The Engaged Web, a benchmark study published today by Episerver, the world's fastest growing provider of platforms that drive online engagement, has revealed that many online brands are failing to maximise opportunities to engage with website visitors by not effectively integrating social media components, online communities, blogging or 'sticky' and personalised content.
According to the study, only 18% of the 80 leading companies investigated feature a community on their website and regularly updated blogs feature on only 20% of sites.
Ironically, two of the most consumer-focussed sectors whose websites are largely revenue-generating – Retail and Utilities – were the worst performers in the study, failing to effectively integrate content, community, commerce and communication to engage visitors and potential customers.
"As the web increasingly becomes a primary means for communicating, presenting a compelling online experience is now more critical for organisations wanting to engender brand loyalty and maximise online business potential," said Andreas Stjernström, Country Manager for Episerver Australia and New Zealand.
"Consumers want more than a web destination and expect more sophisticated engagement that demonstrates a brand's understanding of their needs and wants, and ultimately drives them to commence or maintain a relationship with the brand. Australian businesses are using their online presence in innovative ways, but are failing to engage visitors in meaningful dialogue that leads to securing business. For example, while most sites might feature some form of rich media and dynamic, personalised or 'sticky' content, just five per cent support it with compelling information and less than five per cent make it easy to contact them.
"The good news is that steps can be taken to better engage with website visitors and develop a sense of community."
The Engaged Web report analysed 80 leading companies, many ranked by Hitwise as being the most visited in Australia, spanning eight vertical sectors - Telecoms, Charity, Retail, Sport, Travel, Public Sector, Finance and Utilities - and scored them against a matrix of criteria for an in-depth assessment of their online engagement strategies. The criteria assessed a wide range of different components that make up an engaging website including engaging content, multimedia content, personalisation, social media and communities.
The study revealed some steady themes across the various industries. Telecoms and Sport fair well when it comes to featuring online communities and blogs, however Retail is the weakest sector in both categories. While across the board 98% of sites use rich media content, sporting sites again lead the pack - though supporting text isn't as impressive with just five per cent of all sites presenting copy that is engaging and easy to read for website visitors.
Australian companies appear to be embracing social media with 44% of companies advertising their Twitter account directly on the homepage and 34% drawing attention to their Facebook fan page. Telecoms and Travel are strong in encouraging online interaction with their visitors and customers by participating in discussions and answering questions, while Retail and Utilities disappoint on this front. Across all companies in the study, just half of a per cent regularly upload information and news to share with the community.
In terms of more traditional engagement methods, the vast majority of sites don't make it easy for site visitors to contact them or get help with contact details that are hard to find. When looking at engagement channels being promoted on the website, a phone number was the most commonly advertised (90%), followed by an email address (64%) and a web form (58%). But a mere 1% of the brands offer a much more interactive experience through live chat.
The Episerver report, The Engaged Web, is a guide for businesses who want to make their online presence more engaging, offering practical steps and real-world examples.
Michelle Rovere, PurePR
Tel: 0408 441 662
80 companies, largely based on a selection of 2009 winners of the Experian Hitwise Online Performance Awards, were studied for the Engaged Web report. Ten companies from eight vertical sectors - Telecoms, Charity, Retail, Sport, Travel, Public Sector, Finance and Utilities – were selected, and their websites scored against a matrix of criteria for online engagement strategies. The key online areas assessed were: online communities; multimedia content; personalisation; dynamic content; blogging; social media; and dialogue. Each website was then awarded a score out of 100. Each website was analysed in September 2010.
Retail: JB Hi-Fi, ABC Shop, Woolworths, Ikea, Bunnings, Officeworks, Toys R Us, Pumpkin Patch, ePharmacy, Supercheap Auto Travel: Qantas, Virgin Blue, Jetstar, Flight Centre, Last Minute, Oz Cruising, P&O Cruises, Spirit of Tasmania, Stayz, Whereis Sports: AFL, Fox Sports, TAB, Cricket Australia, V8 Supercar, NRL, Golf Link, 2010 World Cup – The World Game, Australian Open, Coast Watch Telecoms: Telstra, Optus, Virgin, Vodafone*, AAPT*, Three*, Nokia*, Motorola*, Apple*, iPrimus* Public sector: Bureau of Meteorology, Centrelink, Australian Tax Office, Better Health Channel, Roads and Traffic Authority, CFA Victoria Cityrail, NSW Lotteries, Brisbane City, Gold Coast City Council, Finance: Commonwealth Bank Netbank, ANZ, Westpac, Ninemsn Money, ASX, Commsec, CPA Australia, Chartered Accountants, InvestSMART, AMP Charities: Worldvision, Pet Rescue, Red Cross, Boystown, Bicycle Victoria, Salvation Army*, St Vincent De Paul*, Cancer Council*, Amnesty International*, McGrath Foundation* Utilities: Melbourne Water, Origin Energy, AGL, Energy Australia*, Sydney Water*, Integral Energy*, SEQ Water*, Energex*, Simply Energy*, Perth Energy*
Please note that * denotes websites not taken from 2009 winners of the Experian Hitwise Online Performance Awards. These websites have been selected because they represent leading brands within their sectors.