Business still baffled by the Web

Very few rely on Web to attract new business

Most Australian businesses still lack an effective Web presence capable of enticing new customers, according to Computerworld's online e-business poll.

The poll asked respondents: Do you rely on your Web site to attract new business?

Only 25 percent of respondents report receiving new business from the Web while 50 percent claim they only have a Web site because their competitors have one.

A further 25 percent only generate a small percentage of business from their Web site.

According to IRBS analyst, Kevin McIsaac, this is a standard sentiment for many businesses, and a large percentage of organizations do not utilize the Web effectively.

"People are doing it because everybody else does it but not a lot of people are doing it well," he said.

McIsaac said many organizations don't grasp the intricacies involved with maintaining an effective Web presence.

"It can be a complicated thing to get right, and it's one that requires quite a degree of maturity when it comes to Web sales and marketing," he said.

"Most organizations just don't operate at that level of maturity."

Organisations need to introduce performance metrics to properly gauge the efficacy of their Web services in attracting new customers, McIsaac says.

"You need to start by saying, 'what things should I measure to decide if this channel is working?' Is it the number of leads, is it simply the number of page views? Can you actually tie it back to revenue or sales?"he asked.

McIsaac also recommended introducing Web analytic software to help track performance metrics.

After measuring the effectiveness of their Web presence, he said organizations should experiment with methods to improve services.

"It might be that you need to build better content and have a content management system; maybe you need to integrate the Web into your leads management system," he said.

"You need to understand what you're trying to achieve... and you've got to start striving to drive those numbers up."

When building a site, development should support what users want, not necessarily what the company wants to promote, according to Forrester Research analyst, Kerry Bodine.

"You design with your users in mind at every key decision point," she said.

Forrester has reviewed more than 200 Web sites and found that a mere two percent pass its usability tests.

Companies could do better if they recruited actual users to test their sites, Bodine says.

"You want to see where they stumble, what they're confused by," she adds, noting that the companies with the highest-ranked sites run usability tests frequently.

- with Sandra Rossi

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