How Customer-Centric Visionaries Make Information Valuable

Make Information Actionable and Connect People to People

June 2, 2009

What's the state of the art in the design of customer-centric Web sites? Patty’s Visionaries—ebusiness leaders—take content very seriously. They don't just post it; they make it multi-dimensional and actionable. People are important, too. Visionaries make it easy for customers and other site stakeholders and visitors to find each other and to learn from one another.

Last week I hosted two very rich customer gatherings: the semiannual meetings of my Pioneers’ and Visionaries’ groups. The tradition in these meetings is one of “show and tell”—clients share what they’ve been working on and seek advice from their peers. There are so many great “aha!s” that came out of both meetings, I’ll be digesting and summarizing the take-aways over the next several weeks.

“Documents” Have Become Interactive Landing Pages

Visionaries don’t present information in the form of flat online documents or lock information up in PDFs (although they make it easy to download and print PDFs). They provide actionable, interactive information in small bite-size chunks. Their “Document 2.0’s” include links to curated, authoritative, structured data, such as:

  • Expert ratings
  • 3D Molecular models or chemical formulas
  • Sortable parameters to help in decision-making
  • Rich interactive imagery
  • Bills of material with links to product details 
  • Custom-configured products they can tweak
  • Comments and discussions with experts

How do they manage to cost effectively make information come alive? They take advantage of underlying data structures, taxonomies, and automated tools that link concepts, people, and products to their internal databases. They use aggregation tools to link to industry-standard authoritative external information repositories. They invest in subject matter experts to carefully curate the external data and information sources to which they link. These same subject matter experts perform quality control on the interactive links. Do customers see what they would expect to see? Can they manipulate it the way they’d expect?

Some of the Visionaries who demonstrated their rich, interactive content are publishers seeking to increase the value of the content they provide for a fee. Others are manufacturers, service providers, hospitality providers, educational institutions, or not-for-profits for whom information and content aids customers in decision-making and in their use of the products and services they purchase. Every organization that has a Web site is a publisher. Whether you charge for information, or use information to sell products, the structured approach you take to making your information actionable and valuable is a strategic and customer-critical investment...

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