By Steve Walsh
It’s been over 30 years since the first website was launched, on 6 August 1991 – the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee, who created the first web browser and the World Wide Web as we know it.
Tim’s work outlined the concept of websites and webpages – fast forward to 2023 and there are now over a billion sites that bring us everything from simple information, to the way we now shop for everyday basics.
The web has changed in unimaginable ways since the summer of 1991 – but Tim’s straight-forward starting approach, with a clear purpose, still has relevance today.
So, in 2023, what role will the website play, when there are countless channels fighting for the eyes of the world?
Many people are stuck in the mould of thinking the website is the first point of contact with potential customers.
The reality is that the customer journey is rarely as linear as: Visit website, interact with the business, and complete a first purchase.
With social media, Google search, social proof sites such as Trust Pilot, you have multiple different places you can go to start your journey. You’re also battling against more businesses and services. And different types of businesses, too.
For instance, if you’re a HR consultancy business, you’ll be battling against fellow HR consultancies, but also against software-as-a-service providers, templates, YouTube videos with experts offering free hints and tips. It’s crowded, that’s for sure!
The website is now bang in the middle of the customer journey and can make all the difference in that crowded space.
A huge part of the website now is social proof – how we can prove to someone that we haven’t just spun up a site and are, essentially, bullshitters.
You must ensure that the customer is getting the correct, key information at that touchpoint, to enable you to convert them.
What that looks like is better storytelling, better branding – bringing people into your culture, your views, your purpose – and a much better use of case studies and personal experiences. Just putting a testimonial up saying: ‘Jay from Manchester said ‘this’’, doesn’t work.
You need to go further. Like adding TrustPilot and TripAdvisor to your site – real-life examples of success (Google Shopping Ads with ratings saw a 26% higher conversion rate than those without).
People are more aware than ever about corporate culture, so you need to do as much as you can to show real value. This also has the added bonus of allowing people to find you directly through those specific services, and flowing traffic through to your website from those.
What you’re trying to prove when someone comes across your business is two things: One; that you exist, and two; that you’re credible.
The key to the role of the website in 2023 is ensuring it is customer centric. Just as it was for Tim Berners-Lee in 1991.
Understand where it is at in your customer journey and what your audience are getting from the different touch points, including the website, social media, and your other marketing channels.
You should think about what they have likely already learned before they hit your site, and therefore what are the key messages needed at that particular point to get them to contact or buy.
You must ensure your website is designed specifically for that place in the customer journey. That’s currently a huge gap for business of all shapes and sizes.
For example, if you’re a service provider selling consultancy, your website can differentiate you from the other providers, as well as sell what you do. Think about what the customer needs, and then cover off on the site how much better than competitors you are, and why they should use you, compared to them – not just why they should use the service you provide.
Also, don’t assume you’re competing with other businesses of the same ilk. You’re not.
At Jump, we’re competing with Squarespace, we’re competing with Canva, we’re competing with your mate who does a bit of design in his back bedroom. We’ve got to use our strengths, as to why you’d come to us as a human-based product rather than a SaaS, or rather than someone who is under qualified.
I may be committing business suicide here, but the answer is no. But what you do need is to understand how you convert your customers and what your customers need.
90% of the time that still involves a website. But you can convert people onto a digital course through a simple landing page, for instance – is that a website? Probably not, as it doesn’t involve detailed code and it has no depth.
Likewise, you can convert directly through social, or on an app.
During the pandemic, we helped a friend to build a no-code app for their uncle’s butchers, so they could take online orders. We then designed them a flyer, which they sent out to people in the local area, and included a QR code to scan and place an order via the no-code app.
We knew people would already trust the local butcher, they had a good supply chain, sourcing quality meats, so we just needed to make the ordering process slick and simple. It worked a treat. No website in sight.
In terms of outreach, social media is now over-crowded, so it’s difficult to get someone’s attention. But for less than £1,000, you could get directly to, say, 3,000 houses in one square mile by getting some leaflets printed and getting someone to deliver them.
The butchers did that after we launched their app. Very quickly, and affordably, they got into the homes of thousands of customers. And they massively increased their business.
They combined traditional with modern marketing. They didn’t need a website to be successful.
People would arguably frown if you proposed that as a digital marketing agency. We did that as a favour, and they absolutely smashed it, and the ROI of that campaign was huge. It wasn’t sexy, but it was effective. And that’s great marketing.
That’s a good example of not using a website, but using digital as part of a growth plan, in tandem with some change of operations due to Covid. We defined a customer need and their sales increased and business grew as a result.
You’ve got to understand what your aim is, alongside the needs of your customers, and then tailor your digital channels to fulfil those.
Steve Walsh is managing director of Jump and works with people on a daily basis on strategy and digital.