Forrester Research makes a collection of its past webcasts on various online marketing topics freely available (registration required). I recently checked out one of their presentations from about a year ago titled "The ROI of Web Site Redesigns Made Simple" by Harley Manning and Jeffrey North. Like any presentation from one of the big analyst firms, the research focuses on very large companies, and is vertically unfocused (in this webcast, they divided websites into three groups: e-commerce, manufacturing [including B2B] and financial services), but still provides some nuggets of value for smaller organizations.
Forrester's key findings from their website redesign research:
- By Forrester's standards, 97% of business websites fail to earn a passing grade for usability. Among the biggest sins—79% fail at basic legibility (adequate font size and contrast with background). They cite the New York Times website as the gold standard for legibility (not logic, truth or common sense mind you, just legibility).
- It's almost impossible not to get positive ROI from a competent website redesign project.
- The top goals in website redesign projects were to provide more and better information, increase leads/sales, improve customer service, and build brand loyalty. Participants in Forrester's study for the most part thought they had achieved these goals, although building brand loyalty was the most difficult to measure: 28% of respondents had no idea whether or not they had accomplished this.
Results varied across the three broad vertical groups, with e-commerce sites not surprisingly achieving the highest ROI from site redesign projects. All groups benefited from the effort, however. For B2B websites:
- Among the companies Forrester studied, site traffic increased anywhere from 0-15%. Traffic increases were driven by two factors: improved SEO to drive new traffic, and increased repeat visits (due to having better content on the site).
- The conversion rate (of visitors to leads) increased by 20-50%, from an average of 1.5% to somewhere in the range of 1.8-2.25%.
- Service calls were reduced—through deflection from phone to web—by 10-20%.
- Total ROI varied from 70% to 500%.
- While larger redesign projects produced a higher return in dollars, smaller projects produced a higher percentage return—at lower cost and lower risk.
How to keep costs down
- Use interactivity and integration with back-end systems (e.g. lead collection straight into a CRM application) wisely; this is a major cost driver.
- Limit the number of approvers involved and the number of review cycles.
- Use high-production value assets such as Flash and online video sparingly.
- Target only as many unique customer segments as you really need to.
- Re-use as much existing content as possible.
- Limit use of personalization—while this is pretty much required for e-commerce sites, it's less crucial for B2B sites (though it can be very helpful in the customer service area).
How to generate positive ROI
- Start with an understanding of your unique target customer segments and their information needs (the approach KCA has always taken—nice to get validation).
- Develop metrics for measuring ROI so you can get an accurate "before" and "after" picture. These include new site visits (SEO-driven), repeat visits, conversion rate and service call deflection rate.
- Develop a schedule and stick to it, avoiding scope creep.
- Content is king; visitors will be attracted to your site, and ultimately to doing business with you, based on quality and relevance of your site content.
- Involve customer service staff intimately. No one knows how to reduce support calls by providing and making it easy to find common answers than this group. Also make sure sales is involved—they (should) know better than anyone else what information your prospects want, as opposed to simply what you want to say.
Finally, how do you know if you need a site redesign? If your current site design is more than four years old—you need one. At three-four years old, it may be okay but is worth a review. If your existing site is less than three years old, it shouldn't need a complete makeover, but still may benefit from a face-lift and content refresh.
Again, you can check out Forrester's free webcasts for yourself here.
Contact Mike Bannan: firstname.lastname@example.org