Recent posts on this blog have focused on issues of a technical nature like page load speed, but this time I am going to offer some thoughts about customers, especially digital customers.
First of all, you may not refer to the people you do business with as customers - clients, donors or patients might be more appropriate. Whatever word you use, it is important to recognise that these people (which includes me and, most likely, you) are changing their attitudes, behaviours and expectations due to the influence of digital technology and the term being used to describe them is digital customers. Breaking this down a little, digital customers are people who readily use their smartphone for browsing the internet, they are comfortable using social media and may also contribute to blogs, review sites etc., sharing their experiences both good and bad. It is impossible to say what proportion of the population fit this description in any country but it is certain that the percentage will grow and grow rapidly. Google refers to this group as Generation C or the YouTube generation and believes they represent a ‘powerful new force in consumer culture’.
Just think how many more people now use their phones for browsing the internet and even for buying products. Millions upon millions of people use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. Think about TripAdvisor, Amazon and many other sites where people regularly leave their thoughts about places and products. There are, of course, many more examples. And please don’t fall into the trap of believing that most of these people are less than 30 years old. They’re of all ages and as Google says ‘It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset.
OK, so why does this matter to you as a business owner? It matters because your website, social media pages and anything else you might manage online that is connected to your business needs to appeal to this group as well as the rest of the population. Customers, all customers, are much more likely to engage with your business if your web presence is attractive to them. I'm not suggesting that your site should be made only to grab the attention to digital customers, not at all, but I am saying that you need to account for this group in creating your site. They are an important segment and should not be ignored.
One way to help think about this is to create a fictional person that matches up with each segment of your market. This is a well-known design method and the fictional people are known as personas. Yes, it sounds strange but it helps. It's worth sitting down for 10 minutes and thinking about your customers then breaking them into groups. Maybe your customers are made up of:
- Young mothers
- Single men and women under 35
- Fashion conscious middle aged women with significant disposable income
- Stressed senior and middle managers looking for ways to relax
Now for each one, give them a name (Janine, Dennis, Sheila...) and find a photo that might represent a typical person that falls into this segment. Describe this person in more detail – job, family situation, finances, interests, likes and dislikes. The intention is to create a series of profiles of typical customers. It is important now to think about and imagine how each persona uses technology – their experience, confidence and to what extent might they be regarded as a digital customer. You probably know your customers better than anyone so you are in the best position to construct these personas. If you’re not certain, creating a survey and getting some real data from customers can be an enormous help and often leads to important insights about customers.
First of all then, imagine how each of these fictional individuals would see your web site. Does the style, imagery and textual content match up with what these personas would want/need/expect? The answer must be yes, to some extent, as there are people like this who are already your customers. Maybe there are aspects of your site that could be improved? Text rephrased, for example?
In addition, it is vital to think about potential customers. So now, imagine if each of these typical customers was a digital customer in the way described above. Put yourself in their shoes and then go to your website and imagine how they would feel about your site, how they might interact with the site and what they might say about it on social media? Be honest. If you’re not sure, ask some other people that you know for a genuine opinion, or create a survey and collect real data. There are some useful online services that can help you with this such as Applause, Verify and UserTesting .
Potential customers will judge your business by the quality of your website and the extent to which it meets their needs and expectations. So, if you want to attract some of the group of digital customers to your business, it is essential that your web presence appeals to them as well as to other groups. This is a big opportunity to attract new customers to your business and many organisations are ignoring this fact. The time to act is right now.
I hope this short summary has inspired you to take another look at your website to look for improvements. Let me know if we can help you build these personas and give you a view on how your web presence fits their needs.