by Sameer Khan
The rapidly changing economic situation is causing more business owners to rethink their market and business growth strategies. Most fortune 500 companies are cutting back on their marketing expenses. According to AC Neilson, online advertising purchases have decreased compared to last year. People are cutting back on luxury item purchases and focusing more on things they need the most.
I am not trying to paint a gloomy picture. I want to bring to your attention the importance of ROI, conversion, customer value and customer engagement. These are the words that were considered to be the last thing a business owner wanted to focus on because they were “busy” getting new business; however, recent developments in the national and world economy have made it mandatory for all of us to focus on the metrics that can turn around a business nightmare into a business success.
Customer or visitor engagement is one such metric that has gained more limelight than any other in recent times. Customer engagement cannot be measured directly because of several factors influencing customer behavior on the website. There are, however, some key sub-metrics that can provide quantitative data on customer engagement. Measuring the customer frequency, recency, and time spent on a website can provide the quantitative data required to understand customer engagement and visitor behavior.
Business owners are trying different strategies to keep the customers engaged and to influence visitor behavior on their websites. Most business owners use blogs, newsletters, midgets (mini application) and videos to increase loyalty.
A new buzzword in the website design market can become the ultimate customer engagement tool. Web 2.0 technology and customization programming (AJAX, dynamic html) are tied together to create what is called a Rich Internet Application (RIA). RIAs are the Internet version of your normal desktop application. iGoogle is a brilliant example of an RIA web page. If you have an account at Google.com, then iGoogle helps you create your own customized search page by dragging any toolbox to any part of the webpage. You can see your Gmail inbox, your website statistics, and Google news on the same page and add more RIA apps.
You can now implement the same technology on your website and increase the time customers spend on the site. Instead of providing a plane webpage to your visitors and customers, you can create an interactive page that allows them to customize your website’s appearance . The more time your website visitors spend on your site, the more they are likely to buy from you. Similarly, your customers will want to buy from you again. RIAs help the customers become a part of your business process by adding value to their purchase.
If you do not have access to high-quality website designers to produce an entire RIA website, you can add RIAs to a small portion of your site. Probably, a single RIA webpage could be a great starting point. You can find many RIA Web designers for pennies on the dollar at websites like rentacoder.com or elance.com.
RIAs act as interactive Web toys for average Internet users who are used to seeing a flat webpage. Possibilities are endless on what you can design using this technology. Even if you provide a service that cannot be customized, you can still add RIAs to your website to improve customer engagement significantly. A dentist can include RIAs in a webpage to help the customers understand the teeth cleaning process; a hair salon can use RIA and help customers visualize how they will look with different hair styles, a car dealer can provide customized paint RIA apps.
RIAs are truly a new frontier in the customer engagement arena.