Candid comments from our most recent CanadianCIO roundtable event show firms are struggling with making their Web presence work

It’s an omni-channel, multi-platform world out there. With all that complexity, it can be tough to provide a great Web experience for customers.

While creating a customer-centric Web presence was tough enough for desktop, it’s even tougher to deliver it to a multitude of devices, browsers, operating systems and platforms, according to one participant at the recent CanadianCIO Executive Roundtable in Toronto.

“What’s frustrating is that it’s still chaos out there. With multiplatform, it’s still a mess for us. It’s not really clear for us what to do,” he told fellow attendees representing both the business and IT sides of the boardroom table.

Many executives in the room said their firms are still grappling with how to translate their sites into a great mobile experience. Others continue to mull over the best way to present the mobile version of their sites: as an app or a fully mobile site? As the participants noted, an app is browser agnostic and your firm can control end-to-end security of it vs a browser-based mobile site. On the downside, multiple versions of an app must be made to fit various operating systems.

Whether they choose an app or a mobile site, many companies still make a lot of mistakes with mobile, said Ravi Maira, vice-president of Web experience at event sponsor Akamai Technologies.

“It’s the wrong experience on the wrong device. You get the full site on the mobile version or vice versa. Or they try to make the mobile (site) faster by dumbing it down too much,” said Maira.

Everyone at the table agreed analytics can help firms avoid those mistakes by helping them target customers on the channel of their choice. One executive warned, however, that getting too caught up in analytics can derail customer-centric Web design, especially if the data is neither useful nor actionable.

“We got to the point where we measured everything. I started saying ‘I can measure that – but what can I do with that?’”

Analytics can also help companies create personalized experiences for customers on the Web. Yet turning that data into actual sales or increased profitability requires strategy, not just statistics, said Maira.

“One of the things we’re all struggling with is how to convert that (analytics) information into actual transactions. It’s easy with e-commerce but it’s tougher when there’s not a direct correlation” with an online purchase, he said.

Despite the challenges of omni-channel, multi-platform and big data, the roundtable did come up with some key elements a site needs for optimal customer experience on the Web:

speed: make sure your site loads quickly, has a fast internal search function and follows up on customer queries promptly

simplicity: those dozens of dropdown menus have got to go

intuitive design and navigation: “I want a site to read my mind,” as one executive put it

a good mobile experience: see above

a good omni-channel experience: customers who start interacting with your firm on one device must be able to continue the experience seamlessly on others

relevance: content must be relevant to what most of your customers want to do (and who they are), not just convey your marketing message

- security: no matter how secure your site is, customers must perceive it as such, so make it apparent

- future-readiness: think about how your site will integrate capabilities for newer trends like the Internet of Things and wearable technologies

- humanity: no matter what users do on your site, keep asking what they’re not doing on it; look for the untapped need they have and how you can fill it

 

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