Treat Web Site as Client’s Front Door

Apr 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Adam Armbruster, Special to TelevisionWeek

Have you ever seen an interesting television commercial for a product, only to then visit the sponsor’s Web site and be disappointed by a site designed some time during the Clinton administration?

Have you ever had to navigate past dreary “All About Us” pages just to find out where the stores are located or if they have your product in stock?

These “Bad Web Sight-ings” are being reported across the country. As media planners, we must do our part to help rid the world of such poor brand marketing experiences.

Although television commercials have become increasingly dynamic and interesting, often the corresponding Web sites often are stale or static, without the energy that appears in the same company’s inspiring TV ad.

As a modern media planner, it’s critical that you take a look at your client’s entire electronic media presentation experience just as a consumer sees it. Only then will you be able to make helpful adjustments.

Bad Web Sightings can be reduced with just a little imagination and some simple technical tools.

First off, let’s envision your television campaign as a buyer tour guide for your brand.

As with a tour, the television commercial’s role is to hold our attention by presenting interesting facts about the subject at hand.

Your television commercial’s primary function is to motivate a consumer, not to educate a consumer; only your Web site should be used to educate. Your TV campaign should tell the customer just enough to compel the customer to act.

Since we already know that, in at least 75 percent of all major purchases, American consumers will visit the sellers’ Web site before they buy, the Web site is the next stop. Customers visit the retail Web site to make sure a specific item is in stock, to verify a price or to check out the return policy.

In short, the client’s Web site becomes the virtual “front door” of the retail business.

Also, the Web site is the final marketing tool we can employ before a consumer buys.

So let’s make use of this opportunity to improve the dialogue between a retail client and a buyer. Here’s a recent example.

A home furnishing client asked us to evaluate its television and Web plan. The client stated that, although business was adequate thanks to the television campaign, it still found itself explaining to customers all of the extra services it offered. It seemed this story was not being told prior to the customer entering the store, due to the client’s out-of-date Web site.

We reviewed the campaign. The commercial was inspiring and definitely made us want to learn more. When we visited the Web site, however, we were met with static images of products, with no creativity or imagination in the layout. This was a serious issue, since home furnishings customers tell us they’re searching for someone to make their furniture dreams come true and to achieve these dreams with beauty and style.

Our client’s dull digital shots made even their high-end room settings appear rote. Also, since the Web site was mostly text, the company was forcing the viewer to read page after page as if reading a business prospectus.

Clearly, some Web site marketing work was needed.

We started from scratch, not only redesigning the look of the Web site to match the dynamic energy and feel of the television commercials, but retooling the layout and functionality of the site as well.

Instead of a dull list of categories with a text-click function, we designed six moving video segment windows to click for more information. Each moving video window took the viewer directly into a specific category, and also listed a specific 800 phone number to call with questions about the pages they were viewing.

We also suggested the client hire a Web chat company to enable live chat with Web consumers 24/7. This alone was a remarkable success, since it taught us that female furniture buyers are shopping at some odd times, including midday at work and at 3 o’clock in the morning from home. (What other furniture store will discuss lamp selections with you live at 3 a.m.?)

So instead of the old Web site that was filled with text, we provided consumers with a deep, entertaining and educational experience that promised even more when they visit the store.

Now the client’s consumers regularly enter the stores carrying printouts of the Web pages as well as a chat log of conversations they’ve already had with a store representative. By the way, retail results will always improve when you use your Web site to help you filter out window shoppers and filter in buyers.

A few weeks after the launch of the newly congruent television-plus-Web site marketing plan, we received a call from the president of the company. His results were actually higher than our boldest projections: Sales had increased and profit margins are now 25 percent higher than last year. Store traffic is strong even in this slowing furniture market, and market share continues to climb. The owner also announced that he was buying another store location with the cash from his increased profits.

Such results and more are available to you when you begin to market your client’s electronic experience in this way. Consumers often tell us they use retail Web sites to help them decide if a store is right for them before they actually visit the store. The Web has given the consumer a chance to “Web preview” a store before visiting, and this in turn puts great responsibility on us to properly tell our story online.

So why are there so many dull and uninspiring retail Web sites on the Internet?

Because many company presidents still view their Web site as some kind of company report, and not as the retail powerhouse marketing tool it really is.

Let’s take the same energy we apply to putting cutting-edge graphics and entertainment into television commercials and cross-pollinate this experience onto our retailer’s Web sites. The consumer wants it and, today, expects it.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.