing) agency, that will typically focus on keywords and paid search.
Search engines prioritize pages that meet their standards. Organizations need to take more ownership internally for ensuring high quality pages. This includes the basics of:
• Fast (see pillar #1!)
• Correct spelling & grammar
• Mobile-friendly (and fast mobile delivery)
• Technically correct HTML
Related to findability is ease of use. Ensure your consumers can easily engage with, explore and discover the content or products that they’re looking for on your site. Don’t scrimp on user experience.
Over 18% of web users in the US have a disability of one kind or another. If you build your digital experiences without considering the needs of this audience, you’re potentially eliminating a quarter of your audience. And, with increasing awareness and new legal requirements, not being accessible places your company at risk of lawsuit or fine. Consider the case against Domino’s Pizza that rewarded a blind web user with a winning case at the US Supreme Court because the Domino’s website didn’t work with his screen reader. Also, Pew Research found that 50% of Americans with disabilities are less likely to feel comfortable and confident when using the web compared to those without a disability.
To maximize reach, organizations need to place accessibility standards at the core of their digital experience design, implementing WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards and ensuring that the experiences are going to work for all users on desktop, mobile, screen reader, or other assistive technology.
The market is changing its perception and expectations around privacy due to a confluence of factors: increasing awareness of companies mistreating private data (Cambridge Analytica, Virgin database, etc.); huge investments from large corporations, such as Apple, on privacy as a competitive advantage; and the rapid rise in the number and complexity of privacy regulations. These factors are raising the standards not only of legal requirements around privacy, but your customers’ expectations for how their personal data will be handled.
Some companies are responding with a minimal compliance approach, settling on the basic requirements to comply with regulation. In pursuit of maximizing their data collection, these organizations put up so called “cookie walls” that prevent any access to content if the visitor doesn’t agree to cookies and tracking. They make it very difficult for consumers to find a way to opt-out in their privacy settings; they make selective privacy controls complex and hard to use. These techniques will not win the confidence and trust of your customers. Instead, they’ll leave consumers with a sense of powerlessness that drives irritation and poor brand perception.
To build lasting brand relationships, you must follow the principles of Privacy UX by putting customer data collection and permissions at the heart of your customer experience design, rather than as an afterthought.
For example, use a progressive consent form to ask for permission for data collection, once the visitor has seen value from the digital experience that you are offering. Collect data only when there’s a genuine interest of improving the user experience, such as asking for geo data as a way to improve finding locations on a map instead of an intrusive pop-up before the page even loads. Giving consumers control of their data will ensure you are building relationships with your audience based on trust and fair exchange value.
There is a reason why brand image remains a key part of marketing principles. Interactions that look and feel the same across media not only enhance how consumers perceive brands, but also create a sense of personal connection. Similarly, oversights such as spelling errors, broken links and pages that fail to load can signal that brands are neither running a tight enough ship nor committed to providing high quality content for their audience. Consistency must be an integral element of any strategy – both online and offline.
In addition to the central components of brand imagery — such as company logo, color palette, font, and core messaging — marketers must uphold high experience standards. In particular, this means persistently monitoring each touch point to spot and resolve potential issues. By maintaining a consistent, high-quality user interface, they can create a strong and appealing brand identity with serious staying power.
Ultimately, digital success boils down to positive experience. Consumers have a definite idea of what they want: fast, tailored, easily accessible, secure, and high-quality interactions. And if marketers want their lasting loyalty and dollars, they must ensure online strategies aren’t purely centered on optimizing reach; understanding the audience and delivering what matters to them is key.