An office worker tangled up in a bunch of computer wires and power cords. - Digital Chaos Concept
PHOTO: Adobe

We’ve heard a lot about digital transformation over the last 18 months, and with good reason. COVID-19 mandated brands transform digitally because consumers did.

In some cases, though, it may be digital overload or digital chaos rather than digital transformation. This is especially true looking at the number of websites for some brands. How much is too much and what can you do about it?

Paul Bradley, co-founder of eQAfy, which measures digital estates, shared a report that measured the number of websites from some brands and universities. And here are the results:

Brands

  • Nestle: 1,603 websites
  • Groupe Renault: 1,219 websites
  • Volkswagen Group: 1,085
  • Unilever: 1,063 websites
  • VINCI: 958 websites

Universities

  • Stanford University: 3,467 websites
  • University of British Columbia: 2,673 websites
  • UC Berkeley: 2,622 websites
  • University of Michigan: 2,403 websites
  • Cornell University: 1,935

Taming Your Digital Touch Points

Remember those webmaster jobs? Busy person at some brands today if that position still exists out there. Today, it’s more like "digitalmaster," right? Meet customers wherever they are in the digital world is the call to action for marketers and customer experience professionals. How can brands tame the digital chaos when consumers are racing to new digital platforms and the data is mounting?

“Be the brand that cuts through the digital noise and instead provides consumers with content that’s of actual value to them,” said Nicole Penn, president of EGC Group, a full-service marketing agency. “Cut down on posting repetitive and irrelevant content for the sake of feeding your stream. Focus on aiding your customers with pertinent content that will benefit them. Be available for customers and provide a consistent experience across your touch points, but don’t create unnecessary new touch points for the sake of having more digital ‘real estate.’ That just leads to a cluttered experience.”

Related Article: Can Your Website Still Be the Backbone of Your Digital Experience?

The Signs of 'Overdoing' Digital Transformation Efforts

What are some signs you're "overdoing it" with digital? In other words, not transforming but actually creating chaos and more problems than digital customer experiences?

The most tell-tale sign a brand is overdoing it is a drop in sales, according to Penn. Consumer attention spans, she said, have become mercilessly short. “If your brand isn’t providing them the information they want, when they need it, they simply move on to your competitor,” she said. “Digital clutter kills conversions.”

Another sign is an uptick in customer service traffic. Overloaded customers are confused customers, and many turn to your customer service to clarify and simplify the experience for them, Penn added.

Content Creation Decentralization Is a Problem

Content creation in larger enterprises is highly decentralized because it needs to address multiple audiences — customers, business partners, the media, investors, potential employees and others — and often no central group has the knowledge to meet those disparate needs, according to Bradley. “Moreover, marketing tends to be organized according to regions or product lines — to respond to different market segments — which also leads to decentralization,” Bradley said.

“Over time, those forces, plus mergers, acquisitions, digital transformation projects and efforts to improve customer experiences lead to digital estate sprawl. So, large corporations end up with digital estates comprising hundreds/thousands of social media accounts, websites and content hosted on third-party platforms,” he said.

The sprawl extends beyond websites, he added. The same decentralization issue affects social media account creation and the content posted there. “And,” he added, “there’s an increasing amount of content being hosted on other people’s platforms: blogs on Medium, video on Vimeo, digital publications on Issuu or Calaméo, etc. It’s very easy for all that content to be forgotten, overlooked and become stale or no longer ‘fit for purpose.’”

Decentralization also extends to content management systems. Many organizations have a preferred platform, chosen for many different reasons. But, Bradley said, as you look across any one corporation’s digital estate you’ll see WordPress and other open source CMS in use alongside the main platform. “And, there’s no guarantee that those sites are being maintained appropriately. For example, having security patches installed,” Bradley said.

Related Article: Building Digital Resiliency for the Post-COVID World

Centralize the Brand Portfolio

Hosting too many websites signifies you may be overdoing it. Google actually punishes brands that repurpose content and essentially duplicate the information on sub and co-sites. “That practice can also be confusing to consumers who increasingly desire a seamless experience, so work instead on centralizing your brand portfolio on one site and then branching off from there,” Penn said. “We suggest brands with multiple domains create a redirect to bring users to your main website.” Google and the search engines, “reserve the right to penalize your website, only if you’re excessively copying blog content in a manipulative manner,” according to a blog post from SEO expert Neil Patel.

Beyond the Google issues, duplicate content creates consumer confusion, according to Penn. Consumers want a seamless experience, and might want to see a brand portfolio on one site.

Leverage traditional tools such as keywords, negative space and headlines, she said. With so many outlets competing for a consumer’s attention, a prospect’s attention is a premium commodity. “Consumers are teaching themselves to skim content, extracting what they need with the aid of our old pals: keywords and headlines,” Penn said. “Make your content easy to skim and simple to navigate and most important, concise and relevant. Less means more when it comes to attracting consumer attention.”

Continue to use data to know your customers and pinpoint their interests. Too often, there is a compulsion to appeal to everyone using all things. That’s no longer an effective strategy, Penn said.

“Rather,” she said, “use the data you collect on your customers to profile their current lifestyle and allow your content to reflect and enhance those values. This is the way to make sure your content punches through the digital noise and becomes something worthy of their attention.”