It’s vital that the most senior decision-makers in your business understand the deep impact of online activation in shaping the customer experience.
How activation drives market share
Customer experience is now rightly regarded as central to every business at scale. How you acquire customers, and how you keep them, drives share of category and profitability.
Yet, it’s increasingly hard to grow your customer base, or maintain customer relations, without a robust, content-rich online experience.
To misquote William Goldman (screenwriter of “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid”), ‘nobody buys nothing’ nowadays without checking it online. It’s even worse in B2B. Buyers scope out the market and make about 70-80% of their decision before your business hears from them or not.
Your sales process may start with tendering or face-to-face sales. But the customer journey begins online.
So, something as seemingly simple as content strategy can have deep repercussions for the competitive position and sustainability of your business.
Now, as a senior business exec, no-one’s expecting you to become an internet guru.
But, if you’re on the board, in the marketing team or heading up customer experience (CX), you’ll benefit hugely from having strategic insight into the digital ecosystem.
So, here’s our simplified 2-minute guide to get you thinking like a digital native. (Bear in mind that SEO is fiendishly complex and technical and this is a quick skim across the surface.)
Why online matters
Most of the time when people search on the internet, they’re not buying things. They’re just searching for fun or information.
But when someone is actually considering a purchase or perhaps changing suppliers, they follow an often messy, extended process – from tyre-kicking to general information to product queries to brand searches to specific ‘commercial intent’ signals.
The direct impact of rank
So, when someone uses a search engine like Google, the site returns a Search Engine Results Page (SERPs). This page lists, in ranked order, the sites which Google deems to be the most authoritative and trusted sources for the topic in question – along with relevant paid-for listings.
In general, 90% of the users will choose to click on the natural/organic listings rather than the pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements.
- Roughly speaking, around 40% of those users will choose the top-listed organic link.
- About 20% will choose the 2nd listed link.
- Around 10% will choose the 3rd listed link. And so on.
HOW SEO AFFECTS
Around 90% of clicks go to the top few organic listings.
Accordingly, the top ranked sites not only get first bite at sales opportunities, they can actually direct the pattern of the consumers’ searches.
So it’s simple.
To drive the complete customer experience, all you’ve got to do is become the #1 trusted and authoritative site in your sector.
How hard can it be?
Getting caught in traffic
One of the key challenges in understanding this new business ecosystem is to grasp the artificiality of the situation. What can you do within the rules to enahnce your position?
Imagine the internet as a Super-Highway. No, really. Picture a road jammed with traffic.
As a business-to-consumer brand (B2C), let’s say you’re a big double decker coach. If you’re in business-to-business (B2B), imagine yourself as a large delivery truck.
Around you, there are all kinds of competitors. In cars and people-carriers. In taxis and pick-up trucks. On motorbikes. All trying to get in front of you.
Some dodgy geezers in white vans are driving down the hard shoulder.
And there’s Google – like traffic cops trying to maintain order, ensuring people stick to the Highway Code.
Everyone is competing with you – trying to get to the front of the queue, to get closer to your customers and prospects.
Do the bus stop
And now you see, ahead of you, a new-fangled vehicle pull in.
Some geeks jump out and put up a bus stop. They don’t actually have the trouble or expense of actually owning or running a bus, they just have a bus stop. And your customers start to congregate there.
You pull up at the stop and the geeks want to charge you a commission, say, 8% of the annual value of a new customer to let each one onto your bus.
These new left-field competitors might aggregate industry data or do ‘price comparisons’.
But, fundamentally, they’re coming between you and your customers.
THE STING OF
Intermediation, the sting that often puts the ‘ouch’ in touch points.
And, in many industries across the world, that’s the future.
All those people ahead of you are powering their progress with content – online information that’s regarded by Google as more credible and useful, engaging and shareable for users than the fare you offer.
In many sectors, your business is no longer the sole, or even the primary, information source on your products.
Some bloke in his bedroom may be churning out opinion, qualified or not, which outranks your own information.
So, what is it that Google is looking for as evidence of ‘authority’ and ‘trust’? How does it work?
The Google algorithm is something of a trade secret – and they want to keep it that way.
Partly it’s for commercial advantage. But they also want to stop shady operators (of whom there are many) from gaining undeserved business from unfair rankings.
Nonetheless, there are elements which can be deduced from Google’s statements or suggested from testing and experience.
The digital experience
There are over 200 factors involved. These can largely be broken down into four categories though in practice these often overlap:
- User Experience
For example, does your site load fast? That seems like a technical issue but has a huge impact on user experience. Is it mobile-friendly? Again, a technical issue but also critical for users.
Your site needs to be bot-friendly. It’s helpful if the information is presented in a way that suits Google, but it also needs to engage people in the real world.
Critically, that means creating rich content, aligned with the needs of your customers at varying stages in the buying journey.
In default of having a technical SEO report, there’s a quick thought experiment you can use to check the relative richness of your content. Here’s how.