|October 17, 2016|
I hope that nobody minds if I hijack this platform for my disgruntled musings over some recent annoying experiences with online retail in South Africa.
More than that, though, I hope that at least a couple of business owners stumble upon this diatribe, and take a moment to consider whether or not their website is actually worth the nominal expense of its domain registration.
Just to give some background; I was recently inspired to clean up my diet, and so spent an afternoon perusing the net for affordable whole foods outlets in the area around Johannesburg North.
A simple enough task, one might think.
One would be wrong.
It turns out that navigating the web for services depends on the providers of those services maintaining a navigable web presence.
Too many do not.
So, with the introduction out of the way, let’s look at a couple of (incredibly annoying) ways in which businesses often fail to adequately maintain their online presence.
This first point is, considering our current surroundings, uttered somewhat sheepishly. We’re in the process of giving Wetpaint an online facelift that often has to be delayed in favour of our clients – who always take precedence – so our website’s design is (unless you’re reading this at some point in the future) somewhat outdated.
That said an outdated but functional and navigable design is still better than some of the unsightly messes out there that one is expected to fumble through.
At least one of the sites I happened across in my quest looked as though it was slapped together on a shoestring budget in someone’s backyard.
It was adorned with low-resolution images; had dropdown menus with ill-defined product categories; a video with no accompanying copy that explained something I didn’t have the patience to watch; and its homepage was essentially a blog detailing franchise –specific news that I, as a prospective customer, could not have cared less about.
Look, it’s 2016 and there are over a billion websites live and looking for attention.
I understand that it’s hard to stand out in a crowd that size, but if you’re going to try, then stand out for the right reasons, and not because your site is an unforgettable abomination.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, and you don’t have to be a designer to know when you’re interacting with a bad design. Spend some time online, and compare your website’s look and its usability to the millions upon millions of examples out there.
It might be the first interaction your consumers have with your brand, so make sure your website makes a good first impression.
Keep Your Website Current
One of the sites I visited informed me that its nearest brick-and-mortar branch was about a fifteen minutes’ drive from me.
So, just hop in my car and zip on through – easy enough. Right?
No. No, of course it wasn’t.
It turned out that that branch was either represented by a badly-aimed Google maps pin that pointed me to the wrong shopping centre, or the branch had closed down and no one had bothered to update the company’s online details to reflect that inconvenient reality.
Either way, however quick a drive it was, I had made it for no reason more than someone’s sloppy online brand maintenance.
On top of that, the contact number I got off of the website put me in touch with, of all places, the shopping centre’s security control room – the occupants of which were kind enough to inform me that they’d never even heard of the store I was looking for.
At this point, if I had managed to get in touch with the branch I was looking for I’d have had little to say that wasn’t littered with invectives.
The internet is all about convenience. People have a limited number of hours freely available to them and the net, with its inimitable ability to digitally bridge physical gaps, is one powerful tool that allows us to make the most of every hour we have.
If you’re going to have a website and online presence – and in this day and age you don’t really have a choice about the latter – then you’d best make sure they reflect the reality of your business. If the contact details on your website are wrong, then when determined online customers do finally find you, it will be with a box of matches in hand, a can of petrol on the backseat of the car, and a mind packed to the brim with criminal premeditation.
Integrate Web Presence Into All Brand Activities
Another of the franchises I attempted to find so that I could give them my money (why do you make it so hard to give you my money!?) had not only failed to update their Google business listings with branches that had shut down, but it had failed to update many of its existing branches on Google maps to reflect the rebranding that the company had obviously gone through since the last time I’d given them any thought.
This had the consequence of convincing me that, rather than dealing with one company with a confused online presence, I was actually looking at two individual companies, directly competing over the exact same niche.
This might not have the same direct, “argh! Stuff this, I’m going home!” effect that a complete lack of accurate contact details might have, but it does serve to introduce unnecessary uncertainty to your potential customers’ ability to do business with you.
The internet isn’t new anymore, and people are less likely to forgive your inability to adequately utilise it. In fact, it’s assumed that if you’re doing business today, you’re comfortable enough online that your web presence is both an extension and a reflection of your offline business.
Avoid looking unprofessional; maintain a web presence that meets professional standards you hold for every other aspect of your business.
Make Your Website Responsive
There’s not much more annoying than following a company’s website’s direction to their store, only to find that that store is no longer there. Except maybe trying to access that company’s website from your cell phone, only to find that their website doesn’t fit onto your mobile’s screen, and no matter how much you try to scroll sideways, you just cannot see the second half of their phone number.
81% of South Africa’s internet users use mobile devices of one sort or the other to access the internet. In fact, across the globe more people are using mobiles to access the internet than they are desktops or laptops.
So the question is if you have a website that is not mobile-friendly, who exactly is your website intended to serve?
All signs point to mobile being the future of connectivity, so if your website annoys mobile users, it essentially annoys almost everyone who’s ever going to see it.
Don’t be annoying.
Setting aside the snark and sarcasm, we do understand that balancing the challenges of maintaining a beneficial online presence can seem like a distraction from the running of your core business.
Contact Wetpaint today, and find out how we can help you do it.