Avoid Ad-theria, data-pox and other deadly digital diseases

There are six digital diseases that can absolutely ruin an online campaign, says an expert on Web site usability.

And unfortunately many marketers are falling prey.

They’re simply blowing away the tremendous opportunities Canada offers – as one of the most connected populations in the world, noted Steve Mast, vice-president and managing director of Delvinia Interactive Corp.

Toronto-based Delvinia provides interactive design and digital marketing services.

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Two decades after the advent of the Internet, “we still have numerous cluttered Web sites plastered with ads and widgets that make navigation difficult for the customer,” Mast said.

The Delvinia exec was a speaker at last week’s Marketing Week Conference in Toronto hosted by the Canadian Marketing Association. His presentation was titled: Avoiding Six Deadly Digital Diseases.

A recent Delvinia survey that identified Web features most annoying to Canadian online shoppers. The three most bugging features are:

  • Full page pop ups of another product or service – 43 per cent
  • Cluttered Web pages – 17 per cent
  • Lack of relevant information and customer reviews – 15 per cent

Mast said his firm has been tracking Web site usability issues for years and many clients have known about site design slip ups as well. “But when Delvinia put the issue in the context of diseases it was suddenly fun and “people took notice.”

Six sinister diseases

Here’s his list of the six deadly digital diseases that could kill an online sales or marketing initiative.

Widget-itis – This is the compulsion to include the latest and greatest widgets on the site. Apple Inc.’s iPhone site may be guilty of this one, but then again their product is all about the apps, Mast noted. But many stores load their site with widgets that have no relevance to their product.

Obsessive content disorder – This is the irrational fear of removing old content from the site. The company site is your businesses’ alter ego in the online world, Mast said. A stale site may send out the message that your business isn’t dynamic or you don’t care about your customers. Businesses should refresh their site content, Mast said. He cited the Shopping Channel site as a model. It always has an alert on the day’s hot sale item.

Data pox – This disease causes the customer’s immune system to be overwhelmed by intruding tools, data and options that makes navigation convoluted, difficult and frustrating. An example could Chapters-Indigo.ca site. The front page is so chock full of tiny bits of information and images that it looks like a quilt.

Ad-theria – This disease, he said, is caused by marketers obsessed with advertising either their own or other companies’ products and services to the detriment of customer surfing experience.

Mono-typosis – This “ailment” prevents customers from contacting, connecting or conversing with a company. For a quick cure take a look at theFacebook page for the Xbox 360. Customers can broadcast their views online — even if they want to say the service sucks. Or try the Lululemon Facebook page where customers have actually converse with the yoga outfit maker’s experts.

Navigation deficiency virus – This disease occurs when customers are prevented from navigating properly through a site.

Adam Froman, president and CEO of Delvinia, said companies can avoid these diseases by adopting five key strategies:

1. Understand your customer

2. Focus on the experience

3. Give people a voice

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

5. Test and learn

Canadian Opera Company’s online coup

Delvinia used these principles to help the Canadian Opera Company (COC) overhaul its Web strategy.

Prior to the project only 18 per cent of the COC’s clients were transacting with the opera company via its Web site.

By studying demographic information, purchase data, client attitudes and opinions, online behaviour and other factors, Delvinia was able to determine that COC customers typically had faster Internet connections than and were online more frequently than average Canadians.

The interactive media firm also found out that COC customers mainly used the Web to search for specific information, read current news, research products and services and for instant messaging among other things. The opera firm’s primary customers were identified as adults 45 to 59-years-old, married, very affluent but “time starved”.

Secondary customers are “city slickers”, 23 to 39-year-olds, single or with young families. They are up-and-coming professionals who use social networks and aren’t averse to paying more for tech items that save time.

To satisfy primary customers, the Opera Company made it easier for site visitors to determine how many seats are available for a performance, and faster to locate those seats online. The company also provided e-mail reminders to clients.

The site also kept more articles on performers and topics, such as costumes and set designs to engage secondary customers.

Since going live with the revamped site in March this year, the site’s bounce rate (the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site) dropped from 56 to 26 per cent.

The COC’s online ticket sales grew by as much as 30 per cent.

“The online channel became the company’s top performer over traditional channels such as phone and booth sales,” said Mast.

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