Some new analysis about how to reach customers triggered an interesting conversation within the walls of Adaptive Path . We thought we’d share our insight with readers and get your feedback.
“I believe business web sites will become less important over time. They will be primarily transactional and/or for utility. Brands will shift more of their dollars and resources to creating robust presence where people already are and figure out how to activate employees en masse in a way that builds relationships and drives traffic back to their sites to complete transactions. Media companies will do the same – they will be ‘headless.’”
Henning doesn’t buy it:
“Brands still have the desire and need to tell their stories and deliver content/service/products in a way that is centralized and owned by them. Sites will remain an attractive option to those wishing to do so. This doesn’t preclude complementary channels like the social media he is writing about. What seems to be more important than choosing the one right channel is choosing the right mix and having flexibility in your commitment to social media so you can follow your users. Consumer product manufacturers (Nike, Sony, Apple) face the same decisions when they decide where to sell their goods.
Also the whole headless company thing? It won’t make sense for a lot of people.”
I agree with Henning more than with Steve. The web has given brands an opportunity to create their own little place to talk with customers unlike any medium before it. That power, control, advantage, whatever is intoxicating. Mobile apps are an extension of this. More and more brand-specific apps are being created. In December, Brand Week found Target, Walmart and Disney amongst the top 50 most popular free apps.
Sure, the “be where your customers are” is a real and important new tactic, but while engagement at the edges will become marginally deeper, I believe that brands will continue to mostly drive customers to their own properties to seal the deal.
In a recent Talk of the Nation episode the author of Newsonomics makes a case that a major reason that news sites are failing is the unexpected lack of advertising sales. Instead of buying Flash ads on the Times they invest in their own sites and apps. To quote: “$66 billion a year U.S. companies are putting into their own marketing through digital means: their own Web sites and own outreach”.
Lane fears that my approach is just to binary.
“It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s not about being anywhere, or going to one place to “seal the deal.” Companies can no longer drive customers *anywhere*; they’re already everywhere. So the appropriate response is to be everywhere your customers already are, responding to them in the context they’ve chosen to embrace, and then find ways underneath that to centralize the information and knowledge gained through this distributed approach to customer engagement. Distributed, widgetized, accessible, everywhere.
To repeat: it doesn’t *matter* where brands want their customers to be. It matters where the customers want to be. The systems we create now need to acknowledge, embrace, and most importantly make use of this new reality — because it actually creates a great deal of information-rich data that will be incredibly valuable to the businesses that gain access to it. Makes customers way happier, too.”
Peter thinks that the notion of going “headless” could work, and actually did some work designing a model for distributed brand engagement.
“At Info.nl we developed a model called Exploding Websites which we presented at Euro IA 2009. (Focus on slides 44-52) The model deals with this near-future situation where a brands’ interactive presences are scattered around the place (“exploded”) but rely on rich profiles for context-sensitive components, deployed at multiple touchpoints. One central hub, where the brand owner is more in control, may or may not be involved.”
So who’s right? Is there a clear winner or are we really looking at a nuanced approach that takes both centralized control and democratized content ownership into account? Tell us and other readers what you think in the comments.