Marketers are often conditioned to think the “bigger and flashier” their ads and website content, the better. On the web, “bigger and flashier” can lead to sluggish, slow sites, which can have the adverse affect of frustrating end users and driving them away. As more business is conducted on the web, marketers must adapt and rethink their strategies. Web performance (speed) now plays a key role in a company’s brand reputation, and with competition just a click away, the stakes are higher than ever.
Today’s digital marketers have to lead with their IT foot first, ensuring that the end-user experience is never compromised for the sake of delivering more content. Many marketers continue to make detrimental mistakes that negatively impact their users, including the following:
1. Lack of Understanding for the Impact of Content on Speed
The saying goes, “a hungry dog runs the fastest” – and this certainly applies to websites. One major retailer learned that the hard way during the most recent Back to School sale, hosting a JPEG that was 5.3 MB when image optimization could have reduced its size to 28K. The result: the website loaded so slowly abandonment rates skyrocketed and sales were lost. Sites tend to get overloaded with images during sale events, and having just one image that isn’t optimized can affect the performance of the entire page. Fortunately, marketers have options when it comes to striking the critical balance between delivering the content they want to deliver, and maintaining fast webpage download speeds. Techniques such as image compression can keep byte size down (one especially noteworthy technique is Gzip compression – according to Google, this feature can reduce the file size of one’s pages up to 70 percent). When extra page weight cannot be avoided, marketers can consider using services like CDNs, as well as techniques like domain sharing.
2. Taking a reactive approach to customer experience
At this point, it’s more or less a given that the end user experience is the most important KPI with regard to digital business. Yet many marketers lose sight of this and fail to take proactive steps to ensure strong end user experiences before launching a new campaign or initiative. Doing that requires testing and understanding overall site performance impact in advance, for end users in a wide range of geographies. Companies that rely on reactive monitoring only after a new online campaign or initiative is launched, often get an unpleasant surprise – high page abandonment rates and customers complaining on social media. Not only does performance need to be measured in advance of launch, but once the campaign or initiative is live as well, across the widest possible range of geographies. This is the key to identifying and addressing growing problems before end users become aware of them, and making sure micro-outages impacting certain geographic regions are identified as early as possible, and fixed.
3. Failing to Pay Due Attention to Mobile
Online marketers simply cannot pay enough attention to mobile. According to comScore, mobile traffic significantly outpaced desktop traffic every single day of the most recent 2015 Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend, including Cyber Monday, when desktop traffic peaked. Network and device bandwidth is obviously far more limited on mobile, so a bloated site viewed on a mobile device will have an even bigger drop in performance than it would on a desktop. To meet mobile-specific performance requirements, online marketers need to put the “less is more” approach on overdrive. Mobile-specific approaches, such as setting up dedicated m. domains or creating adaptive sites, can also help. Finally, beyond performance considerations, mobile sites must be designed to be as user-friendly as possible, since Google now factors user-friendliness into mobile search rankings.
To survive in the digital business era, marketers must adapt to the new way of reaching their targets online. In this new world, “less” is often “more,” and marketing teams that want to deliver more website content must make sure there is minimal adverse effect on the user experience. Brands live and die by the end-user experience, and delivering a great one is crucial to protecting revenues and enabling businesses to thrive.