A company’s website is its shop window and how well that window is dressed is critical.
It is after all the crucial interface through which businesses, big and small, market their products, build brand recognition and expand their client base.
However the digital interface is much more than a dry marketing and business development tool: it’s the company’s face, voice and personality. The medium through which the modern international can connect personally with browsers and express its characteristics, values, principles and outlook on the world.
By doing this the corporate can draw out brand admiration and build brand affinity, loyalty, consumer respect and a sense of rapport. The rewards for the company that does this well are great.
But how well are big corporates doing this and who’s setting the industry standard?
To answer this we’re going to have a look at a selection of the Most Admired Companies of 2012 as named by Fortune Magazine.
The subject of this first review will be the inimitable Starbucks Coffee Company which came 8th in this year’s Fortune rankings.
As we’ve discussed before, first impressions and aesthetics are crucial to the user experience.
The first impressions of the Starbucks site are pleasing to the eye: the web designers have given an open and relaxed feeling to the digital interface and its balance, ambiance and layout work well.
So we know that the first impressions are critical and that Starbucks does this well.
But any website cannot rely solely on looks, but also requires the backing of strong digital content that engages and informs the user.
The content is the vehicle through which a corporate can deliver its message and portray its values and personality.
I have noted a few characteristics of Starbucks that really became apparent as I passed through the site and engaged with its content:
- Firstly, the website makes Starbucks come across as personable and engaging: the site has an easy access video of one of their resident baristas, Jack from Romford, who provides a walk through guide on how to make the perfect cup of coffee.
- Trendy and up to date: the Starbucks site offers a free weekly iTunes download which gives the impression of a company that is really ‘with-it’.
- Innovative: Starbucks talks about new technologies including its new mobile payment system. It also introduces new produce which paints a picture of a company constantly thinking of new and exciting ideas for the customer.
- Strong blogging content: this is important for any ambitious company and for a conglomerate the rule applies no differently. The blog content is engaging and relevant: discussing jobs, opportunities and the skills needed to be a barrista, as well as the personal stories of the workers – very engaging!The blog also talks about what goes into making fresh products which is very important for the customer conscious of what is in their food.
However the blog doesn’t appear on the dashboard but can be found tucked down the side. The blog posts are also undated and this takes away a little from the integrity of the commentary as we don’t know if the content is fresh or stale. Remember it’s the simple things that matter!
- Strong ethics and social conscience: corporate social responsibility has always been a big selling point for Starbucks and this is a big part of their website. But they go further than just providing ethically sourced coffee; they also work with the local community which adds real brownie points.
- Social media literate: Starbucks has a strong social media footprint and they really get how it works. The range of social media channels, laid out very clearly, really complements the website. This shows not only a commitment to innovation and process improvement but it also shows that Starbucks is a company that wants to actively communicate with its customers.
- Navigability: underpinning all traits noted above is easy navigation which adds to the user experience and gives a real bring-back-ability’
All in all Starbucks has ensured that their web team not only created a top website but maintain a top website with fresh, engaging and innovative content.
Remember a corporate website isn’t just for Christmas!
I was particularly keen on the range of media that the web designers use, from video, to blogs, interviews and social media. This versatility and range of digital tools really adds crunch, taste and bite to the palate.
However I did note a few points that I thought could be worked on.
The in-shop experience in Starbucks is certainly unique: a sort of refuge for the academic, bookish and artsy types. It also gives off real creative vibes.
However I didn’t exactly feel that they played on this point. They did offer the iTunes “pick of the week” but they could do more with this.
They could engage with book reviews, book offers, and a book of the week award, music reviews or even a recommended playlist. They could also produce online art galleries, showcasing the work of local artists; after all they do this in-shop, so why not online?
All things considered Starbucks ticks all the boxes for a strong corporate website very well: it does the simple things right, conveys its message with fluency, makes the company seem personable and gives the browser and prospective customer every reason to believe that Starbucks not only sells top products but that it’s a thoroughly ‘with-it’ company.