Strategy

Is the website becoming irrelevant?

Remember the day a few years ago when you reviewed your website traffic and discovered that most of your visitors were no longer entering through the homepage? Instead, they were landing on lower-level content or product pages, usually from a search engine like Google.

People today want everything at their fingertips. If companies don’t find ways to provide this, they will soon see a drop-off in customers.

Diana Ransom, SmartMoney.com

From that day on, your homepage was no longer the center of your online universe. Just one of many points of entry to consider as you fashioned your online business presence.

Now it may be your website’s turn for a demotion. And you can blame it on the distributed web.

The distributed web is here (finally)

Imagine a world where your customers, employees and partners can access your information and products anytime and anywhere – with ease. That’s the distributed web, a consistent online brand presence across multiple channels and platforms: websites, mobile phones, social media sites, email, syndication and widgets.

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The distributed web has long been a promise of the internet, but it was slow in coming until now. Two dynamics have changed that: the explosion of mobile and social media.

The Mobile web has arrived. With the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and its growing list of smartphone competitors, the long-prophesied mobile revolution is in full swing:

  • The number of people accessing news and information via mobiles in the US more than doubled between Jan 2008 and Jan 2009. [Source: comScore, March 2009]
  • The majority of mobile phone owners now own a smartphone and 57% access the internet from their phone. [Source: Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report, September 2009]

Innovative brands from Apple to Zipcar are experiencing enormous success with mobile. In fact, a customer with Zipcar’s new iPhone app can have a highly-successful relationship with the company without ever visiting Zipcar.com. The same can be said for Yelp and a growing list of other brands. And we’re really just getting started.

Everything is social now. In the last 18 months, the line between “social sites” and other types of websites has disappeared. Almost every site now, from e-commerce sites to corporate intranets, is social. And with brand experiences and conversations increasingly taking place “off-site” on Facebook, MySpace, Scribd, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and hundreds of other community and e-commerce sites, the social web has changed the very concept of where brands “live” on the internet. Consequently, the online behavior of brands and consumers is changing at a rapid pace:

  • 99% of Generation Y users (aged 18-24) have a profile on a social networking site. [Source: Participatory Marketing Network, May 2009]
  • Three-quarters of Americans aged 18-34 years old (74%) have a Facebook or MySpace account. [Source: Harris Interactive, April 2009]
  • 66% of marketers utilized social media in 2009, as compared to 20% in 2007. [Source: Association of National Advertisers, August 2009]

What it all means

Does this mean the end of your website as you know it? Not yet. But for many firms, a website accessed from a desktop or laptop computer will no longer be the hub of their digital business world. Just another spoke. Fear not, however, as there is more to be gained than lost in this new world, including better opportunities than ever to attract new customers, connect with existing customers and find new sources of revenue.

  • One in four US mobile users with Internet access use it to buy goods and services online [Source: Harris Interactive]
  • For 200 leading websites accessed on both PCs and phones, Nielsen reports that mobile traffic provides an average 13% lift on total audience over home PC traffic alone. [Source: Nielsen Mobile, July 2008]
  • 76% of corporate blog owners said both web traffic and media attention increased because of blogs. [Russell Research/Cymfony/Porter Novelli, July 2006]
  • 81% of people use consumer reviews in their purchase decisions. [Source: Nielsen Online via BizReport, February 2009]
  • Well over half of respondents agree the emails they receive directly influence their (offline) overall shopping activity. [Source: Epsilon, October 2008]
  • What’s more, customers who interact with your brand through non-website channels may be your best customers. It is well documented that users who access Facebook through mobile devices are almost 50% more active than those who don’t.

    Are you ready for the post-website world?

    To thrive in this new landscape, you will need to devise web strategies that make your brand accessible and relevant to people on their terms, wherever they happen to be. And this does not mean simply repurposing existing website content for other platforms. It means creating new experiences that make sense for the time and place they are experienced.

    The game is changing fast. Are you ready for the post-website world?