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Enriching Web sites to engage customers better

This article appears in the issue January 2010, [Volume 19, Issue 1]
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Firms that rely on advanced Internet services for their marketing, customer relations and other business processes are turning to knowledge management solutions that measure customer response to Web sites, in order to improve traffic and to identify customer preferences so they can retain them and boost sales.

Smart Solutions, a software and Web development company, was working with a local nonprofit firm that wanted to redevelop its Web site to gain new members and achieve higher attendance at events, many of them fundraisers.

“The non-profit wanted to drive traffic to the site, then have visitors engaged in a meaningful way,” says Smart Solutions President Mark Knowles. Smart Solutions was using MindManager 8 from Mindjet for meetings and to collect relevant information from the Internet and other resources. A feature of the software enabled Knowles to map the existing structure of the nonprofit organization’s Web site. 

“By exporting the navigation structure of the site into MindManager, we were able to see the relationships between different [pages and elements],” Knowles says. MindManager displayed the navigation structure as different branches from the same tree, and it was easy to see that some branches weren’t grouped together properly, according to Knowles. That meant that it was difficult for users to navigate.

“The site was static. That tends to happen because Web sites are built organically, a page at a time. After a while, they become disorganized,” he says. “People would come there, but they would leave quickly.”

That’s if they found the site at all. According to Knowles, part of the organization’s problem was branding. People could find the site if they knew what to look for, but they would likely miss it if their search was less specific.

Google, Yahoo and similar services use site navigation as part of their search parameters, according to Knowles. “That’s part of the SEO [search engine optimization] puzzle,” he says.

Once the site was revamped, it was much more intuitive and easier to use, with the nonprofit organization benefiting as a result. Some wording was changed as well, helping to catch the attention of the search engines.

As a result, the site has seen a 25 percent increase in traffic and a 40 percent increase in conversions (memberships and attendance at events), Knowles says.

Retaining customers

Sol Lipman is CEO of 12seconds.tv, which enables users to update their sites with video, as well as to share videos via popular social networks. The site uses 12-second video clips from a customer’s Web cam or mobile phone, with the idea that 12 seconds provides enough time for a short video message. It is also a time span within the video recording capabilities of a large percentage of video recording devices, including many of the newer cell phones. Lipman has relied on customer input to make changes to 12seconds.tv.

One of the most recent changes was a new privacy feature that went live in June, which enables the user to share a video publicly or with only select parties. Customers can also choose default settings to make all videos private except selected ones.

“Our users said that privacy was the most important thing to them,” Lipman explains. Customer retention is important to 12seconds.tv, because site sponsors pay rates based on customer usage.

Customer input comes via UserVoice, a solution that enables visitors to make suggestions and vote on the recommendations of other visitors via an embedded link. The link brings the customer to the UserVoice Web site, where he or she can add input. The top suggestions and recommendations are then placed back on 12seconds.tv for visitor/customer votes.

By using that type of feedback mechanism, companies can mine the untapped knowledge of employees and customers to gain insight regarding products and services. Lipman says virtually all of the changes that 12seconds.tv has made since its launch in July 2008 have come as a result of UserVoice customer feedback.

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