Wednesday, October 11, 2017

7 Ways to Enhance Your Website Without Breaking the Bank

Strategy / Platforms / Content / Technology

In an always competitive marketplace, many organizations are under pressure to do more with less (or to do more with the same budgets). But fear not—when it comes to websites, there are tons of opportunities to drive more business value by enabling new features and functionality using the CMS platform that you already own.

It’s probably safe to assume that your company, like many companies, are only using a fraction of the all of the features of your CMS platform. Generally speaking, organizations purchase a content management system as part of a website redesign project—oftentimes migrating content from either a static website or a different CMS. In some cases, companies only do a "lift-and-shift", where the backend CMS is replaced, but the public-facing content, user interface, and functionality, are replicated exactly as the previous site. In each case, it is easy to forget that the CMS platform you are currently using offers a wide-ranging set of capabilities and features that can be enabled to add more value.

When considering a feature enablement project, a good first step is to look at your analytics and determine what aspects of your site are ripe for expansion and growth. Below are several recommendations for ways to quickly and powerfully enhance your website experience and functionality without breaking the bank:

  1. Improve Search Functionality - One of the most powerful feature expansion ideas is to expand the ability of your site visitors to find content that is useful and relevant to them. According to recent research, so-called "internal" search, remains one of the most powerful methods that website visitors use to find and take action around content. In fact, as many as 30% of website visitors won't bother trying to understand a site's navigation, and instead focus on using the internal search functionality immediately. Adding internal search, or expanding its functionality to include predicative search, faceted search filtering, and keyword-matched promotions, are powerful ways to increase the usability and likelihood of conversions on your site.
  2. Develop Personalized Cross-Sells / Up-Sells - Anyone who is familiar with marketing knows the power of offering personalized up-sell offers to customers. For example, a customer who has purchased a drinking water filter may benefit from ordering a replacement filter at the time of initial purchase. Offering in-context recommendations can be a compelling way to drive revenue and additional sales. Many of today’s popular CMS platforms offer the ability to do cross-sell and personalized up-sells based on customer browsing activity, trends derived by other visitor activity, and similar approaches.
  3. Implement A/B/n Testing - Another important feature is the ability to experiment with various messaging to determine which methods convert the best. Typically used with inbound marketing campaigns, A/B/n testing allows you to take a dedicated amount of traffic and assign different messages to them. For example, trying different headlines, offers, or even variations of the color of the “Buy” button, can produce powerful insights as to how specific messages actually perform in front of real customers. Using this knowledge to apply to other aspects of your website allows you to react to how customers really behave. This doesn’t have to be limited to just inbound marketing; it can be used to test different section page layouts, the placement of different menus, or anything else related to the design and content of your website. Implementing A/B/n testing functionality is one of the most powerful and surprising features you can add to your site.
  4. Build Integrations with Third-Party Systems & Tools - Easily one of the best ways to add new features or functionality to a website, using a pre-built connector or even a custom integration with internal systems or external commercial tools can enable features that are not a part of the core CMS feature set. Looking for a quick and easy way to allow visitors to login to your website? Consider a quick integration with social graph functionality afforded by Facebook. Want to ensure your sales force follows up on customer inquiries? Leverage a connector to automatically plug into sales campaigns and assign leads to your sales force. Want to make sure that brochures go out to customers quickly and efficiently? Consider connecting to marketing automation software like Pardot. The possibilities explode when you consider the ability to link to internal-only applications and databases.
  5. Develop Microsites - Microsites are another simple way to add new experiences for your website visitors. In many cases, building small, highly targeted website experiences around events, specific products, and core technologies that are unique to your business or experience, can be more effective than simply hoping that customers come across that content organically.
  6. Create Community Forums - Building an online forum is a great way to connect your customers with one another,  while also using it as a method for learning more about what your customers want and how they feel. Many popular CMS platforms include the ability to host forums and bulletin boards to facilitate these important conversations and are relatively inexpensive to host. Some customers are nervous about offering this capability because they have concerns about controlling what is said in front of other customers. However, community forums allow for automated content filtering and moderation capabilities to mitigate these risks. One of the real upsides to this approach is that it will also allow you to identify your most passionate and invested customers. Empowering these customers to moderate conversations helps you to turn them into powerful brand ambassadors.
  7. Experiment with video content - Many CMS platforms allow you to host your own videos with a minimum amount of effort from the technical team. Customers are starving for authentic content and don’t necessarily expect a smoothly polished video experience at all times. Showcase an interview with your internal experts to explain the intricacies in how you build your products, or developed an interesting new product feature. The most innovative companies who experiment with this approach to video content crowdsource user-generated content to provide more authentic content (see Amazon product reviews as a prime example of this). 

Preparing for the Next Phase

Even if you aren't in a position to take on net-new enhancements or feature roll-outs, you can use this time to prepare for fundamental expansion projects by thinking of the following functions:

  • Expanding the amount of analytics that you are capturing (think custom goal tracking)
  • Thinking of how content can reach new audiences with targeted or comprehensive content translation
  • Planning to optimize your content for use in mobile channels
  • Building a taxonomy, so that you can roll-out tagging and new navigation features in the future

By planning for these ideas now, you will be prepared to take advantage of new feature roll-outs in the future.

Learn more about how Rightpoint can help you drive powerful results through feature enablement projects.

Brian Browning is Vice President, Digital Experience Solutions, at Rightpoint. Follow Brian on Twitter and LinkedIn.