Today, consumers prefer the online channel but the key question for you, as an online marketeer is, how good is your customer experience online compared to the other channels your company endorses? If your customer feedback is positive and you have an enviable ROI from your marketing efforts, then it shouldn’t be long before your company is mentioned in the same breath as Zappos, Apple and Google. The ad from Brussels Airlines should give you a hint on what I consider a Fantastic Customer Experience!
Here are a few instances to highlight what Google, the Advertising Standards Authority and the European Union do to ensure the marketeers have their customer’s best interest in mind.
Most corporate mission statements are often criticised for various reasons. I was wondering if you’ve glanced at uber successful Google's corporate philosophy and the core principles (aka Google's ten things) that guide Google's actions? Here's the first principle -
“Focus on the user and all else will follow! “
Hmm, I guess that sets you thinking about the emphasis, a company valued over $200 billion places on customer experience, doesn't it?
Recent improvements: Early this year, when Google updated its search spam algorithm, we applauded the move by the search giant to provide fresh, relevant and useful content that was not just regurgitated by a content farmer. Its a well known fact that Google continously tweaks its algorithms but did you know the search giant actually makes about 400 updates to its search spam algorithm every year to give its users, high quality search results? Reassuring, that this particular update has led to an interesting change in the SERP rankings for popular content and the algorithm update in January 2011 continues to be a popular topic on Quora. If the quality of SERPs is a high priority for a search engine that enjoys a monopoly in almost all markets; and online search marketing budgets exceed budgets for print and TV, I reckon it is clear that customer experience really does matter (or is of paramount importance) to Google!
More recently, Google has taken a leaf from new kid on the block – Blekko’s book by allowing its users to personalise their search results. Yes, if you’re signed in and you feel a certain site doesn’t really offer you much value through its content, you can blacklist the domain and Google will never list content from the blacklist whenever you search. Now, there is the ongoing debate of how personalising the SERPs isn’t a good idea and how it can lead to confusion but hey, who makes the ultimate decision on Google? I’m sure Google CEO, Eric Schmidt would say “ You do!” and he would be backed by the scores of analysts who constantly crunch terabytes of data to optimise Google’s product portfolio.
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Early March, the ASA decided to start policing web content, in addition to their watch over paid advertisements (in response to 4500 consumer complaints over the last 3 years). The BBC article, “Advertising watchdog to monitor website words”, clarified “the rules cover statements on sites that can be interpreted as marketing, even if they are not an advert.” I feel this could lead to more companies being worried about compliance than just those regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Especially, since the ASA intends to introduce a name and shame policy to encourage firms to comply with the new regulation. The good news is that the Committee of Advertising Practice offers free Copy Advice for those marketers who wish to ensure their marketing communications do not violate ASA rules which now also govern user generated content (if used for marketing purposes). I guess, over time, strict enforcement may lead to long queues at the CAP office or the more enterprising amongst us may assist in the evolution of a new alternative service to help marketing departments with compliance. Oh and by the way, the ASA’s remit is not limited to just .uk/ .co.ukdomain, it does have a say even if the website is a .com domain as long as the content is targeted at the UK user!
The ethical message - Unscrupulous marketing tactics adopted by a few has resulted in the entire community being tarred with the same brush and consequently, have increased scrutiny. A clear sign that your marketing department must keep a closer watch on what you publish.
The European Union (EU):
More recently, the buzz is around the latest amendment set to become law on 25 May 2011 to the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive regarding the explicit consent of EU users through an opt-in (and not an opt-out) that will be required if a website uses online cookies for behavioural targeting.
Digital marketeers would certainly argue that this class of cookies help enhance the user experience by providing the user(s) with related/ targeted content but I assume for the 'more concerned' user, fears would still exist over how their data may be used. It remains to be seen how innovative/ clever the marketeers turn out to be, in responding to this new directive which will be overseen by the Information Commissioner's office. I reckon, at a very basic level, we can expect to see more pop-in's asking for “explicit consent” as pop-up's are now completely blocked by web browsers. How much this annoys a user when they are interrupted by the “legal requirement”, only time will tell. To be honest, I would rather the pop-in than a splash page but I guess, the solution will have to be based on the phased implementation guidelines that are to be published shortly by Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries at the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). I am really keen to see how this new legislation affects web usability and whether the new law will warrant some innovative methods to request consent in the European Union without annoying the user and how the smarter marketer will somehow, (in Seth Godin's words) “Wow the customer” along the way!
Watch this space for more!