There has been a lot of talk (for a long time) about Web 2.0 and what it means to the online market. The term was first used by O’reilly Media in 2003 and is used to describe a group of technologies that enable online communities. Many in the web industry are sick of the term and yet most business people have only heard the term recently often confusing it with a new platform.
Perhaps most interesting is how Web 2.0 is creating and strengthening relationships between businesses and potential/existing customers. The goal of any business is to develop deep relationships with its customers. As the internet has transformed into the medium of choice for people to gather/share information and make buying decisions, companies have increasingly struggled to build lasting online relationships. The primary difference is that the web is on demand; there is no broadcast feature. Customers search for the item or service they need and when they find a company that can meet their need, businesses have to be ready or the opportunity will be lost.
This is the first ingredient for developing deep online relationships; findability.
<insert ‘duh’ here>
They can’t be your customers if they cannot find you. It’s amazing to me how many companies still believe that if they build their site people will magically show up. Search engine optimization (SEO) has only recently entered into the minds of many businesses.
Now if you’re Nike, you would think you probably don’t need SEO to be found by your customers and yet they would benefit from having their entire site searchable as most people use Google to locate products and services. The number one search that includes the term ‘Nike’ according to Google Suggest is nike shoes. When searching for Nike shoes the Nike site comes up first (with a list of partners/subsidiaries immediately following) but the results would be more useful if they linked directly into Nike’s site featuring their shoes or better yet, an activities page featuring all of the things that you can do in Nike shoes. North Face does this very well. (Nike does have a ‘Nike Sites’ option but it’s not exactly the same.) I’m sure someone from Nike would say that the search was successful because anyone can now find the Nike shoe they are looking for.
I think it is fair to say that an opportunity was lost. People use Google to find what they need and don’t want use a site search after they have used Google. A company’s site must be porous. More to the point, people are searching for items/services not businesses. The business is secondary. Only after they have found what they are looking for will they investigate the company, if needed.
To summarize, the first element of building an online relationship with your customers is allowing them to find you and more importantly, find the item/service they are looking for. (This is going to have some interesting consequences for the home page.) My next post will address the next level of the online customer, business relationship; recommendation.