Webify Everything – How To Take Control of the Customer Journey
Chris Schreiber, Chief Marketing Officer at Brandcast, led a workshop at the CMO Inspired conference to discuss how to ‘Webify Everything’. Chris shares his insight into how building personalised websites for every customer touchpoint can drive better business results, infuse more creativity into a web presence and reduce the complexity of digital brand management.
Brandcast is a platform to create fully customisable websites and content without any coding. “We take coding and development needs out of the equation, but give full design freedom, so you can create really rich visual experiences,” Chris explains.
With 68% of buyers now using digital content as their main influence for purchasing decisions, the buyer journey is changing. “It’s being driven much more by digital content than ever before,” Chris says.
Studies also show that 60% of buyers would prefer not to interact with any salesperson at all. “All of a sudden, things are really starting to shift over to marketers’ shoulders – to our content really driving purchase decisions,” Chris adds.
Chris believes the reality of today is that web content should be available at every stage of the sales funnel, which is changing the way that marketers work. “The amount of production that marketing teams have to do now is unprecedented,” he says.
“There’s a lot more overlap now of the marketing-sales teams working together,” Chris adds. “Some of the core aspects of that: a content approach that maps the entire funnel; data that’s coming in that both teams can make use of; and then a workflow that allows you to put that data into action to get better results.”
This has created an eternal circle of content creation strategy.
Studies have shown that organisations with tight alignment between marketing and sales departments are performing better. “It makes sense,” Chris says. “Higher sales win rates, higher customer retention rates – that’s a conversion of these departments that’s really helped lead to better results. I see that in a lot of different industries.”
Chris believes that marketers should be moving away from offline content. “Webify everything,” he says. “This is where we are heading in terms of the scale of production of web content, and bringing everything we’re making fully online.”
An offline document or downloadable file is “essentially a dead document”, Chris says. Once sent, nothing else can be done with it – no changes can be made, or insights gained from how the customer interacts with it. These files can also be difficult to read on mobile devices, which can mean missed sales opportunities if customers can’t immediately make sense of the PowerPoint presentation they received.
“There’s a myriad of reasons that you want to move 100% online every stage of your content marketing communication,” Chris says.
While corporate websites offer valuable insights, downloadable documents do not offer the same data. “We’re all pretty sophisticated now with corporate sites – you have web analytics set up, you have a sense of what’s being clicked on and what’s not,” Chris explains. “And we take all of that sophistication and throw it out of the window with our sales decks, which are so crucial to whether we’re going to actually get the result we want.”
This can mean that 40% of potential customer insights are being lost due to the content being offline.
In order to webify everything, there are three factors that must be considered: speed, scale and design. Chris believes all three should always be done at the same time. “You have to increase the speed of production of content; increase scale – probably exponentially every year; and do all of that without sacrificing design,” he says. “It really is not good enough to do any one of these, or any two of these. You will fall down if you are only investing in a couple.”
A study from Forrester has shown that larger enterprises are operating an average of 268 websites. “We’re already operating in a world of scale,” Chris explains. “If any of you are working in digital marketing you’ll be amazed at how many things are under your purview – how many URLs, how many pieces of content. That’s only going to go up as we strive to get more data and make communication easier and more seamless.”
Content must also be delivered really quickly, as 41% of customers will leave a website if it takes too long to load. “You are now responsible for infrastructure in a really crucial way,” Chris explains. “If the page load is not where it needs to be, you’re going to lose almost half of your potential audience. Speed is everything, particularly on mobile.”
More than half of customers will leave a mobile site if they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly. “You can’t skimp on design,” Chris says. “Even if you did well on the scale and the speed part, your user experience needs to work. Usually, that doesn’t happen with the first version of the site – it’s a lot of testing and iteration. If you’re not doing that across hundreds of sites, you have to reset the way you’re thinking about the function of marketing.”
Chris discusses the evolution of websites, from the CMS system to website builders.
“The workhorse of the industry for decades has been the CMS,” Chris says. “That’s what most enterprises have entrusted their main website needs to. It’s good in terms of true customisation – you can really create anything that you want.”
The downside to this process is speed. What seems like a linear workflow becomes very circular, as breakdowns between teams occur and estimated timescales are set back. “You get to where you want to go, but the tax is usually time,” Chris says.
Website builders were introduced to help marketers create sites faster. With no coding required, the sites can be launched very quickly but the designs are limited. “I’m launching a lot of stuff faster than I was before, but I’m launching them all in these cookie cutter ways,” Chris says. “Because it’s just templates, dragging in boxes that I’ve pre-built, I can’t break the template that much. Even if you did everything right – you had really good copy, really good images – the user experience is hard to break out of.”
Chris describes this situation as a trade-off: a custom website built exactly as you want it, but it will be slower and more expensive; or a website builder, creating websites much faster but with limited designs. “Either way, I’m going to be frustrated,” he says.
This brought in the next chapter of the industry: new platforms that can incorporate speed, scale and design. “We have to be able to move fast, we have to operate a huge amount of scale and expect even greater scale in the future, and we can’t skimp on design,” Chris says. “Design is going to make or break this whole thing. We have to empower the designers.”
Brandcast is a drag and drop experience for a fully custom site. “Whatever it is that you want to build, your designer is really empowered to do that with the marketing team,” Chris says. Templates can be used to work quickly at scale.
Chris introduces some examples of brands that have benefited from bringing their customer journeys online with Brandcast.
Pain relief brand Icy Hot wanted a simpler workflow and a better end user experience. Using Brandcast, they created an interactive online process where customers can select the location of their pain to receive information on symptoms and possible reasons for it. This then leads to the relevant Icy Hot products and where they can be bought.
“They took all this interaction they had built and put it in the hands of their sales teams,” Chris said. “Reps going out in Canada wanted to have more than just a PowerPoint, so they created customised sales deck websites.”
Before Brandcast, real estate company Colliers was delivering its research reports via PDF. “They had really rich data and knew a lot about their market – really interesting research reports,” Chris explains. “But the tax was that you had to download it.”
Colliers wanted more data and more insights to be shared across a global market with hundreds of offices. Each report was turned into a custom website with a template. “All these PDF research reports are now custom URLs that can collect this data – what people are clicking on,” Chris says. The corporate marketing team can then share insights with all of their regional offices.
“Now their content marketing is fully online, which also helps with SEO, discoverability and general accessibility of their content,” Chris adds. “They do this in connection with their property listings, so you’re learning about the markets and clicking directly to things that they’re selling.”
Health and wellness retailer Shaklee had 7,000 individual distributors selling Shaklee products. “They wanted to move things into the digital age, but this is a very unwieldy operation,” Chris says. “7,000 independent sellers of all these products – how are you going to manage that?”
Shaklee created five template sites with Brandcast, so that anyone setting up a selling operation with Shaklee can choose from the five templates and integrate their information in Salesforce. Shaklee now has 10,000 websites with Brandcast. “It really helped bring their whole sales force into the web age,” Chris says.
Chris’s final example is Marriott. “Marriott had a pretty ambitious programme,” he explains. “They wanted to have their top 200 performing websites redesigned and see if they could improve the performance.” This programme was estimated to take two years for all 200 sites to be redesigned.
Using Brandcast, the Marriott team could create interactive templates and then simply swap the assets for each individual hotel. “We helped them go from two years in this process to about three or four months,” Chris says. “It shaved off a huge amount of time because you’re skipping the handoff – the Photoshop file to the developer. The designers are creating interactive templates without writing code.”
Chris ends his masterclass with the encouragement to webify everything in order to reach customers. “We’re all grappling with this digital transformation of the buyer journey,” he says. “Marketing content is driving more buyer decisions than ever before.”
Bringing all content online creates the opportunity to collect more data and make information more accessible, but the technology must always enable speed, scale and design. “You really can’t cut corners of any of the three,” Chris adds.
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Watch Chris Schreiber’s full masterclass workshop ‘Webify Everything’.