Buying behavior in the market undergoes fundamental change with tremendous velocity. Corporate CXOs need to wake up to this reality and do something concretely and quickly before their customers, and prospective customers, move right out from under their nose.
Corporate websites and their web channels are getting affected dramatically by various emerging factors such as smartphones, trends in social behavior on these types of devices and the influence of social media. What follows are some actions CXOs can take to retain their customers and if possible to attract new customers. This article points out the birth of a new sibling to the web channel -- namely ‘Mobile channel.’
In part 1 of this article we analyzed various technologies, social adoption and behavioral trends, and their influences on buying decisions.That article generalized the purpose of websites. Next it discussed various emerging trends both in technology and in using such technologies and hence changes in social behavior pattern -- hence the influence of these on business.
In this article we summarize possible business drivers which are building a business case to completely reexamine corporate websites and hence compel organizations to revamp or augment with innumerable functionalities.
From these pointers it proposes possible business capabilities that organizations should acquire to achieve their business goals. From there business functionalities are derived for future websites. I also provide a functional architecture for the future of the website which is more appropriately called a Digital Communication and Collaboration Platform (this is how I will refer to websites from now on).
Business Drivers and Required Business Capabilities
The section below describes various business capabilities that a business should acquire to meet the business drivers. So business drivers and the implied business functionalities to meet it are listed in a tabular form below here.
The business functionalities form the basis for the functional architecture that we need to have in the target systems.
|Business Drivers||Required Business Capabilities to meet the challenges|
|Corporate websites -- Current Status:|
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|Smart Mobile phone sales exceed PC sales, especially in India, China, Africa and APAC region:|
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|Smart Mobile phones heavily influence buying decisions:|
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|Web content is no longer suitable for mobile devices:|
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|Social media influences buying decisions:|
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|Collaborations and communications are the new way to include customers in the business:|
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|Mobile channel is different from that of web channel:|
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This section provides a solution to meet the business functionalities described in the previous section of this article. It also provides a functional architecture.
Each block in the diagram provides a set of functionalities and there are a few packages/modules or commercial or open source products available to realize those functionalities. Hence the proposed functional architecture is implementable as a solution, though the implementation details are beyond the scope of this article.
Figure 1: Functional Architecture with architectural building blocks
The following explains to a certain extent the functional architecture diagram. The numbers in parenthesis cross-reference the business capabilities mentioned in the table above.
- A web content management server serves as the heart of the solution. This has both a web content database (1, 15) as well as a separate mobile content database (3-8, 15-18).
- To this a listening platform (1, 2, 9, 11-13), such as Radian6, is attached which fetches the customers comments from social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
- Analytics functionalities are available -- say sentiment analytics -- to help analyze the comments of the customers and infer the overall feedback.
- Also the solution proposes to provide a separate and exclusively created ‘Enterprise Social network’ for customers to chat, blog or comment or in general express themselves or exchange views and points among themselves (10-14). This can be organized to provide customer-helping-customer both post and pre sales. Also, at the backend analytics can be run on this to understand the sentiments about the product.
- Broadcaster service is (unlike the RSS feed) to make regular announcements by corporate in popular pre-configured social media.
- Of course an e-commerce server meets requests from both desktop clients as well mobile clients. Hence it scales up with specific functionalities to serve as mobile-commerce (m-commerce) (17-19) too.
- A payment gateway is a component which must be already existing in any e-commerce solution.
- Video can be one of the inputs through this platform. Pre-recorded videos can come from popular video sites such as YouTube or it can come from corporate sources (it can also be live). These videos will be about product use or installation or configuration or even marketing related.
- Please notice there are specific technical components for detecting mobile devices when the site is accessed from one such device. Also one can entertain dedicated mobile apps through a separate server.
- Please notice location services (19) which will add spice to mobile contents in the form of location aware content delivery.
- In order to increase the communication mechanism -- conventional SMS, FAX and mail servers are included.
Figure 2: Solution Building Blocks that meet the functional architectural requirements
An implemented solution containing the above recommended functionalities is not a mere website. It is not only a mere mobile enabled website; it has functionalities for multi-way communication between customers and corporate and among customers. It is a platform for collaboration too, where various stake holders can come in and produce some useful output. So it is appropriate to call it a “Digital Communication and Collaboration Platform.”
Part one of this article highlights that information will be accessed more through smartphones than through desktops. Existing corporate sites are not suitable to deliver content to upcoming mobile devices due to various reasons mentioned.
Websites as a one-to-many communication media is obsolete or its purpose becomes very limited. Corporate needs many-to-many as well many-to-one communications and collaboration platforms.
Emergence of social media based cultures, aided by smartphones, alter the way information about a product will be consumed and hence it will have a varying degree of influence on buying.
As a result there is a need to relook at your websites and web channels. One needs to list a set of new business functions for the websites and web channels. Corporate should seriously look into giving shape to their mobile channels and re-architecture their website and web channels taking various drivers pointed out in this article.
Part two of this article re-lists the business drivers that force organizations to radically change existing websites and web channels; it also provides many business functionalities that need to be included in the new websites. In the new avatar there is no point in calling it a websites, a better term is a "Digital Communication and Collaboration Platform."
This article derives a functional architecture from business drivers, articulates certain characteristics of mobile channels and also pronounces certain recommendations for corporate.
The following is recommended to decision makers:
- Invest and rebuild a separate mobile compatible website which is tuned to provide content not only to the mobile devices but also in-tune with the usage style of the mobile devices.
- It is worth investing time and effort to revamp and re-architect the current as-is website to make it a multi-way communication and collaboration platform rather than keep it as only a broadcasting channel.
This article indicates the following:
- The existing websites of your enterprise will sooner or later miss out on crucial customers or audiences.
- If you do not do anything to it (something similar to what this paper points out), you are losing out on a good portion of your market or your customers buying decisions causing you to become less profitable.
- Websites are no longer an information dissemination media but have already become web channels.
- The existing web channels will need to be complimented with mobile channels whose characteristics are totally different.
- Content distribution to the appropriate audiences on mobile devices and also matching the capabilities of the mobile devices is quite different from laptops and desktops.
- Emerging markets give a clear indication of how this mobile channel will be used.
- To mark your presence in the emerging markets it is essential you latch on mobile and social media
Acknowledgements: The author acknowledges the encouragement of Suresh Kumaraswamy, program manager at Mahindra Satyam, to architect a novel solution which forms the basis for this article series.
Disclaimer: The opinions, point-of-views or recommendations expressed in this paper are based on references quoted and the inferences author made out of it; It is essentially authors opinion and NOT that of the company for which he works and they are in no way responsible for it.
Editor's Note: To read more by Sankaran Prithviraj: