A New Normal in Website Design and Digital Marketing
Today’s world is anything but business as usual. But our charge as digital marketers hasn’t really changed; we continuously seek ways to anticipate and respond promptly to our customers’ needs as times change, especially for the crucial web design and digital marketing changes that we may face.
The difference is that the coronavirus caused an unexpected, instantaneous, seismic shift that has affected every aspect of our lives. Almost overnight, we started cocooning in our homes, performing tasks that would ordinarily take place in offices, shops, recreation areas, schools, restaurants, and other external venues. Amidst the tumult, we’ve had to immediately pivot toward new business practices.
We have also experiences changes in the digital world. This “new normal” has not only heightened online usage, but has also changed the public’s online behavior across digital channels. Without clear information, in most cases we’ve had to make important website and digital marketing decisions blindly, on the fly. More so, there’s no sign of when things will stabilize. Still, we forge ahead. looking for ways to help and engage customers while growing our businesses.
Are you adjusting your digital assets for COVID-19?
So now, while it’s still a bumpy ride, many of us have settled in a bit. It’s the perfect time to ask ourselves two questions. First, have we made appropriate changes during COVID-19? Answering this question requires making a careful assessment of our current digital initiatives, assets, and website performance. The second question is if we’re in a position to continue adapting to an uncertain future. For this, we have to stay abreast of evolving audiences’ concerns, online behaviors, digital touch points, and performance trends.
Based on the answers to the questions above, we can find opportunities to provide better value to our audiences now and into the future. Specifically, how can we best tweak our websites, social media properties, and other forms of digital communication to improve customer experience?
Here are some ways to meet the digital challenges of the pandemic:
- Adjust your website to current traffic trends: Analyze web traffic and performance trends over the past three to six months. Then, focus your efforts on pages that have jumped in popularity, finding ways to highlight them and make them more accessible for your crucial web design and digital marketing changes.
- Digitize Services: Don’t get overshadowed by competitors who have kept up with the times. Draw in customers by converting formerly in-person services to their digital equivalents, such as online ordering and virtual storefronts. Equally important, promote the availability of these services.
- Personalize Digital Communications – Look for new ways to personalize, or contextualize, digital engagement. Leverage each visitor’s online behaviors and purchasing history to anticipate needs, convey the right messages, and highlight the most relevant content.
- Examine Sales Shifts: Examine which products have exploded and which have tanked during COVID-19, and then shift digital focus as necessary—looking at visibility, navigation, CTAs, and social promotion.
- Remove old, outdated content: As you review your digital assets for alignment with COVID-19, look for opportunities to improve quality, user experience, and SEO on each page and on your website as a whole. Remove old content related to past events, obsolete products, and expired promotions.
Your COVID-19 information hub for crucial web design and digital marketing changes
The most important digital property is your website, and there are many avenues for improvement. At the heart of it, look for functionality, design, and content elements that will make it easy to get the most important, timely, and relevant information.
Some ideas for sharing COVID-19 information include:
- Unified Landing Page: Make COVID-19 content visible and easily accessible by creating a single COVID-19 landing page. To help search engines recognize it as your key page for COVID-19 resources, put ‘COVID-19’ or ‘Coronavirus’ in the URL slug. To track the impact of the content, use a consistent term in the URL of all your COVID-19 content.
- Homepage Masthead: Your masthead, the most visible element on your site, is a natural place for pushing COVID-19-related information. It also conveys that you are prioritizing your customer’s current concerns. Placement of a “COVID-19 Information” link on your masthead will also signal to Google that your site has been updated for indexing and search.
- Website header: Many users will enter your website on pages other than the homepage. This makes your website header, which sits at the top of each page, a critical location for pushing timely and relevant COVID-19 information to your visitors.
- Alert Bar: An alert bar above the navigation can provide critical information, such as limited hours and COVID-19 protocols. Post-pandemic, this bar can include information about upcoming events and promotions.
- Main Navigation: Add a COVID-19 link in your main navigation or as a dropdown. This will be another signal to Google that your site has been updated.
Links on your website masthead, header, alert bar, navigation, and other digital properties should all point to the COVID-19 landing page mentioned above.
The Skyrocketing of Social Media
Limitations on socializing, shopping, and other activities during COVID-19 have resulted in a social media explosion. Social media is the most common way that consumers get information about brands and products, according to 82% of respondents in a study for Deloitte. The same study found that nearly three-quarters of respondents increased their social media consumption during the pandemic. Even more, 14% of shoppers are making purchases through social media.
Perhaps most important, over half of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that social media plays a crucial role in impacting both their decision to consider and to purchase from a brand.
The message is clear—refocus your efforts on social, especially encouraging social sharing. Take the time to understand how your audience’s social media behaviors may have changed during the pandemic, and update crucial web design and digital marketing changes accordingly. Also, check that all properties are branded consistently, have non-conflicting information, promote the right message, and are kept up-to-date.
Alternative Channels for Crucial Web Design and Digital Marketing Changes
- Video/Virtual: Necessity is the mother of invention. People stuck in their homes are craving connection more than ever. With that in mind, consider increasing video content and virtual experiences to create stronger customer engagement.
- Email: Another result of spending more time at home is increased use of desktop computers. This has led a rise in email opening rates. For example, March and April of 2020 showed a year-over-year rise of 20% over 2019.
- Mobile: The pandemic has also catapulted the use of mobile. Data from a global survey held in March 2020 revealed that 70% of responding internet users worldwide were using their smartphones or mobile phones more as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak. Likewise, 70% of mobile marketers say COVID-19 strengthened their business, according to Liftoff’s Mobile App Trends Report.
- Local: Also, recognize that even when our customers emerge from their homes, shoppers are more likely to stay local. You can leverage this trend by posting relevant information and changes in business operations in Google My Business, Facebook, Bing, and Yelp accounts.
Your Message Takes on New Meaning
During these rapidly changing—and often emotionally challenging—times, people need businesses to be more transparent, informative, and empathetic than ever. Make it easier for them to do business with you by increasing the visibility of your current protocols (hours, curbside pickup, and similar policies). If you’ve altered your policies to be more customer-friendly, such as improved financing terms, find ways to consistently highlight this information on all digital channels.
It’s more important than ever to do your best to anticipate questions, publish and post business changes promptly, and be responsive to questions you get through website forms, social channels, emails, and other interactive communication channels. Also, don’t assume you know how others think and feel. Try using polls and other mechanisms to ask what more you can do to help.
As you learn more about customer challenges during COVID-19, look deeper into how you deliver your messages digitally—the content, format, and timing. A study done for DigitalCommerce360.com provides this helpful information:
- Don’t overwhelm customers: During the pandemic, respondents feel that the tone of the content is ‘overwhelming’ (17%), and ‘stressful’ (15%).
- Relate to current events: 43% share more information and resources as they relate to current events. Try sharing timely and relevant industry information, community services, or helpful business policies.
- Participate with a cause: 37% are sharing more content supporting specific causes. If you participate in community events related to COVID-19, share positive activities and find ways to engage users.
Furthermore, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Stay on brand, but with a new level of empathy about how your messages may be perceived. Review (and update as necessary) your copy, tagline, and imagery.
Turn Your Crisis into an Opportunity
Companies that successfully move past the pandemic will be proactive, agile, and open to seeking new digital solutions. As we transition through different stages of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, view your digital channels through the lens of how you can best support your prospects, customers, and business partners. Your digital team or agency can help you review and adjust your current strategies for the greatest success. Find expert advice….