Corporate websites are dead

We look at the changing role of the corporate website and new tactics for engaging a corporate audience.

A client asked me an extraordinary question recently: “Do you think corporate websites are dead?”

What makes it extraordinary is that we were in the middle of a discussion with that client about the strategy for their new corporate website.

The question, which had come from senior management in the company, raised a few questions of its own in my mind.

Firstly, it made me realise that it’s good practice to question the ‘norm’ on a regular basis. It’s easy to carry on doing what you do, but eventually you’ll run out of ideas if you don’t disrupt your usual practices from time to time and ask some difficult questions.

So, in order to determine the health (or otherwise) of the corporate website, we first need to define it. I remember working on corporate websites in the late ‘90s, back in the heady days of Web 1.0. These were largely for B2B organisations who were looking for an online ‘presence’.

Back then (and it does seem like a lifetime ago!) a corporate website often consisted of online brochureware – sometimes quite literally a brochure broken up into sections/pages, redesigned slightly to fit an 800 x 600px monitor and coded in HTML and/or Flash.

The main objective for many of these sites was to keep up with the competition (“Well, Company X has a website, so we want one that’s better than theirs”). Oh how we’ve moved on! There were no social networks, no APIs (or anything in particular to integrate with) and very basic databases.

Moreover, there was a distinct lack of engagement with the audience on these ‘corporate’ sites. This was partly down to limitations in available technology, but also in ambition, vision and clear objective setting.

Compare that to the ‘corporate’ website of 2014, and the focus is very much on engaging the target audience, building networks, capturing user data, return on investment and, in some cases, leading the company’s marketing strategy.

The acquisition of visitors/users has moved on from the ‘build it and it they will come’ assumption of the late ‘90s, to the routine development of social strategies to capture users, combined with clever UX strategies to engage them and keep them on the site for as long as possible.

We now have a range of tools (including Google Analytics) to measure users’ behaviour on the site, and the means to capture user data, and even convert visitors into leads, using tools such as Lead Forensics and Eloqua.

The corporate website has changed beyond all recognition in the past 15 years or more. So much so, that the term doesn’t really seem fit for purpose anymore. What we’re building for companies now could be better described as engagement platforms.

In our connected, mobile world the game has changed. Maybe the corporate website is dead. Long live the engagement platform!


Image by Roger H. Goun

Are you looking to improve engagement with your customers? At Webstars we consider ourselves experts in fine tuning your site to meet your audiences needs and create lasting relationships. If you’d like to find out more get in touch - we’d love to help.

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