The digital world isn’t changing. It has already changed. Google gave the desktop three years to live in 2010, predicting smartphones and tablets would replace it. It was bang on target: analyst IDC report that “in the fourth quarter of this year, more tablets will be shipped than desktop and laptop computers combined”.
While the desktop may not be dead, it’s no longer the means by which huge numbers of people are accessing digital content.
A recent survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project confirmed that about a quarter of smartphone users now depend on their phone for most of their internet access rather than waiting to use a ‘conventional’ computer at home or the office. This trend is only going one way, with twice as many under-30s dependent on their smartphone for internet access than those who are 30 and above.
Consumer brands are aware of this. The recent launch of low-cost £100 tablets by Argos and Tesco shows that retailers see this as the key growth area for home computing. But what’s the implication for corporate communications?
Old divisions and comforting categorisations like ‘business-to-business’ have gone. Social and business media are, more and more, one medium. There is less space between kitchen table and boardroom table.
The growing trend of BYOD (bring your own device) means that people are accessing information for work and home on the same device. That has big implications for corporate communicators, with business users now expecting the same quality of experience wherever they are. Amazon, Facebook and the like set high standards and have big development budgets. Matching their quality is not an easy task but that’s what users expect.
There are more surveys, more predictions and many more advances in technology waiting in the wings but you see where this is heading. If the traditional way of accessing the internet is vanishing, how do you manage your brand and what does your brand mean in a mobile digital world?
In fact, isn’t the first question you need to ask more basic than that? Isn’t it: what are you doing on the web anyway? Here’s how we think you
can answer that:
- If you’re not a transactional business (such as an airline); not a news source; not a reference point or thought leader; and not directly selling, like an Ocado, Amazon or eBay – think carefully about what you are using the web for.
In a world overloaded with information, is giving people more of it worth your outlay? Digital communications have come a huge distance in a very short period of time. Everyone’s an ‘advanced user’ now, with high expectations and low tolerance of overt corporate messaging. Users control their own digital world and you have to work harder to get into it.
Whatever you deliver has to be high quality, genuinely useful or really interesting to deserve its place on their home screen. That’s why more and more businesses are investing in content marketing, delivering valuable insights in place
of traditional sales messages.
- Test your assumptions by understanding who visits your site. Analyse how they access it and how they’re planning to do so in future. Ask what they expect to find when they get there. Who are your next generation of users? What do they really need from you? Ultimately it’s about them, not you.
- If your research convinces you that your website is truly valuable, can you justify doing nothing new to it?
More and more of the internet will be viewed on mobile devices. Making that a rewarding experience means opting for responsive design. Responsive design lets a single website adapt its appearance and functionality for different devices. This isn’t dumbing down, it’s speeding up evolution.
Today’s digital world is a multi-dimensional concept, where a positive experience is all about content, function, ease of use and great interaction. How things look remains important but it’s not the primary consideration, particularly when that will change from device to device.
- Making your massive corporate website work on a phone and tablet is a big and potentially expensive undertaking. Users expect different experiences from their devices, so brands need to be flexible in application but consistent in message. However, it’s often impossible to tailor all your content and the user experience to individual devices and channels. You have some tough editing and strategic decisions to make about what your brand says and does, and where it says it and when.
Start with mobile first and think two years ahead. Make the technology and data do the work so users don’t have to. That’s what increasingly savvy users now expect.
- Don’t consider producing any form of app unless you have very clear reasons for doing so. People now expect your website to work on their mobile and will only be interested in downloading an app if it adds genuine value.
Many apps are used once and then forgotten, and only five per cent of users still use an app a month after they’ve downloaded it. If it’s not a game, a social networking site or a genuinely useful tool, most apps just won’t get used.
What’s more, user expectations are much higher for apps than websites. Substandard, badly worked out, badly functioning, opportunistic examples simply damage your brand.
In most cases a really well-considered mobile website is a much better solution for corporate communications needs.
- Brands have become collaborative. Starting with social media and accelerated by the spread of smartphones and tablets, the corporate image and the company voice are no longer dictated from above.
Channels are mediums in which to share, publish and curate content. No business with serious digital aspirations can think: ‘This is nothing to do with us.’ People no longer expect just to receive information – they want to participate. Traditional messages broadcast from on high just add noise to the working day. Most people tune this out or switch off.
Communication in general is now much more democratised. To be effective, it needs to be a shared process where we make an emotional connection and bring people together. That’s where the future of digital communications lies and where there are really exciting opportunities to make a real impact.
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