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BShould I have a website?It’s crazy to imagine asking yourself this in 2013, isn’t it? However, look back to 15 years ago and this question may not have even crossed your mind. To be fair, there wasn’t data back then to tell you that millions of customers would interact with your brand for the first time through your website. There also wasn’t any data to suggest that websites would become the number one medium for purchases and transactions.

Fortunately today we have access to all the information we need and then some. We live in a world where data and analytics drive many key decisions we make for our businesses. And today, that data says that investing in a mobile platform is just as important now as having a website was in the early 2000s. But just having a mobile presence with your traditional online platforms isn’t nearly enough anymore. The question that you have to ask yourself now is: am I providing my customers the best possible user experience? In other words, am I taking a mutli-platform approach to the distribution of my content that keeps everything consistent across channels, regardless of whether I’m looking at it from an iPhone or a desktop?

The most important part of that sentence is the word consistent. You want to make sure that your customers are having the same experience across all your platforms. I can’t tell you how many times older, more established brands have come to me and said that they’re losing ground to newer companies that are coming seemingly from out of nowhere. The secret to these companies’ success is their ability to provide a more in-depth, comprehensive user experience that sends a unified message about their products and brand through all their platforms. You can begin a home search or transaction on your laptop at work and pick up exactly where you left off on your iPad at home. It’s convenience like this that enhances the customer’s experience with the company and builds brand loyalty.

So what can you do on a limited budget to get to where you need to be? First, it’s crucial to be able to objectively assess where you are on this roadmap. Think about what assets you already have (website, applications, developers) and what new technology you could utilize (cloud data storage, application improvements). You need to plan a clear strategy that accounts for your strengths and limitations and creates the right balance of a great user experience, technology, and marketing. Be sure to find a provider that’s proficient in all the areas you need, not just those that specialize in one aspect of your strategy. The best providers will put the pieces of the puzzle together so you can focus on doing what you do best. Remember that multi-platform approaches are flexible and scalable.

A consistent and well thought out multi-platform strategy will allow you to differentiate yourself from competitors and create a more meaningful relationship between you and your customer. Take the time now to plan out and refine your different platforms. You’ll thank yourself a few years down the road.

Marc Siden is the co-founder and CEO of Onboard Informatics.

For more information, visit www.onboardinformatics.com.

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