I've never written an annual "State of the Website" blog and endeavor for it to be more relevant than the State of the Union speeches have become. As the leader of a company that has been designing websites for 20 years, a recent blogpost by Michael Brenner, titled "Is the corporate Website Dead?" certainly caught my eye.
Dire prognostications are standard operating procedure in the blogoshphere. Example: a few years ago I read that Search, which is more relevant than ever, was dead. Americans need to be always onto the next great wave, whatever that is, lest we be left behind or be perceived as yesterday's news. We're all journalists now so I salute a good headline when I see one — hyperbole aside — so let's see what's behind this one.
Mr. Brenner sites research like:
- According to Webtrends, nearly 70% of Fortune 100 corporate websites experienced declines in traffic, with an average drop of 23%.
- 90% of website traffic comes from just 10% of the content and more than 50% of the traffic is from just 0.5% of the content. ~ InboundWriter
- 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused. ~ Sirius Decision
- 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects reach out to vendors. ~ CEB
These statistics, which seem to focus on the largest companies, which is not where most of us work, don't suggest the death of the website so much as the need for better understanding of and focus on audience needs and providing content that is reflective of that. Audience focus, or the creating of more personalized experiences is the future of the website. Big companies like Boeing, Siemens and Coca-Cola are now actively seeking audience participation to improve their website's relevance. They are also leading with highly produced customer story videos and prominent links to their well-staffed social channels to enable ubiquitous sharing.
My own experience is that most B2B companies are still quite enamored of their products, want them emphasized on the website, feel that education, while important, is a distant second on their websites, to lead generation. So, in 2014, we still need to lead discussions about the importance of focusing on the audience, addressing their pain points and providing relevant customer anecdotes.
While it is imperative for B2B companies to continually look at the B2C world and the Fortune 100, which is where marketing trends often originate, there is usually several years lag time before B2C or big company trends are absorbed and reflected in B2B websites. Compounding this is the generational reality that many individuals in B2B leadership positions today are not digital natives and have not yet really become comfortable with the notion that the website is becoming "A desination" within a network of customer channels, rather than "THE destination."
We are believers in multi-channel marketing, personalized web experiences and the website as a continual process rather than an one time event. RainCastle is often invited to bid on redesigning a B2B website and often a B2B brand in which the client presents the website as a finite project to be completed in a specific timeframe. The assumption is that we will create a better user experience with better content, navigation, design and content management capabilities. What it fails to acknowlege is that in order to stay relevant to their audiences and to Google, maintaining a relevant website is a constant process of creating new content, measuring its effectiveness and creating additional content based on analysis, to nurture prospects through a sales process, or others through an education process, and to connect with them in meaningful ways, across channels. This work is never "complete." In the B2C world, the website is becoming the most ubiquitous entry point rather than the final destination in many cases. This will be true for B2B as well, over time; change will be an evolution not a revolution, at least for the next several years.
2014 and beyond are looking pretty good for the website. We look forward to creating more and more personalized experiences across channels, over time.
Far from dead, the website is only now really coming to life.