Creating Sticky Websites

Interview with me by Chris Lee originally published on 1st July at

Quality engaging content is crucial to the success of any company’s online marketing strategy. But even quality content’s impact is limited if the website is not engineered to make purchasing decisions simple for visitors thereafter. New Media Knowledge spoke to one expert to learn how to create engaging corporate websites in the age of the Social Web.

There is a well-used saying in Internet marketing circles: “content is king”. Optimised content draws in search traffic; engaging content is shared on social networks and retweeted on Twitter, yet many companies are at a loss as to what kind of content to create and how to seed it. NMK caught up with Dominic Duffy, executive vice president of Platform and Marketing at interactive content marketing platform Ceros, to learn more about content marketing best practice.

What are the challenges site owners are facing right now in attracting visitors and – moreover – encouraging them to come back?

As more and more brands acknowledge the value of content, they’re faced with three key challenges. Firstly, they need to create content that will engage users and encourage them to recommend it to others. Secondly they need to provide that content in a way that will make users want to return regularly. And finally they need to do all that in an efficient and cost-effective way. That’s no mean feat, which is why you’ll often see dated content tarnishing otherwise excellent websites. Equally great content can get lost in a badly designed website.

Does it all come down to design? If so, what makes a website really effective?

Design is extremely important but its application is often confined simply to the ‘look and feel’ rather than creating a connection with the user. As well as design, site owners need to think about how they will engage users. The best way that they can do this is with well thought out content.

Think of a ‘traditional’ website. How do you know what content has changed since you last visited? How do you know what content is new? In fact, if it is the first time you’ve visited the site; do you even know how to navigate it? ‘Traditional’ websites actually stand alone in breaking the pattern for every other form of media: They have no distinct beginning, middle and end. As a consequence, there is an inherent difficulty in using them to convey a clear message; a clear story.

Brands must provide good, exclusive content that is regularly refreshed and conveyed in a format that needs no familiarisation and has an inherently clear beginning, middle and end. Following this formula will engage users at level way beyond that of a conventional website.

How much of a role does social media play in customer retention and does it vary by sector?

Social media is extremely important and whilst its relevance is perhaps greater in B2C (business-to-consumer) at the moment, it’s fast becoming applicable in B2B (business-to-business) as well. After all, social media is effectively earned media – and therefore aspirational to brands.

Twitter is a powerful tool for brands but it’s confined to providing recommendation and referral, whereas Facebook can be used to convey content. However, Facebook pages can present brands with the same challenges as websites in terms of attracting a high volume of visitors on a regular basis. Aside from the usual offers and promotions for which Facebook has become a default location for many companies, brands struggle to provide fans with sufficiently engaging, regular content that will retain attention outside of special promotions.

What’s a great example of what you would cite as an effective website and why?

I think women’s fashion retailer Net-a-porter is one of the best examples of an effective ecommerce website. The website is a very impressive and well-executed blend of magazine-like editorial content and online shopping. It’s much more of an experience than a simple shopping site.

One of the most powerful parts of the site’s design is that upon first visiting the website, the user is presented with messaging that clearly states the content has a lifespan: “In this week’s magazine..” This might seems like a minor detail, but highlighting fresh content in this way can encourage users to keep coming back and make it easier to navigate the site and discover new content.

Original Interview can be found here

Not another iPad Article.

Actually it is. Another iPad article, I mean. You see, I’m conscious that in the ‘meeja’ world, iPad fatigue seems to be setting in. The frenzied pre-launch excitement has been replaced by an almost palpable resignation. Where once there was enthusiasm, there now seems plain old inevitability. But look closer and it seems the feeling of, well, if not reluctance then certainly skepticism, emanates most noticeably from a particular sector: consumer publishing.

Of all media sectors, consumer publishing has borne the brunt of iPad R&D and launch costs and has thus far at least, been unable to enjoy financial benefit. This is due in no small part to the challenges in creating a sufficiently compelling app to attract repeat purchase whilst at the same time ensuring the production process is viable enough to sustain regular production.

Whilst apps clearly sell, the vast majority are those that perform a specific, discrete function. In other words, they are purchased only once. A magazine app (as opposed to a magazine-branded app) is published repeatedly and therefore assumes repeat purchase. In many ways therefore, a magazine app must be extraordinarily impressive to stand out and attract repeat, regular purchase in sustainable volumes.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the 3 things the iPad brings to publishing: confusion, opportunity and a defining moment. At the time, the confusion was due largely to the lack of clarity in appropriate business models. This has since been diminished (by default) by Apple’s explanation of their subscription policy, which, contrary to many hysterical reports, is actually pretty clear (see below for a summary).

Sadly, Apple’s clarity apparently confounds consumer publishing’s woes, prompting a deluge of incredulous comment and even triggering disapproving noises from the normally conservative Forrester. Publishers should be under no illusions; the policy is unlikely to change. With the music industry, Apple has set a precedent for their 70/30 revenue split (the so-called ‘dirty percent’). And as a consumer, their data policy is difficult to argue against.

So what does this mean for content agencies? It means the opportunity is all the more prevalent. Brands know there is money to be made and they know Apple is the gateway. With no realistic competition anywhere on the horizon, the iPad is crying out for compelling content. The confusion has lessened and the opportunity has increased.


Motorola want you to get excited? Can you feel it?

The Motorola Xoom. Excited? Motorola certainly want you to be. 

Conceding to Apple’s formidable marketing machine, it seems poignant (and perhaps a little sad) Motorola feel the need to include a ‘Get Excited’ button on their website.

Click the image. Take a look.

Despite this, there remains relatively few iPad Apps originating from content agencies. And I’m not necessarily talking about magazine Apps. As a fan of great content, and therefore a fan of content agencies, this worries me.

“The vast majority of the apps available were created for the iPhone and do not fully exploit the capabilities of the iPad. Users report higher satisfaction with iPad-dedicated applications, however, and want more of them.”

– McKinsey ‘Understanding the iPad’ report, February 2011

Just a week ago Sky announced a radical switch from printed magazines to digital solutions; Apple launched the iPad 2 (barely a year after iPad 1); and McKinsey stated Tablet devices “are set to become the ‘control point’ for consumers’ media use..”

As last years APA Content Summit promo said,”If you’re not engaging, right now, you’re disengaging, and your customers will become someone else’s..”

Apple’s Subs policy in summary

  1. App Store Apps may only use In App Purchase (IAP) technology from within the App.
  2. App Store Apps must not direct users to commerce or transactions outside the IAP system.
  3. App Store Apps must price IAP and subscription content the same as, or lower than, equivalent content offered outside the App.

Apple’s Data policy

Customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address, and zip code. The use of such information will be governed by the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s. Publishers may seek additional information from App Store customers provided those customers are given a clear choice, and are informed that any additional information will be handled under the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s.

Association of Publishing Agencies Article originally written for  the APA