In the new-media age, customer is still king

8 Nov 2010

Customers, not brand, should come first when it comes to building websites, says Tibus managing director Rick McKee.

Sometimes, the simplicity of using the internet belies the devilish amount of detail that goes into building effective e-commerce websites with product directories and catalogues, e-payment systems and other forms of customer engagement.

Rick McKee of leading Belfast web design and development house Tibus says the difficulty is sticking to the core objective when firms embark on a new web strategy.

“Most people tend to forget who their customer is and what they actually want because they’re thinking that much about brand and internal organisation politics. They forget what their customers’ priorities are.

“The customer goes to your website for a reason; to find something, learn something, buy something.

“But many organisations lose sight of that when putting together a website because so much work goes into planning and building. When it comes to the new site going live there’s a big sigh of relief, but the reality is it’s just the beginning because firms are now in a position to take live feedback, learn what people are doing and what works and what doesn’t work.”

He says the problem so far for Irish firms and e-commerce strategies is many will launch a new website and then just forget about it.

“Content goes out of date and it becomes evident they haven’t been thinking about the customer as their first priority. A year down the line many are still scratching their heads wondering why it didn’t work.”

Basic rules and best practice, McKee says, will carry you only so far, firms need to be willing to listen to customers who will tell them what works or doesn’t work.

“Take the analogy of the motor car. When cars first arrived they were at the forefront of technology but looking back we know they were really just go-carts with dangerous engines. Today’s motorcars reflect customer experience in terms of comfort, height off the ground, functionality of seats, lights and mirrors. To continue with that analogy we are in 1935 in terms of where the web is going.

“We’ve learned a lot as a business community but there’s so much still to emerge the way technology is developing.”

Social media and the rise and rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter have sparked people’s imaginations but McKee says there are dangerous and foolish mistakes people make.

“The point we make to people is set realistic goals. Just because a technology exists doesn’t mean you’ll make a fortune. You need to stick to your principles around what it is you want to do and what are your customers’ priorities.

“Taking Twitter as an example, firms are tweeting what’s going on as part of a social engagement exercise, every time they have a pizza night out or go for lunch. But if you ask those companies what is the purpose of their Twitter feed and what it’s doing for customers, they don’t know.

“While social media tools can play a big part in how a company’s online voice is portrayed, they need to think carefully about what they are trying to achieve.”