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Online Marketing in four simple steps

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

SITE: The Web Experience

The second S of the Web Marketing Mix model refers to the operational issues involved in creating the proper online or Web Experience. The corporate web site is the main source of customer experience and therefore a lot of attention must be given to this element of E-Commerce. Important questions to be asked here are:

- What do customers expect in the site?
- Why customers will make use of the site?
- What motivates customers to come back?

The web site plays a multiple role: it is the virtual product display, promotional material, price catalogue and sales/distribution point. The site is therefore the functional platform of communication, interaction and transaction with the online customer.
The prime mission of the web site is to attract traffic, establish contact with the online target markets and brand the online organisation. Next to this “generic” mission and depending on the type of the online firm, the web site can be assigned a mix of commercial and non-commercial objectives and tasks. These will be defined in the Scope step as you remember.

Some of the common site objectives and tasks are:
- Communicating and promoting the E-business image, labels and products/services.
- Providing company information to customers and stakeholders
- Effectively communicating the firm physical or virtual promotional activities
- Providing customer service and helpdesk functionality in order to enhance the customer loyalty and retention
- Providing sales leads and customer /market data.
- Allowing customers to communicate and interact with the company as well as creating online content.
- Allowing direct sales and facilitating online payments (transactional sites)
Trying to achieve all or some of these objectives results in what the web customer experiences when visiting the site, what is commonly referred to as the online experience.
The quality of online (or Web) Experience is very important. There are studies indicating that a site visitor needs only 50 milliseconds in order to form a positive or negative opinion about a web site
[1]. An important question here is: What are the components of Web Experience and what is the importance of these for the customer’s choice?

The buying behavior of online consumers is an area where a lot of scientific research takes place. Part of the research has been focused on the identification of factors influencing the online consumer, in other words on the identification of the Web Experience components. A few years ago I published a
paper where – based on about 50 different academic studies - I classified these factors in five categories:


Next to that my colleagues and I try to identify what of these factors are really important influencers for customers searching for and buying products online.
Our first findings (published in
2005) are that in the case of transactional sites the Usability is by far the most important factor, followed by the Trust and the Marketing Mix elements. To our surprise we have found that the effects of the aesthetics of online shops do not influence the customer’s choice as much as one would expect (having in mind the effects of aesthetics of physical shops) To our surprise in our experiment here in Holland we found that Interactivity can even have a negative effect to online customers who obviously do not appreciate loosing time in interaction when they shop online!
In any case this is an area we have for some time now focused our attention here in Twente and in Spain in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Castillia La Mancha. At this moment we analyze the data of a new experiment meant to identify the exact effects of online shop aesthetics on buying behavior. More news about this soon.

[1] Lindgaard G., Fernandes G., Dudek C., Brown J., (2006), Attention web designers: you have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. Business & Information technology, vol 25, nr. 2. pp 115 - 126

Next week: The Organizational Issues (SYNERGY)

Details: The 4S Web Marketing Mix paper

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