Many websites are designed without obtaining any feedback from the most important person of all: the user. As a result, the structure and copy of a website is based on several discussions with in-house users and web designers. It creates a "here is what we wan to talk about" mentality instead of a "as a customer, here is what I want to learn about" perspective.
It's unfortunate but this is far too often the case when it comes to website development. Copy is often rushed to be put together without truly strategically thinking about the what, how and why of each piece. The best websites are developed with customer and user needs in mind. You can have a great designer, a great SEO team, and a great copy-writing team, but you still need to integrate customer feedback into your web development strategy.
"Just like you should not have an interior designer build and construct your house, you should not have a website designer structure the copy and SEO strategy for your website."
Using Voice of Customer (VoC) research before you redesign or restructure your website can create a wealth of information to guide your strategy. It ensures your new website meets the needs of your users and customers of your website, creating a well-aligned path to success.
An excellent starting point for website design is understanding Google Analytics. What pages are our users visiting? How long are they staying? Where do they click? Where do they exit? Simple data like this should be reviewed before taking any steps with new website design. Although Google Analytics can do a great job explaining the "what" of the traffic, it cannot explain the "why?" Read more about pairing your UX data with traditional market research here.
For example, take a data point such as average time on page for your about us section of your website. Let's say users spend an average of 1:07 on this page which ranks as a top 3 section for your entire website. Nearly 70% of users exited the site after this page.
The interpretation here could be, users are looking to find more information about our team, so let's do a better job and feature this on the homepage of our new site. Users found what they were looking for on the about us page and then exited. Therefore based on this data, we were meeting their expectations.
However, what gets lost in the analysis is users were spending over a minute on this page because they were looking for contact information for your business. Without a contact us page or phone number posted, users were left to scan through paragraph after paragraph on your about us page looking for an email and phone number. After not finding anything, users became frustrated and exited the site. By moving this information to the home page without any contact information it does not solve the problem.
So that 1 minute and 7 seconds spent on the page doesn't look as good now does it?
This is why digging into the "why" and understanding user needs and wants from a website is a critical part of website design. This type of feedback is captured through Voice of Customer (VoC) market research where surveys and interviews are completed. This user feedback drives changes and improvements to the website.
Design your website with your users and customers in-mind. Perspective is key. What looks good and what's important to you may not be important to your users and customers.
VoC creates many benefits for website development. Here are 3 simple value-added advantages of using VoC before a website redesign.
Advantage 1: Determine Key Differentiators for Your Business
These are all questions and answers that need to be ingrained into your copy and content on your website. More importantly, it shouldn't be your answers to these questions, but rather your customers answers to these questions.
"Better is the opinion of the buyer, not the seller."
These types of questions can be tackled through simple qualitative phone interviews or online surveys. Even better, some of these questions can be wrapped into a larger customer survey where the scope can tackle much more than just website design and strategy. Have an employee profile page which details employee degrees, talents, and characteristics? Why not create a short employee survey asking them to fill out this information themselves rather than hounding them to fill this out.
Figure out ways to maximize your market research efforts and tackle multiple objectives and priorities with one study. Although the main objective of your study may be to drive website design, the results can be used for much more. Data can be used to guide marketing messaging, measure customer satisfaction from year-to-year, and understand usage of social media channels of your customers to name a few.
Advantage 2: Determine What Content is Most Interesting
One of the core sections of a VoC study is to understand needs, wants and pain points of customers. Are customers struggling to find answers about Topic XYZ? Dedicate some content and copy to helping them answer those questions. Are customers interested in reading about Topic ABC? The same holds true. Design your website structure and copy around the content viewed as most important to users.
For example, let's say Customer A visits vendor websites to find out where they are located, what their pricing structure is, and what makes them different from other businesses. This makes the strategy of designing the website a bit easier. If 90% of customers feel this way you clearly need to highlight your store location, pricing breakdowns, and your differentiators on your website. Preferably address these directly on your homepage.
Advantage 3: Determine Factors That Go Into Choice of Business
The VoC study also inquires about factor(s) that go into choice of a business. The question asks "what factor(s) matter most when choosing a business for XYZ?" The factors are then tabulated and ranked for your company. This determines what the decision-making process is like for your customers. If you know the top 3 items they consider when choosing a business are reliability, turn-around time, and personal attention, these are 3 themes you need to make evident on your homepage.
The VoC results provide you an opportunity to speak the language of your customers and non-customers. More often than not by communicating these themes into your website it's almost as if you are speaking directly to the customer and their needs. If they visit your site looking for information on Factor A, B and C, providing them the information for all 3 quickly and succinctly, it provides your business a leg up on potential conversions and sales.
For example, a website study we recently completed stated a big factor which goes into choice of a design and engineering firm is the talent and the team. The client wanted to know the exact team he would be working with before making a decision on which design and engineering firm to choose. What background did they have in mechanical engineering? What was their skill set? What types of advanced degrees and training did they have?
This type of feedback was built into the website design so users could filter and sort team members based on skill, degree-type, etc. This made it extremely easy for site visitors to sort and identify the team they could potentially work with on their next major project. We learned from the VoC, the clients felt the competition could all offer the same tools, software, and pricing but what really differentiated company-to-company was the people. Therefore the profiles of employees became a major focal point of the new website as it was such a strong factor on choice.
Real life reaction from a user when he visits a website driven by VoC data.
How Does a VoC Website Project Typically Work?
You ultimately have two choices of methodologies. One does a better job of exploring and one does a better job of measuring. They each provide their own unique benefits and the best option is to use them both. Qualitative research before quantitative research is the golden rule of market research.
Option 1: Qualitative Website VoC
This type of market research is captured through 1-on-1 phone interviews, 1-on-1 in-person interviews or focus groups. If your customers are scattered across the U.S. or across the world you'll want to opt for 1-on-1 interviews. Read more about choosing between qualitative in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus groups here.
Participants are pre-scheduled and recruited from a list provided. Interviews typically last about 20 to 30 minutes with the intent of exploring topics, issues, and ideas. The real benefit of qualitative research is the ability to ask "why" through live conversation. It peels back the onion and gets to the root psychology of feelings and decision-making. The major drawback is findings are subjective and not statistically reliable.
Interviews are conducted over several weeks and digitally recorded so transcripts can be written. By digitally recording interviews it avoids the interviewer from having to take voracious notes. The interviewer can refer back to the recordings and transcripts as needed.
The VoC website firm completes a comprehensive report which includes an executive summary of themes, recommendations and action items to take with your site design. The action items are created with the user experience in-mind (e.g., creating a structure of a site and copy that meets the needs and expectations of site visitors.)
Option 2: Quantitative Website VoC
The types of questions in the quantitative VoC are similar but the data is reliable and measurable. With this type of study, you can make claims like 85% of customers want a company who can offer 24/7 customer service. Or 68% of our site visitors want to know about return policies when they visit the website. This statistical information is gathered with the intent to measure customer experiences.
The drawback here is since the study is likely completed through an online survey, you are somewhat at the mercy of how willing or unwilling respondents are to provide depth to their answers. Although you can ask "why", respondents can type very little into an open-ended question, leaving you wanting more. In qualitative research, the interviewer or moderator can follow-up appropriately.
Much like its qualitative counter-part, a comprehensive report is prepared at the conclusion of fieldwork addressing themes, recommendations and action items.
In Summary: Why is VoC Important for Websites and Digital Marketing?
It is always suggested to combine qualitative and quantitative research when approaching VoC for websites. Using both approaches allows you to fill in all gaps and provides a comprehensive review of site behavior. When traditional market research is combined to fuel digital marketing tactics and website redesign it creates a powerful strategy. Most importantly, it develops a path to success that is aligned with the needs and wants of your customers.
This post is from the Drive Research market research blog. Drive Research is a voice of customer company and market research company in Syracuse, NY specializing in VoC for website design and SEO.