In my last blog, I explained how success starts with an innovation-first culture, but when we talk about innovation, it doesn't have to be game-changing. Innovations can be small improvements, enhancements and iterations, not just the big show-stopping initiatives.
You can innovate with your content, changing your tone and creating new perceptions. This is innovation. It can be the way you structure you site, avoiding pre-defined structures and flows, moving towards something different, more streamlined or daring. This is innovation. It could be removing all the overtly salesy messages and creating purely insightful content to build trust and credence without actively being lead driven. This is innovation.
But rather than trying to gain insight from sticking your fingers in the air, or reading the tea leaves left in your cup after a good brew, as brands we must gain real insight based on fact and feeling combined.
Data tells us that a tomato is a fruit but it is insight which tells us not to put a tomato in a fruit salad"
Analyse, Analyse, Analyse and Evolve
So when it come to your website, what should you analyse? A good starting point for the basis of gathering the right data for insights would be:
- Users – segment them, understand them, create personas, empathy maps and delve into their needs and challenges
- Spikes & dips – across a year, a month, a week and a day. Work out how you maximise the spikes in your website traffic and why the dips in traffic occur, considering approaches that could result in uplift
- Navigation – how it is used, where it works and where it doesn't
- Entrance & exit Points – Not all traffic comes in via your home page, look at key entrance points, maximise these to drive the user to key areas of your website. Look at exits and work out why and what can be done to minimise leaving the site at this point
- Journey to conversion – look at successful conversions and work your way back through their journey. Look at non-conversion journeys and understand at which points these became unsuccessful and look for reasons as to why
- Acquisition & consumption – how they got to your website (social media, organic, PPC) and what content they consumed… but don't do this by channel alone, look a device usage as content consumption and user trends can vary dramatically.
There are a plethora of tools that can help you with this, but I'd recommend getting your hands on:
- Google Analytics for tracking website data including traffic, bounce rates, acquisition, demographics etc...
- CrazyEgg for Hotjar for heat mapping, scroll maps, interaction overlays
- Inspectlet for live session recording
- Google Search Console for monitoring search index performance
- Tableau for taking data and visualising it in graphs and charts to identify trends and insights
Remember - these tools help present us with data allowing us to visualise and interrogate it. As humans, strategists and marketers, it is our job to turn them into meaningful insights that drive change. This data is only as insightful as a person's ability to analyse it and understanding it. I always proudly (and annoyingly) say to clients and colleagues that "data tells us that a tomato is a fruit but it is insight which tells us not to put a tomato in a fruit salad." People tend to scoff at my repurposed analogy about knowledge and wisdom, but the message is indeed true. Data will help provide the facts, but we need to interprut those facts to provide reason to enhance experience.
Strategic analysis and insight allows you to enhance your site by:
- Re-structuring: Navigation, content grouping, page importance
- Elevating your message: Ensuring messages are being seen in the right place, at the right time and by the right user
- Adapting content / Shaping your story: Is the content right for your users and does it portray the brand/product story? Is there a simpler way to say it?
- Turning up or turning off: If it's working, do more of it. If it is not, then turn it off, or does the data and insights suggest that it could be reworked in some way?
- Simplifying: Ultimately, always look for ways to simplify – users want a simple experience, so give it to them
This analysis, insight and enhancement process isn't just a one off. The way that you can really maximise your returns and continuously improve your website is to undertake this as an ongoing process. I like to call this the Innovation Cycle. It's made up of four key activities which remain active and ongoing throughout the lifespan of your website.
- Look & Listen Analyse existing performance and listen to your customers / audience
- Create Insights Gleam insights from your learnings, using your experience and knowledge to apply human wisdom to the data
- Test & Learn Test new enhancements and learn from the results
- Evolve Evolve and where possible innovate, keep adapting and moving forward
What does this all mean and what's the point?
Gone are the days where companies could get away with developing their website and then leaving it to slowly stagnate over the next four years, posting the odd news article and updating a service or two, only to heavily reinvest time and money in to a complete redesign and build. During this period of stagnation, you will lose ground to competitors, become detached from the needs of your users, behind the trends in your industry and how this utlimately drives consumer behaviour. Your website and brand runs the risk of becoming out of touch.
"Gone are the days where companies could get away with developing their website and then leaving it to slowly stagnate over the next four years"
I whole heartedly urge you to embrace the Innovation Cycle and learn from the fall of the late, great social platforms - may they rest in peace. In this age where your customers can switch to a competitor with such ease, you must understand their needs and continuously adapt to offer more tailored experiences to meet their expectations. The benefit of this approach should be obvious by this stage; lower investment through ongoing iterative enhancement and more engagement by being relevant, tailored and giving the user what they desire. It's about evolution through insight, not a complete revolution when it's too late.
Your website is an endless project, make sure it keeps changing, evolving and surprising.