The Top Five Consumer Websites: What They're Doing That You're Not

Accenture gives the scoop on how leading consumer websites score with customers.

By Thomas Wailgum
Fri, August 03, 2007

CIO

Delivering the "best brand experience" and engaging customers, building relationships and encouraging return visits are the hallmarks of outstanding websites, according to an evaluation by Accenture's Marketing Sciences group that published its first-ever list of the top business-to-consumer websites. Of more than 260 B2C sites that the team of 30 researchers evaluated, Adidas.com, Ford.com, Google.com, Microsoft.com and Nike.com were standouts.

According to the results, these sites were "successful at engaging consumers using a variety of techniques, such as providing detailed, high-quality information in interesting formats; building relationships through interactive exchanges; and encouraging return visits by current and potential customers through the use of promotions, premium services, clubs and other online innovations."

The Accenture team examined three broad areas, says Jeffrey Merrihue, CEO of Accenture Marketing Sciences. First, did the website offer basic information and services that should be easily found on all corporate websites? Second, did the website help create relationship- and brand-building with consumers? And third, did it have e-commerce functions and provide the ability to sell more product?

Specifically, the evaluation team relied on nine factors composed of 33 criteria Accenture says are necessary to deliver a high-performing branded customer experience. The nine areas covered: search and navigation, information, service, engagement, relationship building, branding, e-commerce, globalization and number of visitors. 

What was surprising to Merrihue was the "dysfunction" and wide range of problems that his team discovered in all areas of evaluated companies' websites. For example, on one company's site, "there was really superior brand-building, but if you wanted to find the basics, you couldn't do it," says Merrihue.

Overall, he says, there was not one specific factor that everyone had trouble with. "What that told me was that the sector was still very chaotic," Merrihue says. "People would focus on one aspect and get it right, but it took all of their energy to get that right," and other areas, such as building a great e-commerce engine, would be neglected.

This is all very important for 21st-century businesses because a corporate website is "the place where businesses are expressing their entire value proposition," he says. In the past, it was a 30-second TV commercial, and now it's a website.

So what did the top five do so well? According to Accenture...

The Nike site scored particularly high in the areas of engagement, relationship building and branding, as it delivered instant impact with tight integration with its offline marketing activity and other elements to engage targeted customers and make it relevant to their daily lives. For instance, Accenture noted that Nike, by using its site to market Nike+ and NikeID, incorporated innovative mechanisms that enable consumers to measure and manage their running regime and even design their own sports shoe. 

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