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Trendsetters: Vertic's Sebastian Jespersen Sees 5 Trends in the Transformation of Corporate Websites

Ask Sebastian Jespersen, Author of Entangled Marketing and CEO of Digital Agency Vertic, what he considers to be one of the most important recent developments in business-to-business or corporate marketing, and his answer may surprise you. He sees new significance in the .COM platform, particularly at a time when the "customer experience" aspect of corporate websites is undergoing massive change. Rather than simply showcasing products and services, corporate brands now must understand the value of being relevant for the customer and their needs, that often means an outside-in approach to incorporating data, insights and technology to be able to speak their language and resonate with them.

To stay relevant, he advocates that .COM platforms keep up-to-date on the latest trends and correlations that shape their markets and, inevitably, their bottom line. It also means that corporate websites require cutting-edge technology combined with data and insights about customer needs to enhance a digital brand experience. This includes the ability to incorporate artificial intelligence, machine learning and the facility to contextualize content to correspond with each phase of the customer decision journey. He adds, "When done right, this will dramatically shorten the sales cycle and subsequently create greater business impact."

Vertic recently used such thinking to help transform GE.COM to an intelligent search gateway as the primary destination for all of GE's website traffic. Through proprietary stakeholder insights and a deep understanding of the. COM's B2B user behavior, Vertic realized how customized, highly-relevant experiences could support GE's position as a "digital industrial company." By integrating Artificial Intelligence, the platform's experience would change dramatically for users. Site visitors would be presented with animated search phrases, questions and terms to incite them to engage and enter a search query of their own. In return, users received contextualized content recommendations to enhance and simplify their experience, while moving them from one point in their decision journey to the next.

As a result, content at GE.COM no longer needed to be "pushed" from brand to stakeholder as a one-way communication. In fact, users no longer needed to conventionally navigate deep within the site to seek key information, but instead, are empowered to find results quickly and easily. The traditional linear experience was replaced with a "circular" user journey. Interested site visitors never found a "dead end" as they were continually presented with relevant content to explore while advancing through one phase of their decision journey to the next— without ever seeing a typical "search results" page. Plus, by translating a user's search intent into predictive search options, branded content was suggested for related subjects that the individual may not have considered but would further contextualize options that would incite users to further explore.

Despite the "behind the scenes" complex technology architecture , Sebastian Jespersen advocates that any B2B .COM or corporate website should be presented as a simple, modern and intuitive user experience. He says, "There are times when digital businesses over-complicate their websites and pack in too much information. Not only does this create more clutter, but it does not consider what customers actually need and goes against the convention of customer service. A .COM operates as the brand's spine, in which all other related marketing and communication activities connect to as part of a holistic branded customer experience."

He believes there are five key trends that each B2B .COM should consider as part of their digital transformation, while focusing on optimizing the user experience to address user needs at each phase of their decision journey. This approach enables brands to entangle with their customers, and earn a larger share of in their lives, which ultimately translates into business.

  1. User-Centric Search: Intelligence in search is key in today's .COMs, where search simplifies the way in which users can express their needs and ability to find content as quickly and efficiently as possible. With innovations in artificial intelligence, machine learning, semantic analysis and natural language processing, a smarter, intelligent search capability integrated into a brand's .COM can further save time and expedite a lead sales cycle by providing users with what they need with the right content, at the right place and time to better entangle with the brand.
  2. Customer Decision Journey (CDJ) Alignment: Understanding the user's behavior and decision journey is not enough, the architecture of the .COM needs to fall in line with the logic of a user experience. A .COM is no longer a junkyard of information and policies that are seldom read by customers, but it is instead a breeding ground for new opportunity. The use of great architecture will create a sleeker design and better benefits for the .COM as it will function as the nucleus of online shopping.
  3. Content Relevancy: Every .COM needs to ensure that their content is on-point and relevant, and creates value and resonates with their customers. By clearly classifying content in sections that can be easily found and answer key customer questions that customers have, this will enable brands to entangle with their customers. If, for example, a .COM posted a customer story that was relatable to other consumers, then they could expect more users to flock to their site. This assists in putting their content into context, thus improving user experience and keeping it simple.
  4. Storytelling: Successful B2B brands are focusing on telling their brand story, instead of directly selling their products alone. Storytelling is what humanizes the brand and explains to customers the purpose behind its existence and products. The new age of consumers are not buying what you do, but instead buying why you do it has certainly reached a pinnacle in 2017. All corporate brands need to tell the story of their origin and what they are about on the .COM, specifically creating meaningful customer experiences while sharing values that elevate the brand higher than the products/services it provides.
  5. Personalization: Hyper-personalization is not only a trend, but also an expectation of today's digital-first customers. Through an assessment of stakeholder insights, each unique user receives a customized experience tailored to his/her needs and where they are in their decision journey—often through the help of AI.

Sebastian is an innovator, a business strategist, and a breakthrough digital thinker. He founded independent digital agency Vertic over a decade ago; today it has a footprint on three continents and serves some of the world's best-known global marketers and brands. His book on Entangled Marketing is the new business model for building a supportive, enduring and mutually-rewarding customer relationship that moves beyond mere "engagement" to an unbreakable, ongoing relationship.