One of the most common pitfalls in website planning is to view it as just another extension of the marketing function. An understandable legacy of the web’s early years perhaps, when static websites were the norm and facilitating task completion was an alien concept from an unwritten future.
Historically, marketing has delivered value to brands by attracting individuals aligned to the brand, through a process of (if you will excuse the clumsy reference to AIDA) awareness, interest, and desire until they reach the point of action.
Individuals now decide when and how they interact with a brand, business or organisation, and this empowerment is central to the customer–centric world we now operate in. But this shift also challenges some of the longest–established marketing practices we know. Specifically the rules governing ‘action‘ have changed quite dramatically.
A new reality for businesses to understand is that once the customer moves online, they have crossed a line, and a very significant one: the line marking the delineation between reaction and interaction.
The consumer that marketing sees has ceased asking “how do I feel about this brand?” and has become a user of a system, asking “what can I achieve here?”.
The worst possible scenario at this point is that the user is exposed to repetitions of the same message they have already reacted to. The marketing process does not begin over again! Marketing has achieved its conversion – the user is engaged, the conversation needs to change and marketing needs to adapt.
The primary focus at this point must be firmly on the user’s tasks and underlying goals, rather than linger on the message that the organisation wants to convey. By all means, echo that message; let the user know they are in the right place; be consistent with copy and application of brand. But make the user work hard to decide their next move at your peril.
To quote Thoedore Levitt – “People don’t want to buy a quarter–inch drill, they want a quarter–inch hole”. In the same way, consumers don’t want to use your website – they want whatever it is your website can deliver for them, which is almost certain not to be an extension of the marketing that got them there in the first place.
Smart marketers know when the job is done, when customers have successfully gleaned everything they need to know and have committed to interaction. UX research and design doesn’t pretend to be marketing by another name. Neither is marketing user experience design. However, investing in positive user experiences may be some of the best marketing your organisation has ever involved itself in.
The ‘line of interaction’ is a hugely significant moment and, when crossed, marks a huge shift in the manner in which a person wants to behave, and be addressed. Precisely where the line of interaction exists may change from business to business or project to project, but it is worth discovering. By allowing you to focus your organisation’s resources, while securing the best return on investment from third parties, it may ultimately prove invaluable.