By Mickaël Rémond, CEO of ProcessOne, an IM solutions company
Businesses are always looking for ways to attract and retain customers. As a result, the company website is becoming an important tool for not only selling to customers but also to reinforce and keep the brand in the minds of consumers.
To maximise results, many organisations are looking at using Web 2.0 technologies because they offer the ability to provide a high level of customer service and drive traffic to the website.
Understanding Web 2.0 technologies
Web 2.0 technologies are Internet-based services, such as blogs, forums, wikis and chat, which can build brand awareness and bring customers to the website in different ways.
For example, a site with a user community, such as Major League Baseball, can allow users to discuss issues together and generate their own content. This creates a feeling of community and many users will return repeatedly to share their thoughts and read the comments of others.
Using chat to drive traffic
Chat is one of the most commonly used tools for adding the personal interaction that is missing in the electronic world. For example, many people shop online because of the speed and convenience of being able to purchase products and services without leaving their computer.
However, without the personal element it is difficult to solve problems. To overcome this, many businesses use chat applications to allow customer service representatives to “talk” with customers in real-time. Being able to respond immediately to a customer enquiry or issue is more likely to result in repeat business than only offering an email address or expensive telephone helpline.
There are many other Web 2.0 technologies which companies can use to increase customer loyalty. These include blogs, forums, wikis and video. Depending on what the company wants to achieve, each of these technologies has its benefits and flaws.
A blog is a website with regular entries of commentary and descriptions of events. It is a great way of engaging users and can directly address customer problems. For instance, customers can post any queries or problems they are having and you can provide answers. If you are a consultancy, it can be used to show potential customers your views on topics and your writing style.
However, it is the most expensive Web 2.0 technology because although the technology itself is cheap, developing the majority of content in-house is costly, compared to chat or forums where regular content is developed by your users.
Forums are for holding discussions. They are similar to chat except that they are moderated and the discussion topics are created by the business. They can be a useful tool for engaging your users on a subject relevant to your company. However, like blogs, they require internal input so they can be time consuming.
Wikis are a collection of web pages designed to allow users to modify and contribute to their content. They work particularly well as community sites or as internal knowledge bases or intranets. While they create a sense of ownership and collaboration, and websites such as Wikipedia prove they can be very successful, they can be very difficult to get off the ground.
Video is another alternative which provides opportunities for interaction and can be used to educate users on your product or services. However, it is very difficult to chat with a number of people at the same time or hold multiple video conversations simultaneously. It is also often seen as more intrusive than other Web 2.0 technologies.
Although Web 2.0 technologies can be interactive, there are also restraints. For example, you need several customers online at the same time in order to start a discussion. To get around this, have a moderator from the company driving the topic, or create a way to respond to comments even when people are offline.
Businesses thinking of using Web 2.0 technology also need to consider the time that they will need to invest in order to make it a success. Customers will constantly expect new content and businesses that want to attract users and increase visit duration will need to either add it themselves or encourage users to create it.
For example, during the French election many news websites incorporated a chat system to encourage visitors to stay and share their thoughts. This strategy was a success because users logged on to find out election information but remained on the website chatting to other users.
Finally, in order to make a Web 2.0 campaign a success, marketers must understand the risk of incorporating too many new technologies or they might alienate some of their customers. Only a single communication method should be selected in order to have a higher impact and build a stronger sense of community.
Be clear of your objectives
Web 2.0 technologies can be a great way of attracting customers to a website but marketers must know their audience and be clear about what they want to achieve. Selecting the right technology and using it appropriately is essential if the company is to enhance and drive traffic to the website.
The business cannot simply add a chat feature onto their website as a side project. It must be integrated into workflow, navigation, and user experience to ensure it fits with the business goals and enhances participation.
Only if Web 2.0 technology is integrated wisely can the business attract more users and also keep them satisfied and loyal to the brand.
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