Corporate websites as a premium acquisition channel

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2 Driving superior marketing performance across the full multichannel customer experience is an on-going challenge for chief marketing officers (CMOs). It s a complex task not made any easier by the proliferation of digital channels that influence the customer conversion journey. But the corporate website is a flagship channel that senior marketers need to leverage in the drive for brand loyalty and increased sales. Corporate websites as a premium acquisition channel Based on the 2013 Accenture Electronics and High Tech benchmark study of 15 consumer electronics 1 dotcom websites, CMOs need to: 1. Re-evaluate the performance of their corporate websites within the digital ecosystem. 2. Introduce superior capability to capture the value of websites as an acquisition channel. 3. Monitor that their brand websites are optimized to reach perpetually connected customers. 4. Close the gap on competitors who are already exceeding customer expectations. 1 Study conducted between December 2012 January The Role of the Corporate Website

3 The rise of the perpetually connected consumer Think about the way most of us make major purchasing decisions today and the journey is often a similar one. Be it researching a holiday, buying a new car, booking the best airline deal or purchasing a new mobile, laptop or tablet, today s digital savvy consumers are using multiple and parallel information channels to do their homework and make the right choices. The move towards online sales meanwhile, continues apace. According to Forrester Research, online retail sales will grow annually by 11% in the US and Japan and by 12% in Europe between 2012 and In China, the annual growth is expected to be 20% for the same period. 2 In both mature and emerging Consumer Electronics markets globally, brand websites are cited as an important and natural point of reference for consumers when making their purchase decisions. According to the Accenture Consumer Technology Usage survey 2013, consumers value manufacturer websites as the single most important type of online channel for product preview in both mature and emerging markets. For product purchase, online retail channels are ranked higher. In turn, the rise of the always on connected consumer is fueling change across the eco-system as retailers and consumer electronics manufacturers themselves adapt to new platforms, devices and technologies in an effort to reach and engage with them seamlessly. This means consumer electronics (CE) brands have to be adept when tapping into the online opportunity if they are to leverage direct customer relations by integrating every available platform into their digital ecosystem. CMOs tell a similar story when it comes to engaging customers and creating value through digital channels. Two thirds of senior marketers feel it is an important capability to master. But only 13% believe their performance is leading edge and 16% think it is weak. 3 A 2013 IDC survey of chief marketing officers in technology companies meanwhile reveals that the company website is regarded as by far the most important area for digital marketing and that more than 60 per cent of respondents expect that investments in website content and development will increase. 4 This evidence is supported by a recent Accenture survey of Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Information Officers 5 who place firm emphasis on their corporate websites as a core customer acquisition channel and primary brand interface for customer interaction and influence. And two thirds of marketing executives claim to use the channel effectively. From the evidence that we have gathered, we can therefore conclude that the biggest challenge is owning the customer journey by offering an integrated experience between online and offline interfaces. But in reality, how many CE companies are actually taking advantage of the significant relationship building and growth opportunities that their websites represent? 2 Copyright Forrester Research, Inc. Sources: US Online Retail Forecast, 2012 to 2017, March 2013 European Online Retail Forecast, 2012 to 2017, March 2013, with Accenture calculations into USD Latin American Online Retail Forecast, 2012 to 2017, August 2012 Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast, 2011 to 2016, April Accenture Interactive 2012 CMO Insights Study: Turbulence for the CMO: Charting a path for the seamless customer experience 4 Copyright IDC. Source: IDC 2013 Tech Marketing Barometer: Trends, Forecast, and Essential Guidance for Tech Marketing Executives, doc #240712, April 2013, 5 Accenture Interactive 2012 CMO-CIO Market Insights Study: The CMO-CIO disconnect: Bridging the gap to seize the digital opportunity The Role of the Corporate Website 3

4 Measuring customer experience capabilities To put all of these assumptions to the test, Accenture has researched the dotcom websites of 15 leading consumer electronics companies. The aim of this benchmark study 6 is to provide key insights into just how successfully they are competing with their peer set, by measuring their critical digital customer experience capabilities. Accenture focused its study on the USA, the largest online retail and ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline) market in the world. The overall US online market in 2012 exceeded $200bn. 7 The products covered in Accenture s study focus mainly on smartphones, laptops/ PCs and televisions. Key performance factors for corporate websites The Accenture Web Evaluator (AWE) methodology* was used to conduct detailed performance assessments across seven key areas: Navigation, Customer Service, Information, Relationship Building, Branding, Commerce and Brand Communities. 1. Navigation: Can consumers find what they are looking for? Equally important, does the navigation deepen people s experience of a company? Are there intuitive routes through the content, with effective menus and site searches, as well as clear and vivid page layouts? 2. Customer Service: Does the site offer clear routes to access information about product support, live chat as well as self-help features? Is there effective self-help? Are there multiple feedback points? 3. Branding: How well does the company use its website to establish trust and likeability? Is the message clear? Is the tone and overall corporate profile appropriate to the brand image? 4. Information: Can users make an informed decision about products? Does the site enable ready selection and comparison, providing not only practical product information but also independent opinions from third parties and other customers? 5. Relationship Building: Does the website make a compelling case for customers to return? Are there rewards for providing information through registration? Are users given continuous, relevant, personalized experiences across devices and channels? 6. Commerce: How easily can consumers actually make a purchase? Is the sequence of steps clear and secure? Does the site present pricing information and product availability? 7. Communities: Does the website promote participation in onsite communities? Is there integration with social functionality? * Note: AWE is used to analyze websites from the consumer s perspective, assessing the sample group in seven defined areas of performance (Performance Factors) Accenture Accenture Electronics and High Tech benchmark study 7 Copyright Forrester Research, Inc. (Source: US Online Retail Forecast, 2012 to 2017, March 2013) 4 The Role of the Corporate Website

5 Follow the leaders Given the high degree of transparency and easy access to understand and analyse competitors website capabilities, the gap between the leaders and the underperformers is somewhat surprising. The fact that the gap in many areas is substantial provides a great strategic opportunity for underperformers to rapidly progress and catch up. The preferred practices are known, the path to implement them understood and the business imperative clear. Top performers in the Accenture study are Apple for overall brand experience and smartphone leader; Samsung as the leader in TVs and runner up for its smartphones website; and Dell as the best performing PC brand. The common denominator for these three leading companies is their superior capabilities in Relationship Building. All of them are also slightly ahead of their peers on the Information and Commerce performance factors. What sets each apart is distinct product information, a range of customization options, a smooth online purchase experience and extensive two-way support. Those companies whose websites are underperforming meanwhile are performing poorly in three critical areas of performance delivery. In fact nine out of the 15 company websites are failing to deliver on Information, Commerce and Relationship Building. According to the study, smartphones, in general, underperform in both Information and Commerce as they rely on network operators for service bundled pricing. The leading companies, however, do not see this as a barrier to delivering Commerce services. Only in the PC category do all the brands measured allow direct purchase of primary products, driven by Dell s disruptive business model from 20 years ago. But just half of the TV and smartphone companies offer their products for direct purchase. The study indicates that another essential feature is to encourage customers to register their details and to reward them for doing so. Registration should be viewed as the passport into the brand s digital ecosystem. Registration as a feature however was missing completely on three of the websites surveyed and a further three fail to explain why a customer should bother to register and what the benefits are. Surprisingly, only PC/laptop brands appear to recognize the importance of having mobile friendly websites. TV brands have not widely deployed mobile versions, and even more worryingly, smartphone brands themselves have failed to recognize the importance of delivering content that is optimized for the products they actually sell. For the always on consumer who wants to access CE websites while they are on the move, this is a vital point to pay attention to. The Role of the Corporate Website 5

6 Understanding the key measures For each of these three critical areas of performance, Accenture has identified some key measures that CE companies would need to implement in order to catch up and start to compete effectively with the leaders in their respective sector. Information It is essential for companies to get the information performance factor right as customers will often conduct their research where the best available information is, but then purchase from the cheapest reputable retailer. In selling the value proposition, the information area must tell customers precisely why they want this product and what makes it different. Additionally, there are different categories of researchers, from the confident technical connoisseur to those nervous, new discoverers, who don t fully understand all the elements, but feel that they should. Understanding and catering for all knowledge sets is imperative. Products need to be differentiated in the mind of the user. Make your best and latest product reviews available on the page. Use memorable, iconic images to drive desirability. Provide some technical information, but avoid using jargon or links to a glossary. Make the visual content interactive to really sell the product. Be very specific about what comes with the product and what else they might need to buy. Commerce The best performing brands present their users with multiple, informative, highly personal and easy-to-use conversion channels. This measure indicates how well consumer electronics manufacturers use their websites for directto-consumer ecommerce, or if they choose to channel potential customers to retail sites or outlets. A key frustration for users on websites who have chosen to convert via external retail sites is either lack of product availability or accurate pricing information. If users are sent to a retailer s site only to find that the item they want to purchase is out of stock, they are less likely to trust the referrer s website, which directly affects the chance to convert them. It s also important to accommodate those users who see large acquisitions such as digital televisions as a big investment and want to see the product in action. Websites that can identify the nearest showroom in which the product is available for a play are going to come out on top. Those websites that go one step further and allow users to set an appointment with a salesperson that knows exactly what product they want when they arrive in the showroom, even more so. Finally, make the purchase as simple as possible. Offer a quick checkout process and use processes similar to those developed by Amazon and Apple ID where the user doesn t need to enter their credit card details multiple times. The latter even allows users to split payment over multiple cards or accounts. Relationship Building This is a key factor for manufacturer brands as it addresses customer retention, engagement and provides stronger avenues to brand loyalty. Mobile devices are an increasingly important communications platform and CE websites need to reflect that importance by providing mobile optimized versions and effectively promoting applications that support the brand and product ranges. Customer registration is imperative and the post registration environment should be personalized to the point where the CE brand knows exactly what products the customer owns and keeps them regularly up to date with new releases and versions. Equally, support communities in forums and social networks are strong relationship building tools that need to be populated with informative and interactive content over and above the ubiquitous Like button. Samsung users, for example, can sign into Samsung Nation using their social network profiles, unlocking a number of interactive experiences without having to create a separate website registration profile. Users can contribute user reviews, interact with support channels and earn virtual rewards that can be redeemed for real prizes. 6 The Role of the Corporate Website

7 Going forward, the key imperatives for CMOs are clear. Consumer electronics manufacturers need to close the gap on their competitors by leveraging existing preferred practices to improve the performance and capture the value of their websites. If website underperformers fail to capture this opportunity, the leaders will surely do all they can to use their digital channels as a way to further outperform the market. Websites as an acquisition channel So what is important is that CMOs start to re-evaluate the performance of their corporate websites within their overall multichannel strategy for engaging digital consumers. Here s how: 1. Be direct. Visitors are a qualified lead so deliver what they want. Tell them where they can find you, what accessories they can get, and what else they might like. Cross sell and upsell where possible. 2. Drop the jargon and technical matrix. Or at least explain it. Make your language and your labeling user friendly. 3. Establish a clear and differentiated product proposition. TV product ranges, for example, are often hampered by similar sounding names, which can be indistinct and difficult to remember. 4. Explain and enable. Offer real time information on stock availability and best pricing. Flag production promotions. 5. Open up a direct sales channel, integrating information with other online and offline channels. Establish trust with customers, both in security and functionality. Payment and delivery options need to be clearly stated alongside returns policies. 6. Everyone has an opinion about your product, so join him or her. Use your branded environment to accommodate user ratings and two-way discussions. 7. Encourage customer registration, but make it worth their while. The website should be a core entry point into the brand s digital ecosystem; users should get a continuous experience across all the brand s channels via their online registration. Apple s ID model is a good example. 8. Show, rather than tell, by making websites more dynamic with better use of imagery, video and interactive content, personalized messaging and gamification. Live chat, Q&A Forums and how-to videos are all great ways to propel conversion rates. Creatively leveraging social networks to broaden the exposure makes this kind of interactive content work harder and deliver more. 9. Companies should be undertaking website performance tests (NBT testing and A/B testing) to see which pages yield better results and a better customer experience. The Role of the Corporate Website 7

8 Customers are changing their behavior and interacting with CE brands differently. And as more consumers go digital, they expect brands to be responsive, knowledgeable and to deliver relevant experiences. If brands don t measure up, then the consumer will move on. Many platforms, a single customer experience CE manufacturers however have a powerful tool in their corporate website to capture and engage customers as long as it is intelligently fine tuned to reflect their immediate needs. What is required is frankly straightforward. In fact some of the areas highlighted by this study are relatively easy to address and practically quick fixes. But getting all the key areas right will require a stronger integration between work processes and this in turn needs to be aligned with the over-arching digital enterprise strategy. Overall however, the message is a simple one. Today s corporate website could and should be an intelligent and responsive competitive differentiator which allows you to truly own the customer conversion journey. 8 The Role of the Corporate Website

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