The author makes the argument that all websites look the same because of Google, but never really gives a reason why... (besides name dropping "PageRank" once)
Then it goes on to say that same experience (or more accurately the lack of a "unique" experience) is why they have poor conversion rates.
Then it blames the website for causing an increased spending in customer service, pointing to this as the reason why they think brands will start "closing" their websites.
But every step of the way I think the author is way off. Websites don't look like that because Google's "PageRank" is forcing them to somehow, and that look and feel isn't the reason why conversions are bad.
In my opinion, websites look like that because a useful website follows some guidelines, and that may make it look "bland" but at least I know to look for my "cart" at the top-right of the page (or even have the concept of a "cart").
Also, I think the reason why conversions are bad is because retailers looked at the web for years as an afterthought. The reason only a handful of large companies are doing well on the web is because so few treated it as well as they treat their storefronts. You can't treat the internet as an afterthought, you need to build your business around it. Amazon, eBay, Overstock, and others have done this, they spent the time, money, and engineering to do it right, and do it fast. Someone like Nike throws something slow and cumbersome to use together as an afterthought just to have one.
If websites start closing, it's not because of the "big bad google", it's because ecommerce is hard, just like how some online-only or online-first companies are now finding out how hard brick-and-mortar really is.
An e-commerce site is a tool to sell stuff. You need a product I want to buy, and then make it easy for me to buy it. 95% of marketing efforts do the opposite.
I'll take a plain e-commerce site with minimal JS any day. No infinite scroll. No weird AJAX sorting or calls for anything other than checkout or search. No chat windows that pop up. Talk about a bad user experience.
There is no need to innovate here, although that's not to say it's easy. But e.g. Amazon's success comes from almost everything but their website, which is not great but functional. Ships when they say it will ship. Good refund policy. Doesn't spam me with marketing emails. Dare I say trustworthy?
Now, if people aren't interested in your products by the time they get to your store page, that's a different issue. And yeah, some marketing will convert customers, but at the expense of others.
Maybe unsurprisingly, Apple does a decent job: glitzy landing/product pages, toned down and clear shopping pages. What's in the box, shows you what the different options cost, compare models, FAQ, etc. Take note. (Big catalogues won't have custom product pages, but other than that these lessons still apply. The amount of times I cannot tell one product from another without a diff tool is too often.)
"As much as 90 percent of calls placed to a company’s contact center originate from its website."
Nobody gets a Yellowpages in the mail anymore. If I want to call a business I have to go to their website just to look up the phone number.
Google Maps’ business lookup works 90% of the time for me, including listing opening hours. They’re good at listing numbers for non-retail businesss too.
So no surprise he's predicting a future that benefits him. Fearmongering at its best.
I'm just gonna flag the story and hopes it disappears from my feed, like I do with 3/4 TechCrunch stories these days.
But, I have to admit, the author is right on one account. Alot of websites these days are lurching from one page to another, just to score more page views or something, rather than a Single page app.
And, I hope goolge doesn't think their done with search.
Google doesn't always do a great job of ranking the best products and sites at the top. Sometimes it's downright awful. On a number of occassions, I've had to click through each of the first 10 results and the next 10 and still not finding exactly what i want. And, I've found that if google can't find it in the top 20, it usually doesn't find it in the next 20 either. But, I'm sure it exists somewhere.
I get a lot of queries now where the first few results are missing at least one of my terms. I have to scroll before I find my first result that doesn’t say it’s missing a term.
I don’t think google is done with their search, but I have a feeling they’re going through a major transition right now and a lot of the web is still designed for old SEO models.
All hail the Single Page app! Long live the Flash heir!
I wish more websites were not using the "let's load ton of shit to make the client generate basic HTML" approach.
Brand websites have the extra burden of trying infuse their sites with a unique brand identity. Companies that sell directly on the internet, and have enough products that they have need for a “catalog” to present products, have an extra challenge.
Such brand websites carry a heavy load, as they serve marketing/brand identity, suppport, contact, communication, and ecommerce functions. Throw in the mind-f*ck of “responsive design” and it’s not surprising some websites fall short.
The OPs thesis seems dubious, as he proposes no alternative for anything that could possibly fulfill all these functions.
And the a huge reason why Google even took off was because of how completely bland it's experience was.
I'm not saying there aren't things that need to be improved, but the sudden death of the website? Oh, cmon.
If a company would take down their website, they would lose a lot of customers, including me. I don't use Facebook and only use a few mobile apps. I'm also looking for a way to get rid of my smartphone.
Case in point: I'm cleaning up a house to live in and we need a new kitchen sink. The problem is there was already one there so we want to buy a replacement that is bigger than the current cut out in the counter and also fits nicely with the pipe installation.
Searching for a sink online has been a nightmare: if there are schematics (which are often missing) there is always some key information left out like the depth of the bowl.
This includes the king of online retail: Amazon lists package size and nothing else. When was the last time the package size influenced your purchase?
Buying in person hasn't been much better and the prices are almost double! At least I can bring my measuring tape and do the schematics myself, though I still hate getting pitched by salespeople that often know much less than me after a 20-min online research.
In the end we're going for the cheapest one that has a reasonable return policy. Who cares about the more expensive ones if, for all I know, the only difference is their aesthetics?
This is such a common pattern I started dreading buying online. I'm tired of hunting for the specs on Google. That's the shop's only job!
IMHO the article is nothing more than an advertisement for the author's business. Maybe he's sure of the paradigm shift but I'm definitely not because an actually useful conversational assistant requires both competence, effort and, more importantly, exposes the seller to risks (official information = contractual obligation, which is IMHO the reason you will not get the answers IRL or via customer support either).
He says things are going to move to conversational commerce? Alexa at best can re-order something that I've bought before. If I need a new product, the amount of information and comparison that I do (as well as checking reviews) doesn't lead well to a conversational model.
It's not like we walk into a B&M store and just talk to a salesperson. We examine the products, the packaging, the information presented about those products, we look around near by and see what else in a similar category is in the store.
Conversational commerce moves to an even lower bandwidth information transfer. With websites we can absorb way more info than we can with a chat bot. At best it will augment current experiences.
Maybe I'm wrong, and there are some products that are well suited to this model, but I'm failing to come up with any.
I worked in retail over 20 years ago and this is one of the first lessons I learned. If somebody wants help making a buying decision they will, usually, come and ask for it.
If you let someone look around and walk out without bothering them they'll often come back later and buy something. It may be in the next hour or the next week or the next month but (assuming you have something people want) they do come back.
I'm not saying completely ignore them, a simple 'hello' or 'how's it going?' will suffice.
If they don't ever come back the place has got bigger problems than the salesman can fix.
Of course there are exceptions where people are pressured into buying something they didn't want to buy. They're the outliers that drive this kind of perverse retail policy. But you can guarantee these people only ever buy once.
Some of this is applicable to e-commerce today. Annoying chat boxes, false discounting and time limited offers are just another way of forcing a sale at the cost of building a long-term relationship.
Websites could do A LOT better by concentrating on putting better product info on their site: proper high res pictures from multiple angles (e.g. for products in boxes, show me every side of the box that I can zoom in and read the text on), descriptions that aren't just copy-paste marketing B.S., and proper measurements/sizes/specifications. That'd go a long way toward reducing confused shoppers having to call a help centre...
Personally, if I have to talk to someone at a store (online or not), they've already started to annoy me. I just want to get my stuff then carry on with the more important things in life.
Plus what is it about chatbots that is getting people so excited? Anyone that has an Alexa or Google home will tell you they are frustrating and irritating to use and a long way away from doing anything useful apart from trivial stuff like setting kitchen timers or stilted and excruciatingly awkward question-answer settings.
I think many are coming to the conclusion that proper natural language understanding will require more than just a deep feed-forward network with back-propagation.
Other retailers can compete on many aspects; for example in the UK Amazon is completely locked-out of online groceries by the big supermarkets. Or hobby specialists who know their market well, a UK example being Hannants who work closely with the model-kit industry.
And most other retailers don't require an annual fee for decent service, such as dispatching within a week...
Last year I was due to return from Spain on Christmas eve. Tesco, Waitrose, etc were not accepting any orders for about 3 days before. I had no such problems with amazon.
I think it will be a while before I buy groceries on a regular basis from amazon but I wouldn't be surprised if I was in 5 years time?
'And most other retailers don't require an annual fee for decent service, such as dispatching within a week...'
Yeah, I get that 'preparing for dispatch' bull sometimes too and it is quite annoying. Sometimes cancelling and re-ordering fixes it but you have to be quick before the window shuts.
Amazon has a very early lead due to having invested more heavily into it, and sooner, than any other major retailer. Despite being a quarter century in, this is still early into the shift to ecommerce in the US and most developed economies (eg only 6% of retail sales in Italy are online).
Online is all that Amazon was. It makes sense they'd have an outsized position at this point versus everybody else. They're benefiting from that aggressive early mover advantage (it took Walmart 20 years just to get an effective online strategy going, probably because they rested on their laurels, as most giants do; and now their online sales are booming). Amazon isn't going to be a trillion dollar sales company, their current ecommerce market share is not going to hold. The fear, paranoia, propaganda, etc. is very overblown at this stage. We're at peak Amazon mania, similar to Microsoft mania in the late 1990s when Microsoft was going to own everything and each proclamation about them conquering the planet was breathlessly read and believed.
Here's the reality of Amazon: they're the latest Walmart, which was the latest Sears. It's meaningless. They're a great retailer, and some day 20 years into the future there will be a superior retailer that supplants them. Amazon retail is a giant online catalog of goods & services. Building it up into something more than what it is, doesn't make sense. Online isn't special.
Maybe it will eventually happen but this article predicts some major brands shutting down their websites this year, which is like saying cryptocurrencies will start replacing cash in some major western countries this year. The only real value I can see in a brand shutting down it's website for a chatbot only service right now is the the free publicity they will get for doing so. Websites are normally relatively cheap to run so there is no real reason to kill them off unless it's getting no traffic compared to the chatbot channels and from my own experiences in this area, chatbots aren't even close to website use yet (but I am in Australia, where things like Alexa and Google Home are quite new in the market compared to the US).
Consumers should be the ones building chatbots to talk to brands not vice versa. The brands can use NLP and AI to partially automate much of the conversation, but it needs to be consumer driven... too much of the promise of chatbots requires breaking down barriers and as long as brands control their own experience and every bot is siloed, the real pain of consumers and current ecommerce wont be solved...
Too much of technology today is focused on optimizing businesses and ends up the end users.
Online advertising is a protection racket where publishers steal and hold customers hostage and sell them to the highest bidder...all the middleware is optimized around grabbing your piece of the advertising pie without caring about the end users or the advertisers...in the meantime, its just driving up costs to deliver value...
We need a buyer driven market...we need long term visionaries who stop optimizing to business revenue and cost savings and optimize to GROWING THE OVERALL MARKET!!! optimize to what really serves customers and advertisers instead of these short aighted plays solving problems the previous startup created...
We wouldnt need facebook ads if our competitors werent reaching our customers on google and we wouldnt need content marketing if publishers actually tried to serve advertisers instead of just trying to drive up their costs...
These companies are thinking about everything backwards imho.
There was a lot of sci-fi ish talk, back in the day, about 'agents' or 'smart personal agents' or thinks like that; where we'd all have a team of semi-intelligent bots that would go off and do things on our behalf.
It's interesting that we kinda have some of this now, but as you say, it's reversed; the agents are owned by the company that is trying to sell us something, so rather than negotiating for us, they negotiate against us.
I agree with your general feeling, because they should act like invisible friends, looking at us and doing everything we need, best of before we even ask.
Unfortunately it looks as feasible as "consumers should be the ones building a search engine to index the internet". Impossible unless some company offers it to them as a service, best if at no (apparent) cost.
My dream in the 90s before the web was to get an assistant running on my hardware at home, somehow getting info about the world and talking to me. After the web it become clear that the assistant would have to interface the web and after the mobile phone (think old Nokias) its interface would be that. After the smartphone there would be a camera, a microphone, GPS, other sensors that I could trust because they would be sending data to my hardware and my software, not to some company that wants to exploit me. Unfortunately I worked on something else (web development) which was more profitable to me and everybody else did the same. We have things like Own Cloud but no Own Alexa.
What we'll get in the next year are better versions of centralized services like Google Now, Alexa and Siri. Centralized services that we can't trust to behave in our best interest.
Car parts sites are getting good. They mostly now take the make and model of your car, and then give you a site that only shows items for that model.
Industrial parts sites, especially for electronics, range from excellent to terrible. They have huge catalogs of very specific parts, and you need a specialized search engine to navigate them. Those things are not conversational; they're table driven.
But if you don't do some research on the specs of what you want to buy, you easily get funneled into Amazon.
For instance, I wanted a cable for my printer. If I look on Amazon for XYZ printer cable, they will happily sell me one. It's very easy to find something when you do a simple minded search.
But actually, it is a generic cable, and Amazon's listings have simply been spammed with every printer model name in creation.
When I realized that, I went to a site that specializes in cables, and looked for a product based on the connector types. Doing that gave me real choices (such as the cable length, whether it has a ferrite core, etc.), detailed specs, and on top of that, much cheaper prices.
The specific retailer or specialty doesn't matter - my point is that I am getting into (and advocate) the mindset that when I want something and it's not available locally, I start by thinking "I know someone is making a living by outdoing Amazon in a particular niche - how can I find their website?" Other random examples include chocolate and kitchen equipment.
The effectiveness of Amazon as a baseline means, I think, that anyone with a thriving online business has to be something special these days.
Page rank is not dictated by website design, and it's not the reason many websites share the same components... UX is, we have found the proven path and following it makes it easier for our users.
Los of other valuable criticism in the site's own comments as well...
She won’t be replacing the Amazon website anytime soon.
This is arguably happening in third world countries. At least in Indonesia (which I'm familiar with), a lot of new businesses don't bother with websites but relied on things like Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp (coincidentally these are own by the same guy) to reach out to customers and get orders.
I expect media to continue to move to TVs and dedicated apps, and the reasons outlined by the author for commerce to move away from the open web are somewhat convincing, as well. Looking at my own behavior, I usually search Amazon before Google when I want to buy something - take that trend further and searching the web, vs searching an app store, becomes less and less important for business.
In the happy version of this scenario, the web returns to being a great place for text and knowledge storage. There will be ads as long as there are eyeballs, but if the number of eyeballs drops again, does the reason to create clickbait and other purely-ad/eyeball-driven "content" drop too?
But compared to the author, I think it has a lot more to do with phones and devices, and the needs to create experiences aimed at them, than Google. Who wants to sit on the couch with a laptop instead of an iPad? Who wants to use a mobile website instead of a dedicated app? Even what looks like a super-thin wrapper (the Amazon app) is still a nicer experience than using amazon.com on a tablet or phone.
So phone calls are not necessarily the problem - maybe digital sales automation is the problem.
He runs a shoe store. I never, ever, want a shoe store to "get in touch" with me.
That seems like an interesting wedge for some company that actually cares about customer service.
Data plan continue to get cheaper and areas with data increase and speeds increase all point to increased use.
I know now when I have to sit around waiting for my kids to finish practice I am using data like I never used before. We now have YouTube TV and I might catch up in the news as I wait instead of reading a book. Btw, love YouTube TV. Best Google product there is.
Some national regulators publish the numbers every year.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/past-point-peak-telephony-dea... has some discussion and links.
Google made $95B in advertising revenue in 2017, can they really be almost 1/5th of the entire global advertising spend?
That's not matched my personal experience, to say the least
our avg purchase online is $500 and a phone purchase avg is closer to $1,000. we're happy when customers call so we can further differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
2 - Humans like human conversation. Oh, the biggest surprise!
Jeez, I learnt two things today!
If the argument was that some new tech was coming to blow websites out of the water I could at least try to give it the benefit of the doubt. That's not the premise here and, much like email, many have tried to replace websites. All fail.
If that was a bet, I would put $50,000 down on it not happening.