Building websites and search engine optimisation (SEO) is not our game.
And on any normal day we’d be talking to you about money-saving, money-making or operational efficiency articles and ideas. But not today…
Today, we desperately need to share with you a very credible and disturbing (for most organisations who have a website) article written by Rob LoCascio (founder and CEO of LivePerson).
Rob openly questions the future role of websites, believes many major brands will close theirs down (soon) and predicts devastation for Google.
Now, we have a website and many (if not all) of you have 1 or more too. So, to just learn (from an industry expert) that you might be wasting all your money, time and effort is a massive shock to the system and bottom line profits.
We position ourselves as the ‘Money Saving Experts’ for the office & workplace, and wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t give Rob’s article some serious consideration and air time with you. So here goes…
You may not know Rob LoCascio or even his company (LivePerson), but you’d have certainly used or at least come across his invention. In 1995, Rob came up with the technology for those chat windows that pop up on websites.
And today, more than 18,000 companies around the world, including big-name brands like T-Mobile, American Express, Citibank and Nike, use his software to communicate with their millions of customers. Unlike most startup founders who saw the birth of the internet in the 1990’s, Rob is still CEO of his company.
His longevity gives him a unique perspective on the changes that have happened over the past two decades, and he sees (a huge) 1 happening right now, which will radically transform the internet as we know it.
Rob said ‘when we started building websites in the 90’s, we had great dreams for e-commerce. Fundamentally we thought all brick-and-mortar stores would disappear and everything dot-com would dominate. But e-commerce has failed us miserably’.
Today, less than 15 percent of commerce occurs through a website or app, and only a handful of brands (such as Amazon, eBay and Netflix) have found success with e-commerce at any real scale. And Rob believes there are two giant structural issues that make websites not work: HTML and Google.
The web was intended to bring humanity’s vast trove of content, previously cataloged in our libraries, to mass audiences through a digital user experience — i.e. the website. In the early years, we were speaking in library terms about “browsing” and “indexing,” and in many ways the core technology of a website, called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), was designed to display static content — much like library books.
But retail stores aren’t libraries, and the library format can’t be applied to online stores either. Consumers need a way to dynamically answer the questions that enable them to make purchases. In the current model, we’re forced to find and read a series of static pages to get answers and we tend to buy more if we can build trust over a series of questions and answers instead.
Rob believes the second problem with the web, is Google. And said ‘when we all started to build websites in the 90’s, everyone was trying to design their virtual stores differently. On one hand, this made them interesting and unique, but on the other, the lack of industry standards made them hard to navigate and really hard to “index” into a universal card catalog.’
‘Then Google stepped in around 1998. As Google made it easier to find the world’s information, it also started to dictate the rules through the Page Rank algorithm, which forced companies to design their websites in a certain way to be indexed at the top of Google’s search results. But its one-size-fits-all structure ultimately makes it flawed for e-commerce’.
‘Today, almost every website looks the same and performs poorly’.
‘Offline, brands try to make their store experiences unique to differentiate themselves. Online, every website (from Gucci to the Gap) offers the same experience (a top nav, descriptive text, some pictures and a handful of other elements arranged similarly). Google’s rules have sucked the life out of unique online experiences’.
‘Of course, as e-commerce has suffered, Google has become more powerful, and it continues to dis-intermediate the consumer from the brand by imposing a terrible e-commerce experience’.
Rob’s bold prediction: ‘In 2018, we will see the first major brand shut down its website’.
Rob believes there is also a hidden knock-on effect of bad website design. He believes as much as 90 percent of calls placed to a company’s contact center originate from its website.
According to Rob the journey looks like this…
Consumers visit a website to get answers, become confused and have to call. This has become an epidemic, as contact centers field 268 billion calls per year at a cost of $1.6 trillion.
To put that in perspective, global advertising spend is $500 billion, meaning the cost of customer care (these billions of phone calls) is three times more than a company’s marketing expenses.
More importantly, they create another bad consumer experience. Think how many times have you been put on hold by a company when it can’t handle the volume of incoming queries?
Websites and apps have, in fact, created more phone calls (at increased cost) and up-ended digital’s promise to make our lives easier.
Rob’s view is there is something innate to our psychology in getting our questions answered through a conversation that instills the confidence in us to spend money, which is why there is so much chatter about bots and AI right now. Because bots & AI tap into an inner understanding about the way things get done in the real world, through conversations.
But Rob thinks the media is putting too much focus on bots and AI destroying jobs. Instead, he believes we should all be exploring how they will make our lives easier, in the wake of the web’s massive shortfalls.
Rob feels he has discovered the truth about e-commerce, and in some ways it gives him a sense of failure from what his hopes and dreams were when he first started in the industry.
Rob has another hope now, that what he calls “conversational commerce” — interactions via messaging, voice (Alexa and so on) and bots — will finally deliver on the promise of powering digital commerce at the scale he first dreamed about.
Rob’s bold prediction, based on his work with 18,000 companies and bringing conversational commerce to life is ‘in 2018, we will see the first major brand shut down its website’.
Rob believes brands will shift how they connect with consumers — to conversations, with a combination of bots and humans, through a messaging front end like SMS or Facebook. And he is already working with several large brands to make this a reality.
In conclusion Rob stated ‘when the first website ends, the dominoes will fall fast. And this will have a positive impact on most companies in transforming how they conduct e-commerce and provide customer care. But, for Google, however, this will be devastating’.