Sticky website is key to success

Sticky website is key to success – Brief Article

Sheri Rosen

Stickiness is the goal for web editors — that attribute of a site that keeps people coming back for more. Before it got a trendy name in the Internet world, savvy CEOs and marketers called it customer loyalty.

“They [CEOs] know, for example, that a strong customer franchise is critical to business success, and that doing business with people you trust and understand is more predictable and efficient, and thus more profitable, than doing business with uninvested strangers,” wrote Frederick F. Reichheld in “The Loyalty Effect.”

As loyalty extends to the Internet, the responsibility for keeping customers in the fold logically falls to the marketing team. “Keeping and growing profitable customers is a key part of the marketing professional’s role, regardless of the medium,” said Laura Patterson, president of VisionEdge Marketing ( “Customers don’t distinguish between transactions on the web versus one in the physical environment.

Whether digital or physical, the cost of acquiring a new customer is high, making turnover rates expensive. “Unless you can get customers to stick around, profitability will remain elusive,” she said.

An old-time (pre-Internet) marketing truism was that word of mouth is the best advertising. Seems it’s true online. eBay reports that 50 percent of its customers come by referral.

Patterson estimates that, because of the cost of building an e-commerce site, customers must stay on board at least two or three years to be profitable. “But research indicates that as many as 50 percent of new customers defect from an e-commerce site before their third anniversary.”

Wonder how your site stacks up? Patterson said that on average, 35 to 40 percent of an e-commerce site’s sales come from repeat visitors. To get there, she advises asking these questions:

* What would make me loyal?

* What problems are customers trying to solve, and how does the site solve them?

* Do site design, product/service quality and reliable information foster loyalty?

* Who are my competitors or where can customers turn for similar services?

* How can I build relationships with my customers?

* What is my game plan for building loyalty?

Game plan? Patterson recommends that the first step should be learning about those customers you most want to serve and most want to be loyal. Knowing the attributes of this market segment, you can develop goals and strategies tied to specific overall marketing objectives.

Objectives, of course, must be measured. “You have to have the time and the discipline to track the numbers,” Patterson said. “If you don’t track, you might as well just post ‘brochure ware’ on your site,” she said. Among the numbers to count in addition to purchases: number of visitors, frequency of particular visitors, abandonment rates, time on the site and return rate.

“Tracking behavior can provide insight into cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to existing customers, she said. “It’s very easy to track user behavior, yet most companies don’t track retention, regardless of whether it’s a physical or virtual business.” Retention — call it stickiness or loyalty is — critical.

She also recommends asking users directly what they think. “Don’t try to infer what they want by site activity,” Patterson said. “Ask them what you can offer that would be of most interest and how they would like to be notified of new information or services.” Ask if they can find what they need quickly and easily. Ask if navigation is simple and understandable. “Remember, convenience is one of the key reasons people use the Internet.”

What author Reichheld had to say isn’t old-fashioned: “Loyalty leaders follow two basic precepts. The first is to nurture a clear sense of company mission based on value rather than profit. The second is to use the power of partnership to align, motivate, and manage the members of the business system. Together, these two principles make up a navigational regime as dependable as any compass.”

Sheri Rosen, ABC, is director, employee communications, at USAA in San Antonio, Texas.

COPYRIGHT 2001 International Association of Business Communicators

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