RISMEDIA, January 31, 2011—(eM+C)—In the early years of Internet adoption, it was enough for companies to paste a virtual brochure on the Web and call it a day. Today, we’ve moved so far beyond that static state that companies with any online ambition must consider a vast array of dynamic and rich features in their website strategies. While many retailers are finding new ways to engage consumers online, others still struggle to achieve the right balance of creativity and efficiency.
If you believe it’s impossible to add rich media and interactive Web components without compromising site performance—or at least paying a steep price—think again. In truth, the road maps for delivering a successful, compelling website experience have already been drawn. Not only is it feasible to get creative without sacrificing performance, it’s also feasible to deliver a quality experience without breaking the bank. First, you need to know what elements contribute to the quality of your site and, second, how to create a system that maximizes your resources for the highest levels of efficiency.
Here are three tips to help you increase website engagement and conversion.
1. Accelerate the experience. Even if the stats didn’t bear it out—which, in fact, they do—our own personal experiences tell us that we, as consumers, are highly impatient when it comes to accessing information online. Balanced against demand for richer experiences on the Web, this creates a potential problem for companies looking to drive greater value from their online properties. While Web acceleration hasn’t traditionally appeared at the top of the priority list, it has recently become a key factor in the performance of online assets. If a site doesn’t load quickly or a video spends too long buffering, visitors move on. How can you approach the challenge of achieving a cost-effective, yet high-performance result? Start by considering three technology factors: reach, scale and the ability to customize an acceleration solution to your specific needs.
Reach: This determines how far and how well you can spread your message online. If your audience is global, or if you’re targeting consumers in specific geographic regions, you need to know that your infrastructure supports the best possible website experience for your entire audience—no matter where in the world they’re located.
Scale: You want as many people as possible to engage with your site, but traffic is rarely predictable. You need the ability to turn up capacity quickly and cost effectively in the event of unexpected traffic spikes. If popularity downgrades your visitors’ experience, you risk undermining your own success.
Flexibility: Web acceleration services have traditionally been the domain of IT departments. However, as technology becomes increasingly crucial to marketing strategies, Web acceleration services start to fall within the marketing realm. A new, more flexible payment model is needed to support the aggressive objectives and often uneven time lines of marketing campaigns. Discuss your site needs with potential Web acceleration partners to determine if it’s possible to increase online performance and weed out inefficiencies that may be driving up costs.
2. Manage your rich media assets more efficiently. It is crucial to systemize the process of adding new rich media assets, fine-tuning media format and presentation, and supporting delivery to multiple devices. For video specifically, an online video platform provides a way to simplify the publishing process and create the richest possible content for online consumers. There are three different video platform choices to consider: build versus buy, free versus premium and simple versus complex.
Build or buy? The choice to build your own video platform or outsource video publishing depends, in part, on your ability to make educated decisions about video player technology, transcoding needs and device support. It also depends on the internal resources you can allocate to maintenance and troubleshooting.
Free or premium? There’s always the option to choose a free video platform such as YouTube, but with it comes a slew of limitations. Consider how much control you need over branding, ad placement and visual style.
Simple or complex? As your content library grows, the ability to publish video efficiently becomes more and more important. If you’re updating content frequently, consider a video platform with a drag-and-drop interface that lets you not only add content, but customize it quickly and easily.
Run a cost-and-benefit analysis of different video management scenarios for your business. Include time and labor investments, as well as the potential for driving business growth with an enhanced video platform on your site.
3. Optimize your site for the highest performance. Site optimization encompasses many factors, from page layout to navigation architecture. But once again, sticking to the technical side of the equation, retailers will find specific tactics that support even the best designed websites. Consider instituting regular health checks to ensure that your site is tuned for performance across all devices. Your IT team should set up specific checkpoints around the following three factors:
Code: Several tricks can help you streamline your site code. You can speed up page delivery, for example, by combining scripts and style sheets, splitting objects across different domains, and optimizing your site’s search function. Page performance impacts not only the consumer experience, but also your search engine optimization rankings.
Mobility: A new mobile device arrives on the market virtually every day, which means you need to support an array of hardware, software and Internet connection requirements. Optimize your site for the mobile space by testing it across the wide range of devices and operating systems available. Do a regular health check on your site with your IT team to make sure it’s running at top performance. If you