Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recession Driven Trends for the Web

Every year I write a report for my employer that outlines this year’s accomplishments as well as what to expect from us next year. It never ceases to amaze me how emerging trends of the web as a whole are reflected so accurately in this report. You’d expect that during a recession budgets would be reduced. This gives us an opportunity to innovate and analyze how we do business. To spend the money we do have much more wisely. It’s a chance to accelerate growth faster than our competitors. On the web, this translates into a focus on building relationships with users, targeting specific needs through various channels and then accurately measuring our progress. Doing this well, will position your company to come out of the slump looking like a star.

With increased unemployment, users are spending more time online. 67% of the global online population visit member communities (Nielson Online, March 2009). Simultaneously, for the frugal business, the more expensive “push marketing” tends to drop during a slowdown. Focus shifts to “direct marketing” and relationship-based strategies such as email marketing, lead nurturing, search marketing, and online communities. These are people who are already interested in your products and services, people you can build stronger relationships with.
Gone are the days of short-sighted, sales-driven marketing campaigns that catered to the impulsive buying of an affluent economy. The focus has turned to building your brand using long-term platforms that effortlessly delivers fresh, useful content, adding value and convenience for your customers on a daily basis. Companies are building or rebuilding personal relationships with their customers through one-on-one coversations and creating a sense of community through their web interactions.

Some examples of business communities:
  • Starbucks includes local events on their site along with a convenient application for mobile devices to easily find locations. Additionally, they have a dedicated portal for consumer idea submissions.
  • Intel hosts a community site for engineers to collaborate and learn from.
  • Bank of America started a small business online community for ideas, information, and collaboration among peers.
  • Nike’s runner community offers a place where runners can find motivation, get inspired and keep track of their personal stats.
All these initiatives enhance user experience on a daily basis. They make it easy to interact regularly with customers asking little or nothing from them in return. Ultimately these tools enable relationship to become established with consumers for less money than the cost of repetitive ad campaigns.

Social Media
10% of all Internet time is spent on social media sites. According to Neilsen Online, social networks and blogs became the fourth most popular online activity beating out personal email. Social media marketing has spread like wildfire because, simply put, it’s free. Consequently, businesses increasingly integrate social networking websites into their marketing strategy. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are ideal tools for generating sales leads, engaging prospects, and announcing new products, as well as sharing news, research and ideas.
Reusable content
There are so many avenues for users to reach your content spanning numerous sites and technologies. The emerging trend is to organize the content in such a way as to deliver a consistent message no matter where it is consumed or how it is skinned. Marketers are moving away from building expensive microsites and instead are focusing on tactical placement of pertinent content in places that meet individual user’s specific needs. Digital content is now designed to be syndicated so it can be entered in one place by a content owner and then reused across primary websites, partner sites, widgets, applications, social presences, blogs and mobile devices. A person can enjoy your content through their chosen method without ever visiting your primary branded website.

The recession is forcing stakeholders to become more accountable spawning a high demand for measurements, analysis and optimization. In fact, the Online Measurement and Strategy Report 2009 (conducted by Econsultancy in combination with Lynchpin) reported the proportion of firms looking at social media metrics alone has doubled during the course of this year from 21% to 40%.

Demonstrating ROI through websites is not always easy to do. Follow these tips to help:
  • Build a monetization model by linking web activities to money.
  • Base your model on facts you already know.
  • Start simple and then elaborate as much as you can.
  • Most importantly, your model should be consistent and realistic.