Online presence is not what it used to be. The race to get online and on Google is over with some experts even forecasting companies could ditch their websites.
It sounds unthinkable. Assume for a minute you’re looking to book a restaurant for tonight. That process almost certainly begins with a quick Google search, perhaps leading you to TripAdvisor. It’s more than likely that you can book a table via the site.
The chances are, however, that you rang the restaurant to make your reservation. In 2019, despite society’s subconscious reach for Google whenever we have a question, speaking to a fellow human being is still the preferred method of buying products, receiving customer service and being reassured that we matter to the businesses that we use.
The next challenge for businesses won’t be to get onto the first page for a search but to be the name on the lips of your virtual assistant.
How many times in the last six months have you used a business’s website simply to find their contact number? That’s a concern for the conventional website structure. Are websites as well designed as we previously thought?
How businesses connect to their consumers has to change. Conversation is becoming more important to web surfers than ever, and not just on social media. With talk of the danger of data louder than ever, perhaps the answer to how we use the internet going forward doesn’t lie in our poorly designed websites after all, but in how we can integrate innovative technology to talk to each other a little more.
IoT smart devices are already leading a change
As soon as next year, as many as half of all searches could be made by voice. Smart speakers are ten times more popular than they were two years ago. The next challenge for businesses won’t be to get onto the first page for a search but to be the name on the lips of your virtual assistant.
The rush to get on Google has been replaced by the need to set up Alexa skills, with more companies getting involved in IoT. It’s likely that the web will survive the surge of IoT in the same way that it survived smartphone mania from 2008 onwards. Just as email is much less popular though than it was before the days of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, it’s entirely possible that websites will be reduced down to a cameo role as IoT devices escalate.
Take a look at your smartphone. It can gather traffic data without you even noticing. It can send a payment when it hovers over a card reader. This is location-based technology, that uses your phone as the sensor.
The data that one person collects can be fascinating. It’s standard for smart homeowners, but as a society we’re not that far from smart home technologies working out what time we wake up in the morning via wearable tech, beginning to warm our houses, turn the lights on and draw the curtains.
As this technology builds up a picture of you as a person, taking in your contacts, calendars and social media, the next layer of IoT will combine data collected on other people. Add other people into the equation and your sensor could tell you how likely you are to catch a cold, based on who you frequent with.
IoT reacts to our needs by sensing our daily actions. It can seem like the technology can read your mind. Is it that much of a leap to imagine your smart speaker being able to recommend a restaurant you’ll love, without you having to scour TripAdvisor’s site?
Websites are already in decline
Direct traffic is down for nearly everyone’s website. More and more people are discovering news and finding that product they’re looking for via search and social media.
It’s clear that mobile website popularity is beginning to dwindle, too. App usage is far more popular than mobile web these days: consumers prefer to use the YouTube app for example, than visiting YouTube.com via the Safari browser on their iPhone. Perhaps we’re not a million miles away from the YouTube mobile website basically being a holding page with links to download the app.
Are websites as functional as we think if speaking to an advisor tends to be the end goal?
VR headsets are set to increase in popularity too, should you believe the forecasts. Scrolling through pages of a company’s website just to find the right page seems unlikely on that medium, too.
The relevance of websites comes back to the initial example of looking for a restaurant. In the end, we often just search for the contact number. Live chats are more popular than ever. Are websites as functional as we think if speaking to an advisor tends to be the end goal?
Current websites rely on consumers to do the work. There’s no intuition involved. Businesses are presenting experiences and expecting us to navigate through: yet IoT, as the big companies tell us, is smart. It picks up on our buying habits, even our moods, and can present information in a new way. A way that a standard website can’t.
It may not be IoT that kills the browser itself, but it could certainly be an accomplice.