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The importance of ROI on the evolution of the business website
Mar 09, 2010 Published in ideas
Keywords: analytics, business, design, metrics, ROI, website
We are seeing an increasing interest from clients in return on investment (ROI) in proposed projects and this is directly effecting the view of cost in initiating a new web project. Not every company wants or needs to sell directly through their site but there is an increasing appreciation of how a sound web presence can bring tangible benefits to a business.

I think this shift marks an important point in the maturation of the use of the web for business. The days when a website was something to have just to keep up with the Jones’ is leaving and the question, why have a website, can be intelligently addressed.

This is a welcome change for those of us in the business of creating websites as our work has some manifest value and having clear goals to help clients work towards is a powerful focussing agent. The subtleties still matter of course but it is much easier to discuss aesthetic (and other) issues constructively within the framework of a purpose.

Nowadays we are dealing not just with discrete websites as many companies distribute their web presence across several social media channels as well as their own site. Perhaps it is this increased complexity that has exposed the power of a good web presence and made having a clear reason for engagement important?

The most direct way to gain ROI on a website is through e-commerce sales but there are many less direct benefits depending on the underlying nature of the business, lead generation, customer relations (retention), advertising income, and reduction of operating costs. The exact nature of how this can work for you depends on the nature of your business. The important thing is that your web presence can bring tangible benefit to you.

The subtler the returns, the harder they are to measure but this is a critical component of valuing websites by ROI. You simply must know what the return is and to do that you need metrics. Finding these can be tricky if we’re not talking about on-site sales but it is possible to track interactions and engagements to find where the value is coming from. This may entail combining reports from several sources, particularly when dealing with referral paths through social media, but it can and should be done.

This is how I believe the web is maturing as a business space. There is now a clear return that can be measured and engagement with the web has an explicit rather than implicit value. The value of a website is becoming a tangible thing that can be measured.

The web as a whole came alive when it became a participatory medium, and websites changed radically to accommodate comments, rating and other interactions. Now there is the beginning of a state change in how business is viewing and using the web too. This could have profound influences on the use of the web by business and the websites this process produces.

Websites could come to be judged based on what they produce in terms of ROI primarily. As more accurate and reliable systems and methods of measuring these returns advance website design could change fundamentally with current practices of A/B testing becoming systems for site evolution based on key returns. This could be the Internet’s version of the automotive shift from chrome and tail-fins to streamlined efficient cars.
By Ruben Kenig
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