Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Is your online experience fit for the post COVID world?

By Kaysa Kumar, Head of Client Services, Wunderman Thompson Technology

In 2021 digital advertising spend is expected to exceed 50% of total advertising spend for the first time.

It’s no great surprise following a year in which the world turned to digital virtually overnight. In fact, it’s widely believed that the first few weeks of the pandemic in 2020 saw a 5-year leap in terms of digital adoption.

Already digital-savvy consumers were able to go virtual overnight and others turned to accessing services online that they previously might never have imagined using. In a Wunderman Thompson Technology survey, Experiences Customers Want, conducted in July 2020, some 4 months into the pandemic, 62% of consumers told us that they were using more online services than they had previously. Not a great revelation. However, almost half (46%) told us that they were less forgiving of poor online experiences than pre-COVID.

Moreover, 37% said that slow websites were their biggest frustration, with over a fifth stating that a slow website would stop them from interacting with a brand altogether. Yet, in the same survey, when we asked experience and marketing decision-makers how they rated their website’s performance, 77% thought it was ‘great’. There’s clearly a mismatch of expectation here which could be costing organisations dearly.

So, with this intensified and more critical consumer lens on the digital experience, it’s time for brands to ensure that they’ve got these performance hygiene factors in hand. This is about function rather than form and often down to the underlying architecture. Let’s dig a little deeper.

The generational divide

Your digital experience performance is at the heart of ensuring that your consumers’ expectations are met in the post-COVID era. Your Google ranking, the speed at which your site loads, the accessibility of your content and your customers’ perception of how safe your site is, can all lead directly to new revenue and future growth or, conversely, the loss of that revenue and growth.

COVID aside, Gen Z and millennials – the section of our population aged between roughly 4 and 40 – are the generations that have changed the way people shop. Their device of choice is mobile, and Google have changed their indexing accordingly. This means that your mobile site experience is used to generate search listings, not your desktop. A bad mobile experience will impact your Google rankings which switched to a mobile first ranking system in 2020.  Further updates to Google’s search algorithms due in May 2021 will place further emphasis on mobile performance.

Meanwhile, consumers at the other end of the age spectrum, who have turned to online services possibly for the first time because of the pandemic, have other needs and concerns. They’re less familiar with giving up their data so they need a site they can trust. And they’ll find your site less easy to navigate, meaning that you’ll need to prioritise accessibility and make sure your UX is as simple and as intuitive as it could be.

How are you performing?

So how do you know whether your digital estate is performing as well as it should be? Your analytics will help to build a picture of where you are losing customers. But what about those that simply can’t find your site? You’ll have a good idea of bounce rates on specific pages. But can you account for whether customers are leaving simply because they are frustrated with the speed at which pages load? And how do you know whether your mobile UX meets Google’s exacting standards?

Here are 6 key areas that you’d be wise to health check to make sure that you are set up to deliver on your customers’ expectations.

Performance – Does your site load quickly? How does this impact your users and how do your competitors compare? Poor performance will result in greater bounce rates.

Mobile first – Does your site work well on mobile devices? Your customers need responsive interfaces to engage with your business on all devices and your Google ranking depends on it.

SEO – Can you improve traffic generation to your site through customer searches? Good SEO practices ensure that you present your customers and search engines with optimised, contextual content.

Accessibility – Does your site comply with accessibility standards? This will ensure that all your customers can fully engage with your brand online.

Security – Do you have any obvious security vulnerabilities? Brand reputation can be severely impacted by breaches and the legal ramifications.

Privacy – Your customers’ personal data is one of your most precious assets. They need the assurance that you are visibly complying with regulations and building their security into your website DNA.

This kind of health check will give you a set of performance priorities that you’ll want to fix. There’ll be some low hanging fruit which will give you a swift return on effort. Then build out a longer-term roadmap to ensure that you’ve got everything covered and that your digital estate is well and truly futureproofed for growth. You can’t ignore the fundamentals and the time to fix them is now!