Web Evolution – A History of Web Design Over the Past 20 Years

Below is a graphic developed by KISSmetrics outlining the evolution of web design since the world’s first website was launched  in 1991.

In only 20 years the definition of a “web presence” has evolved to the point that today, many argue that traditional websites are becoming obsolete.  When discussing the promotion of his new book, Guy Kawasaki recently suggested that he didn’t need a website to reach his target customers, but a Facebook page instead.

Static websites are a thing of the past and concepts like collaboration and crowd sourcing are becoming web standards.  Of course, the evolution will continue and even these concepts will become old news (probably even faster than traditional web pages).  The infographic below is a great reflection of where we’ve been in such a short period of time.  One can only speculate what this chart will look like 20 years from today.

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Where Do You Post-It?

If you’ve seen 3M’s latest efforts to sell Post-It Notes, you might be puzzled by what seems a non-traditional approach.  Post-It Notes’ current marketing campaign has targeted what was once a secondary customer group; the at home user.

In an increasingly paperless world Post-It Note usage in office environments will undoubtedly continue to decrease forcing 3M to proactively consider what other potential customers will contribute to revenue going forward.  While it may be some time before Post-It Notes are considered completely obsolete, the brand is smart to push for market growth in alternative customer segments.

Facing similar problems to the publishing industry, 3M is clearly attempting to make the most of it’s traditional business model while it searches for new revenue streams to fill the void that will one day exist in it’s office product line.  Innovative publishers must take a similar approach as they search for new opportunities in the digital space.

Would You Pay for Online Content?

A recent poll conducted by SmartBrief on Social Media asked readers if they believed media companies and publishers should charge for online content.

No, content wants to be free – 48.73%
Online content should be based on a “freemium model” – 28.48%
Yes, there will be buyers for all kinds of relevant information – 22.78%

The results weren’t surprising, but point to a couple of issues that publishers need to be aware of going forward.

  1. The increasing availability of content online is making credibility an important element of a publisher’s ability to charge for use.  Almost 30% of respondents thought that a “freemium model” was an appropriate approach, meaning potential customers would have access to a limited selection of content free of charge.  This approach gives exposure to the content and let’s potential purchasers see the product quality before making a decision.
  2. A person’s willingness to pay for content is partially dependent on their demographic and the type of content they’re interested in acquiring. For example, a professional that needs credible information as a part of their work responsibilities is more likely to pay for content than someone look for casual reading.
  3. The missing piece to most content you can find online (other than confirmed credibility) is the context.  Generally facts are easy to come by; however, the explanation of a trained professional is likely to have a much higher perceived value.  (See http://www.newmediacy.wordpress.com for  more information on the New York Times new pay-for-content plan).

My answer to whether or not publishers and media companies should charge for content is, it depends.  Customer demographics, the purpose of the communication and the ease of acquiring similar information elsewhere are just a few of the many considerations that need to be made before making a decision.  Content marketing has become an important component of the marketing mix for companies hoping to gain credibility with their target market, and the social landscape is increasingly used to facilitate the conversation.

Roll Up the Rim is Back!

Today marks day one of Tim Horton’s yearly Roll Up the Rim competition slated during periods of the year when coffee consumption is typically at it’s lowest. I thought this would be a good opportunity to re-post a piece I wrote last year on the growing perception of the contest based on online consumer reaction.  Is Tim Horton’s doing enough to keep customers interested in Roll Up the Rim to Win?

Please Play Again

Last month I blasted McDonald’s for their free coffee giveaway and praised Tim Horton’s for the brand loyalty they’ve developed, in part through their Roll Up the Rim campaign. However, just over a month into Tim Horton’s annual contest, I’m back to acknowledge the shortcomings of my initial comments.

The free flow of communication and information online have allowed consumers to have a much stronger voice when it comes to criticizing brands. No longer can companies hide from their deficiencies without feeling the wrath of harsh consumer feedback through various online channels.

Please Play Again

A search for “#TimHortons” on Twitter will quickly highlight the consumer perception of the coffee shop’s Roll Up the Rim campaign today. Many customers are clearly upset with both the success rate they’re experiencing and the quality of the prizes they receive when they do actually win.

Today, companies are forced to be more responsible for their marketing efforts, and while the online space allows for greater interaction with customers, it also comes with an open line for criticism. This is not necessarily a bad thing if brands are able to respond to feedback through positive change; however, companies unwilling to make the effort must tread carefully. If Tim Horton’s is not careful, they’ll quickly find more and more customers refusing to ‘please play again’.

Groupon: 50% Off What?

Recently valued at over 5 billion dollars, Groupon has taken the impact of collective buying power to new heights. Customers receive 50-90% off coupons to some of their favourite products and services under the condition that a deal sells beyond a set “tipping point” set by Groupon and its partnering suppliers.

Today; however, Groupon was under scrutiny for a deal with FTD that offered 50% off flowers over Valentine’s Day.  The coupon redirected customers to a site that sold flowers at a higher price than on their regular website.  Groupon has since cancelled the offer and have been working with FTD on a solution to remedy the negative publicity.

While it’s good to know that Groupon is listening to its customers and taking corrective action, what do you think Groupon should do to prevent this in the future?  Though many subscribe to the belief that customers are always right – should they have been surprised that there would be a mark-up on flowers on the week of Valentine’s Day?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Free Coffee, Anyone?

As free access to information online has changed the face of the publishing industry, publishers continue to search for the right balance between paid and complimentary content. Free content, like most “give-away” product offerings, can be viewed as a value add to higher demand complementary products. These offerings however; may also act to devalue something that, if properly positioned, could otherwise have been sold for a profit.

The consumer perception of free products clearly transcends industries and product types. McDonalds’ attempt to gain market share within the Canadian coffee drinking community is a great example of how “free” doesn’t always work. In the wake of Tim Hortons’ annual Roll Up the Rim to Win competition, McDonalds (for the third time in the past calendar year) is offering free coffee with no purchase necessary. As a short term initiative, McDonald’s may do well to improve traffic to their breakfast menu, but long term the promotion does little to better the outlook of their coffee sales. The majority of coffee drinking Canadians have brand loyalty to Tim Horton’s and are unlikely to switch brands without significant reason. In McDonalds’ case, free coffee is more likely to devalue their offering which may have otherwise been positioned as a premium product. Admittedly, their coffee is pretty good – made with 100 per cent Arabica beans, but who would want to pay for a product that they’ve been given for free on multiple occasions?

It’s important to recognize value adds as just that, something to provide additional value to your primary product offerings. If the goal was to compete with Tim Horton’s in the Java market, McDonald’s may have missed the boat.

My E-Marketing Mix

Everyone had heard of the marketing mix.   A 4-P classification used to describe the elements that make up a complete marketing program; product, price, place and promotion.

A newer and less used term, the e-marketing mix, is often interpreted as the transfer of the 4-P marketing mix to an online landscape.

In reality; however, the fast pace at which technology has progressed and the evolution of business online has made any former interpretation of the e-marketing mix outdated.  Today companies must adapt to new technologies and new forms of marketing communication to keep pace with competition and keep in touch with their target markets.  While ten years ago ‘having an online presence’ may not have been high priority for many organizations, the view of the online world has clearly changed.  Online media has undoubtedly altered the way we do and think about business, and will continue to push us to stay up to date on the latest trends that affect our industry.

My interpretation of the e-marketing mix is not of something that is fixed, but rather a concept that will continually evolve and require constant attention by any company hoping to secure a market-leading position. Take mobile marketing for example.  Smartphones have completely changed the way we think about how to reach our customers.  People can access content on demand from virtually anywhere in the world.  Mobile marketing is clearly a significant element of the industry’s future and something everyone should be aware of.

This blog takes a closer look at important factors and developments that affect e-marketing today, and those that are sure to have an impact on the way we do business going forward.