Are You Ready for the Everywhere Web?
This new "Everywhere Web" is a place where customer expectations are high
If you are ready to aggressively drive more online sales to your growing company, then it's time for your business to truly embrace all the new ways that your customers are buying from you over the Internet.
Today, your customers are perusing your merchandise and buying from your mobile and Web sites using a vast array of devices, including desktop PCs, smartphones, cell phones, wireless laptops, and tablet computers from wherever they're located, anytime.
This new "Everywhere Web" is a place where customer expectations are high, and if you want to prosper, you certainly want to ensure that your web and mobile sites always deliver for all of your customers, with no excuses. Don't disappoint them with an online experience that is slow or that doesn't serve them. If your sites don't sell to them when they want to buy from you, those customers may not come back.
To win them over and drive sales, your company needs to stay on top of all the new devices that your customers are using to find you online. That means ensuring that your site performance is ready to meet the needs of all of that device diversity. Making it even more complex are new electronic devices such as tablet PCs and iPads that blur the lines between traditional desktop computing and the mobile world.
A System to Monitor the Everywhere Web
It may seem like a lot to worry about, but by following a performance monitoring strategy that keeps up with new devices and Web services accessed by these devices, you can turn this challenge into a competitive strength for your business.
The place to start is with benchmarks to establish online performance goals for all your online sites that can then be monitored, measured and improved over time. The needs of broadband and mobile users are quite different, so you should be benchmarking both types. Broadband sites include far more graphics and audio-hungry features, because there is speed to spare to deliver them. Mobile sites are usually pared down to get out just the basic information to customers, while cutting out the flashy extras due to mobile bandwidth and screen size limitations.
In addition, your monitoring should emulate the kinds of devices and Internet access services your customers are using so you can get real-time data on the performance they are experiencing first-hand. For example, if iPhones and Android devices via the AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the mobile devices and services of choice for your customers, those are the key things you should be monitoring to be sure your sites are serving them well.
To deliver Everywhere Web performance to your customers, you always need to be sure that your systems are delivering all the speed, convenience and reliability that you are promising, no matter how and where they are accessing your sites from, said Tony Perez, a mobile solutions consultant with Keynote Systems Inc.
The Everywhere Web is becoming more of a standard every day, regardless of whether you are ready for it. Your customers are already there. "The volume of mobile transactions today is huge, beyond expectations," Perez said. "You need to be ready for this explosion." And even more important, if you're ready for it before your competitors are, then you'll have a critical leg up on them. "You want to be first to this opportunity."
In addition, there's an unexpected built-in benefit that comes from introducing ways of effectively meeting the Everywhere Web head on – your company's reputation will grow as a leader in providing dependable, high-performance Web services and content. If your services don't perform well because you didn't do anything to help them along, your reputation can sink.
In the banking sector, for example, many banks think that the way to attract and retain younger customers today is to offer a wider variety of mobile services, including mobile applications to do simple transactions. "These users have an expectation that everything will be available to do over mobile connections," Perez said. But if those Everywhere Web capabilities are lacking when customers try to use them, there may not be any second chances. "If you're not doing what your customers want, they'll find someone who will," said Perez.
"One of the things that Keynote provides are industry indices that baseline the access times of popular mobile services," Perez said. "So if your mobile Web page takes 22 seconds to load, we can rank your time on the index of popular mobile sites and see where you fit in. Are you at or near the bottom or top? Once you know your baseline, you can monitor it over time to see if it gets better or worse based on changes you might make to the application code or supporting infrastructure. If you are at the bottom, you know you need to spend more time on optimization, if you are near the top, you can move on to something else."
Monitoring your sites and their performance using all types of devices, from multiple brands and models of mobile phones running on 2G, 3G and 4G networks to wired desktops and everything in between, is imperative. That's because each kind of access to your sites – whether customers are using desktop computers via broadband or DSL, mobile devices on 2G, 3G or 4G cellular networks, Wi-Fi networks or even dial-up – delivers different performance and requires customized and specific kinds of monitoring. Even the real-time Web performance characteristics of multiple mobile service providers themselves have to be monitored to ensure customer satisfaction in reaching your content through the most popular networks.
"When you're doing monitoring, it's not enough to only monitor a mobile Web site over one mobile carrier because that won't give you the experiences over different carriers," said Herman Ng, Keynote mobile support consultant. "Focus on the devices and providers that most of your customers are using and monitor those."
It's also important to make sure that you carefully monitor the geographic locations of your customers so you can ensure excellent Everywhere Web performance, Ng said. "If you are in the U.S., the minimum you want to monitor is from the east coast and from the west coast, so you get some representation of users from different regions. It will give you different traffic patterns. You always want to ensure that you are accessible to your customers. This information is huge."
Analysts' Perspective: Web Performance Monitoring Allows You to Better Serve Your Customers
So how will monitoring the performance of the different components of this Everywhere Web help you to always deliver for your customers?
It will give you critical performance expectations about your customers that others inside your company can use to better serve those end users, said Dan Olds, an analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group Inc. in Beaverton, Ore. "More information is almost always better than less data, particularly when it's about your customers. You can stay up-to-date on the ways your customers are finding you."Business leaders can see "that customers are using different devices or that they seem to have problems doing certain things on your Web sites," Olds said. "That's valuable information."
Kevin Benedict, principal analyst for Netcentric Strategies LLC in Boise, Idaho, suggests putting yourself in the shoes of your customers to really understand what they're experiencing when they visit your sites. And the only way to do that, he said, is to monitor their user experiences via your sites and applications. An avid Apple iPhone user, Benedict says he's constantly adding promising new iPhone apps from various businesses as he hears of them. But if their online performance doesn't meet his expectations, they quickly get the axe. That's not something your company wants to see if you've invested the time, money and resources to try to attract a larger group of mobile users in the first place."For whatever purposes they built them, if they run too slowly, I just delete them and move on," Benedict said. "If they take too long to load, I'm not going to wait around."
How this affects your business is obvious. If you're not monitoring the real-world performance of those apps for your customers, then you won't know that they're leaving your users high and dry despite your best intentions. Benedict said. "If it's too slow to be effective and people don't like it, you wasted all that money."
Those kinds of performance failures can even create a negative image for your company with your customer base, he said. And that's why conducting comprehensive Web performance monitoring for the Everywhere Web is so important.
"It absolutely makes sense for companies to see how a mobile application reflects back on the brand," Benedict said. But you can only validate the real-world performance of these major investments, he said, by directly emulating and monitoring their Everywhere Web performance for your customers. "If it doesn't work and you don't know about it, you've lost the whole argument. And if it's not used, then you've failed in your entire mission."
What's ahead for the Everywhere Web?
You have to watch over a myriad of performance benchmarks already, from desktop PCs to mobile devices of every kind, to tablet and laptop PCs and everything in between. Likely, those responsibilities will continue to grow as new devices and platforms come to market and are adopted by your customers.
That means you'll need to have flexible, expandable monitoring services to keep a constant eye on the Everywhere Web to be sure that your customers are being well served by your sites and are returning to visit and make repeat purchases from your company.
So embrace the Everywhere Web and monitor its varied performance needs and patterns as critical new tools in your company's IT arsenal. Be prepared for it in all of its incarnations, and be ready to adjust to its twists and turns in the future. That's a plan for a successful Web Performance Monitoring strategy that can successfully drive your business growth.