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This chapter is from the book

The More the Merrier
Figure Out Who Your Customers Are and Welcome Them

Most sites serve multiple audiences with diverse agendas and a variety of reasons for visiting the site. To name but a few, different types of audiences include first time users and frequent visitors; subscribers and non-subscribers; commercial and residential customers; students and educators; patients and doctors. Such overlapping purposes can make the task of informing each of these audiences that they have "come to the right place" difficult. Once it has been decided which target audiences a site is intended for, an immediate question arises as to the way in which this multiplicity is effectively managed on the homepage.

To illustrate our point, consider the following case. A major retailer for whom we conducted research wanted to use their site to better serve its commercial customers—that is, people who buy in volume or buy special products that meet the needs of businesses as opposed to individual consumers. By contrast, their homepage featured lots of consumer-oriented products and specials and a variety of customer service offerings tailored to the needs of "regular folks."

As you might guess, when commercial customers were shown the homepage, they immediately assumed that the site offered nothing for them, and felt that they were better off going to the store or using the catalog. The "Commercial Customers" button on the top navigation bar simply wasn't enough to entice them. Had they selected that button, they would have found a page completely tailored for them. However, few commercial customers got that far, and our research surmised that the homepage was in trouble—at least from a business-to-business perspective.

Testing revealed that what was most compelling to commercial customers (such as volume discounts, tax exempt status, and special products tailored to their industries) was all but absent from the homepage. We therefore recommended that the homepage be redesigned so that a major piece of real estate—the page center—would be devoted to reflecting the needs of commercial customers. This section communicated the benefits of registering as a commercial customer and, in so doing, created a compelling path to that area of the site that was more expressly designed for their needs.

Figure 3.7. (Next two images) The MasterCard (http://www.mastercard.com) site reaches out to both consumers and commercial customers (through a special area of the site) (http://www.mastercard.com/business).

Sites that serve multiple audiences with diverse needs must use their homepages wisely to generate an impression with members of each of its audiences that there is a special place for them on the site. This is especially important for the homepage because it is here that visitors will find "front doors" to other areas and pages of the site.

The following are a few tips on how to achieve this goal:

  • Be sure to call each target group by a name they call themselves (for example, "commercial customers" or "B2B"). This definition may be influenced by company size (for example, companies of fewer than 100 employees); if so, this needs to be made clear.

  • Give each audience equal "weight," so that each feels significant, and so the site is designed for that group in particular.

  • Avoid content or advertising that might appeal to some among one audience, but which you suspect could offend or perplex others; for instance, stock price info on a health insurance site or candy advertising on a diaper site).

  • Again, use visuals to your best advantage wherever they are relevant to direct your audience. For instance, you might use a photograph of kids and parents employed as a guide that leads each group to its own section of the site.

  • Cite benefits of interest to each target audience so they know both how and why they would want to click further.

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