Perceived site value: its definition and tips to increase it

2016-08-23 13:34:16

The question “What is Site Value?” is generally followed swiftly by the question 

What can I do to improve it?’

Well, the good news is there are a few simple tweaks that can make a world of difference. We’ll take a look at those shortly but first, as the title suggests, let’s take a look at what perceived site value actually is.

It’s all about the way consumers interact with your site so basically, we can call it the user experience, but it’s also about the cost of creating the optimal user experience. The perceived site value then can be defined as the subjective worth attributed to a product or service as it relates to the consumer experience inside a brands digital space. Do the digital tools, the buttons and your content add value and facilitate sales?, or do they hinder sales? by being overly complicated or lacking the intuitive navigation aspect inherent to all successful ecommerce and m-commerce websites.

The expected utility that each user assigns to the website takes into consideration different aspects such as their expectations and the objective of their visit, resulting in a wide range of site values. There will be varying reasons for consumers to visit your website and consumers are human so they have very different skill levels, goals and habits. Maximum appeal is key to optimizing expected utility.

The Expected Utility, which becomes the site value, is defined as:

Expected Utility = Perceived Value – Perceived cost

In the Nespresso example further into this article you will see a ‘Choose Your Machine ‘ Button the moment you enter the site. Why? Because it caters to one very specific expectation.  Although many users will wish to learn about Nespresso before buying, and they can do say easily by choosing one of the other buttons to access lots of well put together content, some will just want to get in, transact the purchase and get on with their day. This button gives them this option.

By making both options available in a clear intuitive way Nespresso has not only shortened the route to sales in a cost effective manner but it has maximized the appeal and usability and therefore exceeded expected utility in terms of the two types of website visitor we discussed.

Improving perceived site value

First impressions are very important, more so than some brands care to acknowledge. This is in evidence all over the web.

We have all, at some point, and most of us more than once, navigated away from a website before making a purchase even though that was the express reason for the visit.

We changed our mind as a result of the visit

Our expectations were not met

There are a multitude of reasons for this. Here are some of the key errors brands make that can be corrected relatively quickly and cheaply. They will produce immediate positive site value results:

  • Too creative with your layout

There is nothing consumers crave more than standardization in their browsing of websites. The navigation bar is at the top of the screen or top to bottom on the left side of the screen and from here they choose their route. Placing it at the bottom or in the middle of the page is a bad idea. Users like uniformity in navigation bars, this is the way of things and to go against the grain is not creative it creates friction and is counterproductive.

  • Colors and Font

Clean and clear are important. Colors that clash, obscure or make text and links difficult to read are a big no no.

  • Don’t use ‘Generic labels’ for navigation

‘What we do’ or ‘Our Products’ would be better named more descriptively. Search engines will not directly attach ‘What we do’ to a brand who sell electric scooters, ‘Thunderstruck Electric Scooters’ is clear concise link making it easy know where to click and providing search engines with an extra way to find you.

  • Additional to No Generic labels is NO BUTTONS

There are a few reasons for links instead of buttons but the most compelling reason to remove buttons are as follows:

    • Buttons are slower to load – speed and quick loads are way more important to user experience, more about this later.
    • Buttons are more expensive to update and edit.
    • The clincher though…. Buttons are not found or recognized by search engines, they are invisible, which means so are you.
  • Avoid overloading the navigation bar and avoid Drop Downs
    • You may have an inordinate amount of relevant information to share with consumers but you must find a way to keep it clean and visually pleasing. Users can only absorb a certain amount of content so force-feeding them with busy clogged up pages is simply not going to wash. It makes for difficult navigation that is not user-friendly.
    • Drop Downs are an annoyance, sometimes necessary, but worth avoiding. Once a user has found and read a link and decided that’s where they need to go they are on there way, the mouse hovers over the button ready to click and boom, a dropdown opens, progress is halted, further effort is required, it’s simply not seamless. It is a cause of frustration

You need to take time designing your website to mirror your positioning and increase your site value.

The overall look and feel of the website must communicate the same values that the company does. The customer journey must be an experience aligned with your products and the brand itself.

The Coca-Cola and Nespresso examples below are sites built cleanly, clearly and catering to their users. Coca-Cola represents youth, fun, and happiness, having a lighthearted image, while Nespresso provides a more serious image creating a sense of elegance and luxury:

The website, or window into the brand, takes on a higher level of importance when companies are based exclusively online. The lack of physical stores or any marketplace where customers can touch and feel the product means that the digital interaction is the only way for you to really connect with consumers.

The good news is there are a few ways to make this connection a solid one. The product is clearly the reason for their visit but there are other key elements that must be present. Simply by having these elements in place consumers are less likely to navigate away. The omission of these elements is a risk as omitting them will immediately set of alarm bells in the users head. They represent an important part of the overall purchase experience and influence the user’s decision to buy from you. They are anticipated and expected features on any e-commerce site.

Safety in Security

There are several parts to security perceived and they must be in evidence on your website.

  • The product quality and value

The number of product images and the quality of the images endorse the product worth so having an easily accessible and high quality image stock for each product is essential to make up for the missing touch and feel part of the process.

  • Customer Reviews

These serve to display clearly and quickly the fact that a legitimate service is provided by the brand, that the product is worth buying and that it will be delivered. Online buyers perceive a high site value if they are able to see what others think of you and it influences them more than they might like to admit, you can leverage this.

  • Payments

Global payment security stamps, shipment details and guarantees are important here as are payment options. PayPal makes for an easy decision to buy as there is less personal information to fill out and an inherent impression of less risk in online purchases due to familiarity with eBay, Amazon, and so on.

Shipping details and guarantees clearly displayed and service guarantees help to gain and maintain user confidence. A tracked shipment service is simple to set up, can be worked into your pricing and is worth its weight in gold as far as a confidence booster to users on the cusp of making a purchase, increasing highly your site value.

The less risk implied the easier the ‘BUY’ decision is made, the sense of risk is reduced if not removed by a competent display of having solid procedures around these elements.

Don’t keep users waiting

Social Customer service is the new way for brands to provide their customer service. It’s quick, simple to set up, has a very wide appeal in todays digital world, but it comes at a cost.

It was recently noted that between 40-45% of customers using social media to contact brands expect a response within an hour.

The good news is a short automated message along the lines of ‘We have received your message and we’re looking into it for you now, we’ll be back to you shortly’ will do the job for the initial response. The bad news is any customer issues are out there for all to see. The response, from you, when it comes then, must be relevant and serve to resolve the issue as it will impact on every user who comes into contact with the social feeds.

An issue/complaint is an opportunity, as anyone in retail is aware, but in this case resolution is public and time sensitive.

When a user is presented with any doubt about the shopping process that cannot be resolved quickly, it is very likely to remove their ability to make the decision to buy. The loss of confidence or implied lack of care by the brand is such that the custom could be lost indefinitely.

The ideal solution is a 24/7 chat on your website that connects users experiencing any problem or having questions, with support staff. This will retain all potential conversions within your digital space while issues can be resolved. Good resolutions will lead to sales and to a higher site value, while users who navigated away are gone.

The reason this is a great solution is that the internet has opened a whole new trading world where 3am is ok to do your weekly shop and 11pm the week before Christmas is ok to do your Christmas shopping.

The internet doesn’t open at 9am and it certainly doesn’t close at 5pm, the days of the High street trading hours are gone as are the days of resolving issues and complaints only within those hours. The nature of customers and their shopping habits have changed. The focus now is immediate response and the immediacy is based on the users own convenience and perception of service, not on any standard printed complaints policy and procedures.

Customer service is not the only time sensitive issue, the journey through your ecommerce site and the time it takes to navigate are another are for consideration.

Millennials and more recent generations of users want fast clear navigation. We touched links being better than buttons earlier from a speed point of view. The same holds throughout the user journey. Lag-times, unnecessarily complicated or text heavy tool bars and drop downs, too much text to fill out manually, invasive full screen third party pop-up ads that are difficult to close, content that takes forever to load. All of these issues serve to drive users away from the checkout, nobody wants that, so optimized for speed should be a huge priority for any digital environment designed to sell. We’ll discuss the ways to counteract these problems in more detail shortly.

Surprise and delight users

Most traditional websites have been designed to prominently feature the brand mission, vision and values. This was initially an important message to deliver, as consumers were able to familiarize themselves with the brand and have a deeper connection to the brand through the knowledge provided therein.

Nowadays consumers expect a higher site value, something further than simply the communication of brand values

Brands need to step-up to this new digital challenge and provide surprise elements to delight users, they need to use new digital tools to communicate with, engage and retain their web traffic and potential customers.

Gamified widgets are one of the better solutions to increase it on this front as they can be overlaid rather than integrated. They can appear without having to redesign entire websites. They can be implemented and customized to be non-intrusive and they can be personalized for the user providing a more relevant and individual experience for them.

Without the need to redesign the website widgets can deliver news, updates, new discounts, current offers, selected and customized content delivery to help users navigate through the site. Widgets provide an opportunity to cost effectively revamp any web space.

They can be used as a driver steering users to the higher value content and links. They can display user profiles and reward them for participation. They, in short, make it possible to optimize an ecommerce site in a way that resonates with today’s user and provides a brand with the capacity to add surprise and delight to their customer journey.

A personal journey with relevant and selected content delivery along with highly targeted product information and pertinent discount offers will make the user experience deeper and more involved. This is core to ultimately persuading users visit the checkout as their perceived expectations have been exceeded, in other words, as they have got a higher site value that the expected.

Reducing perceived cost

Another way to increase the expected utility is maintaining constant or improving the perceived site value as we have previously discussed, but then also decreasing the perceived cost by making some modifications to the website.

Interaction cost

The interaction costs are all the actions that users are obliged to take to achieve their objective. The lower these costs, the higher the perceived site value.

All of the following actions represent a cost in either effort or time on the part of the user, what would decrease the site value if they are not taken into consideration. These actions (costs) add up and between them define the whole user experience; the total perceived cost of using the services of the website.

  • Finding the website

The position and ranking of a website is a major concern. It makes it easier or more difficult to find the website among the selection of search engines available to users. The search engines work to provide search results that link like for like products and services, in short, it’s easy to get buried in the results. If brands don’t take steps to make themselves highly visible and easy to find they will not attract the visitors required for success. Hide and seek on the web is not recommended if success is the goal.

  • Reading

Users read less than the 28% of any website. Text format, enhancing the most important parts, creating headings and subheadings and the like serve to help users get to the content they wish to consume quickly, less is more.

  • Scrolling

The most important information a brand wishes to deliver to users should appear at the beginning and at the end of the navigation bar. Furthermore the navigation bar must be at the top of the page working left to right or down the left-hand side of the screen running from top to bottom as previously mentioned.

This is due to the ‘Serial position effect’. This is the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst.

This is why the contact details for a brand usually feature on the right or at the bottom and the product details on the left or at the top. Users need to know it’s easy to contact the brand, for their peace of mind and security, and they need immediate access to product information and how to buy it hence the prominence of these two elements. The middle of the navigation bar is for the users wish to know more, it’s there for those wish to explore but doesn’t impede the progress of the in and out buyer.

Attractive images complemented by clean, clear headings should complete website landing pages and be a continued theme throughout, remember first impressions count.

  • Clicking

The number of clicks to be exact. How many clicks and the effort it takes for the consumer to achieve the goal of their visit is very important.

This is where non-intuitive navigation or 3rd Party pop-ups with a fake or moving X to close can cost a brand heavily in terms of customers reaching the checkout. They are both a source of irritation and friction and add to the perceived cost of visiting the site.

Awkward to close full page 3rd Party pop-ups create a feeling in the user of an invasion of privacy. This does not help when the brand goal is to have them part with payment details before they leave. This perceived invasion has introduced security doubts..

Non-Intuitive navigation quickly becomes a drag. Users know what to expect from the likes of eBay, Amazon and other sites familiar to them. They are familiar, simple and easy to use; inherent to this familiarity is a sense of security. If this aspect is missing on a website it brings into question the ability of the brand to communicate correctly at time when there can be no room for doubt. If a seamless user journey is to result navigation must be easy.

  • Find relevant information

Access to content. The website architecture is core to this issue and it impacts on site navigation. Headings and sub headings and clickable images should be used to create content funnels where discovery of the desired content is made easy. The shorter the route, the less clicks, the lower the perceived cost.

  • Site Translations

The option to consume and navigate content in one’s own language is fast becoming expected by the multi national online community. Websites have a global reach after all.

There are, of course, many considerations the brand has to take before implementing this service:

    • Does the product have appeal outside the domestic market
    • Does the brand only operate in the domestic market
    • Does the brand deliver to foreign regions

All of the above and more contribute to the decision of whether this additional translation service has merit. Globalization and freedom of movement have all contributed though to making this service appealing.

The ease with which it can be done is ever easier with the use of automated services and it is becoming evermore popular as it implies the brand is a multi-national even when it isn’t. This inspires confidence in users who see big as more secure.

  • Typing

Typing too much is not good for today’s users who are looking for a speedy arrival at their goal. One solution to this is auto-fill search boxes where websites offer suggestions and predictions lists based on the initial letters typed.

  • Loading times

When it comes to the internet we all know that each second of hang time feels like a century, loading times have the potential for disaster in terms of conversions. Users expect to wait less than a second, if it is slower, they will be more likely to leave the page sooner. This is one of the most important costs as patience is one of the absent human virtues when surfing the web. Slow sites will be avoided, an alternative will be found. Slow loading sites or features and links will drive potential customers straight to the checkouts of the competition.

An extra note here in terms of branded mobile applications. I feel there is relevance as we are moving towards m-commerce and mobile purchasing is seeing exponential growth. Let’ face it a branded mobile app is an extension of a branded ecommerce site optimized for mobile. This being the case the user experience and user expectations are clearly aligned with today’s web shopper.

Oracle conducted a study in 2015 of Millennials habits and the results are pretty shocking:

    • Over 50% of Millennials will not go back to a brand after a bad experience inside their branded mobile application
    • 39% of Millennials would also be less likely to recommend a company’s products or services to others following a poor app experience, and
    • 27% admit it would even give them a negative view of that organization’s products or services altogether

So there it is, an insight into the importance of creating the right user experience to suit the market of the future now by reducing perceived costs and improving the perceived site value.

site value 4

In summary the fight for online market share is one that is not simply about the brand or the product. Reputation for quality and value have their place and are still key to winning customers but the internet is the key to retaining them and helping them fall in love. The internet is a wide-open marketplace where sales can be made quickly and efficiently driving growth and success. It is also fraught with hidden pitfalls and easily made mistakes. If the correct level of investment and attention is not afforded and accorded then failure is only a few unclicked links away.

Whenever evaluating a website, seeing through the consumers eyes is core to getting it right.

Consumers have never been more fickle than they are right now. It could be the level of alternative, like for like goods and services on offer, a trend in exercising personal choice or simply the manifestation of new consumer habits as a result  of the fast paced digital world we now live in. Irrespective of the reason the fact is ‘Perceived Site Value’ is an area that needs close monitoring and closer attention to detail.

If this post has helped you with your perceived site value, you might also like these 10 tips to engage your  customer!

This post is also available in: Spanish

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