A brand’s audience is no longer in its backyard, around the corner or just in the city or province. The audience is everywhere in the world, wherever they want to be, using every device imaginable to interact with the brand. Understanding that simple fact gives the brand perspective. The brands find it difficult to provide the kind of experience their visitors expect online. And Internet is bringing the brand and its consumers closer with every passing moment. Like telegraph or the railroad, Internet breaks through geographic boundaries to provide equal access for the dissemination and delivery of information. And these information presented in various digital formats provides the digital experience.
A digital presence offers an opportunity to differentiate through an exceptional online experience. Website is the heart to a brand’s digital ecosystem/presence, the amalgamation of all of a brand’s digital activities through which a brand forms its relationships. Digital presence begins with the website. Not only it’s the easiest destination to control, also it can be the most interactive. A decade ago when I first started offering my website expertise to brands, there were nothing more than newspaper like static display of the brochures and leaflets of the brand/offerings. But just think of today’s scenario, there are interactive, device responsive, integrating combined technologies from social networking sites like FB, Twitter, YouTube, Blog, etc. and software that facilitates to create a memorable and personalized experience for the visitors each time they visit the brand website. The mechanism of delivering a high-performing website is as important as providing the right content for the right relationship needs. Its all about giving the visitors what they want and this is the foundation for engagement and what we promise when the brand expect a consumer to spend some of their precious attention.
Everything related to technology is getting continuously better, smaller, faster and cheaper but websites are on a different path. Of course they are getting better but along the way they getting bigger, slower, and more expensive. But consumer expectation followed suit. Affordability empowered with technology has made consumer expectations more unrealistic in their demands than ever before. As per Google, even 400 milliseconds, which is the blink of an eye, is being considered too long during an online search; that’s because today’s consumers have unlimited choice virtually. The competition is just one click away and literally its that simple and easy to visit a competitor’s website or use its mobile app. There is no barrier to change and the cost for doing so is almost zero to look elsewhere which is in fact the cost of a bit more attention. There are obvious and tangible business impacts for the brands to have a slow website. Its obvious that if visitors are leaving the website, the brand will loose business. What’s not so obvious is the long-term impact of poor user experience on relationships with the visitors. Providing consumers an awesome experience acknowledges that they have a choice. Brands must be more helpful, more quickly responsive, than their peers (competitions). And we new age marketers must focus on engaging the visitors by offering them a great experience every time they visit our brand’s website. When the visitors get what they want – a faster loading website through which to experience the brand through it’s relevant and helpful content, the brand earns their attention with the potential to engage further and move through the relationship cycle and up the relationship pyramid.
While delivering the digital ROI:
In their book ‘The Experience Economy’, James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II explained about the brands staging an experience whenever they try to engage with their customers, connecting with them in a personal and memorable way. It means everyone is selling an experience to build a relationship. Every digital touch point promises an experience to build for the brand and with the right experience the ROI gets delivered. The authors emphasize on the factors like spending attention, generating engagement, providing the right experience and based on these the relationship is formed with the audience or customers. For example brands like HDFC Bank, Kotak Bank, IndiGo Air, Flipkart, Amazon India, PayTM, etc. provide memorable digital experience in their advertising, marketing, messaging and packaging. Let us not argue that digital is not bringing the world closer economically. As per PwC’s digital innovation advisory group, Internet and the digital platforms are triggering a third wave of capitalism that will transform businesses, brands and nations which will lead to extraordinary wealth creation around the world. Internet in real sense is a globalized medium (in India 300mn users as per IAMAI), in the words of American computer scientist David Reed, who describes as connectivity utility:
“The Internet consists of three conceptual clouds – the connectivity cloud for the transformation of information, the resource cloud for the storage of data and the social cloud for networking and connectivity and collaboration. These clouds, which can be public, private or semi-private, provide the infrastructure for the digital economy. They enable the creation of new markets and provide the conduit for fluid movement of resources and demand. As a result brands and individuals worldwide can participate in innovation, wealth creation and social interaction in ways which was not possible before.”
While creating wealth for the brands, new age marketers and digital experts need to ensure the audience expectation is met with the right mix, which is consisting of expectations and experience. And the rise of devices (mobile), which provide seem less access to Internet is on the rise. Users of these devices are using their mobile devices not only frequently, not only as part of their multi-device activities (like tablet at home, smartphone on the go, desktop or laptop at office and so on) but with the same expectations they have from the website when sitting at their desks. This is alarming considering the fact that mobile or network connectivity is inherently unpredictable in a country like India. The excellent digital experience or ROI which the consumer or user expects from the brand is related to it will depend on the variable bandwidth environment, for example when a mobile device can switch from WIFI to 3G to 2G or 4G and everywhere in between varied signal strength. For a slower response or experience the users or consumers will hold the brand responsible.
Along with delivering experience on mobile devices, the brand need to get it’s content and site to show up on those devices in the first place. There is no standard formula for this even if we have RWD (responsive web design), not having a mobile version of the website is suicidal in today’s digitally super charged world. On the other side, mobile technology provides the brands a great deal of detailed information that can help personalize and most important customize context of the experience for the brand’s audience. Once the brands know that they are engaging with content through a mobile device, they can tailor-made the experience for someone who is on the go (even if someone travelling in Delhi or Mumbai metro). Still it’s always challenging to present the content appropriately as per the expectation of the consumers but most daunting task is the scalability of these digital experiences. The brand site or property needs to load fast, no wait and no latency. That’s why the site need to be optimized, as it reduces the latency – the difference between the time when a request is received by a web server and the time it takes for that system (device) to respond, while building and improving the perception. Because perception is reality in digital and that defines the experience and decides the fate of a brand.
With static digital content in the cache and the dynamic content being accelerated, there is only one place left for optimization and that is the browser. While all the browsers are different, but they all accomplish the same basic objective, which is rendering HTML and they do it in their own ways. It means that a web page optimized for one browser may end up performing terribly on another browser. Front-end acceleration is the process by which web content is optimized for a specific browser at the time of request. So a system within a network (or a service provider’s network) looks at the incoming request and detects the browser type and then returns the data optimized for that requesting browser. This allows a brand or business to specify what gets loaded first. Like the digital perception problem, when the audience of a brand sees nonessential or non-interactive elements loading first (when they have to wait to click on what they want), their perception of the speed of the digital experience delivered by the brand gets satiated. Crisp optimization process ensures that the important elements like CTA (call to action), menus or videos are loaded fast even if the rest of the page is still loading.
Brands and businesses need to implement specific strategies to help optimize the delivery of their digital experience and ensure to provide the fastest possible delivery of the digital experience will be an ongoing activity. There are elements like web servers, application servers, databases, third-party technologies, routers, switches, disk-drivers, and this list goes on. These elements produce data, which can help the brand owners to understand performance. While analyzing the data brands can get a sense of the system level impact on it’s website performance. And once brands start sliding down the slope, failing to provide what their audience/consumers want – the content according to their relationship type, when they want it on their devices, as fast as possible, they undermine every opportunity to engage and form ever lasting relationship. In order to ensure highest level of performance or engagement, brands need to utilize either a combination of cloud resources such as available on Amazon web services or Rackspace or a robust content delivery network (CDN). And in both the scenarios brands will get access to globally distributed infrastructure and acceleration services that will deliver the brand website and other digital assets around the world, faster. To conclude everything a brand or a business does online and affects relationships (relationships are real time and persistent in the digital world) and these relationships are truly the ticket to their long-term success – both in revenue and competitive differentiation that determines the digital ROI.
Article written by:
Aroon Kumar, Vice President – Marketing and Social Media, ValueFirst Digital
References and inputs from:
1.The Experience Economy, by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II
2.Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)
3.David Patrick Reed, American Computer scientist and one of the early believers of Internet
4.Designing for the Social Web, by Joshua Porter
5.My team at ValueFirst Digital