Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Thursday, 5th March, 2015 | By Jeremy Girard | Category: Website Design and Development

The Six Types of Website Visitors – And How to Serve Each of Them

Every website’s audience is comprised of different kinds of visitors, and those people can almost always be broken down into one of 6 distinct categories. Visitors in each of these categories share similar needs and goals on the website, which means that by understanding the needs of each category and ensuring that your website does what it can to meet those needs, you can better serve those individual users.

In this article, we will take a high-level look at the 6 categories of visitors common to almost all websites. We will also explore some of the characteristics of each of these categories and what you can do on your website to cater to each of them.

1. The Browser

The first group of visitors we will look at are those that are “just browsing” the site and in their earliest stage of research. These visitors may have need of the products or services that you offer, but they are far away from the point of purchase. Currently, they are seeing what is available so that they can learn what their options are. These visitors are looking to be educated and there is a prime opportunity for you to establish a strong, early-stage relationship with these visitors.

To serve the needs of this “early stage research” group, your site should include content that educates visitors. By offering this content, you answer your visitors’ questions and become a trusted source of information. This is a great way to begin building a relationship with people, one that you hope will eventually turn them into customers!

Many companies do not like to accommodate this early stage research group because they are so far away from the point of purchase and many visitors in this category will never turn into actual customers. Those companies prefer to focus their efforts on some of the categories which we will cover shortly, those where people are closer to making a purchase and therefore much easier to sell to. This is another reason why this group of visitors offers you a unique opportunity. Not only can you establish an early relationship by offering helpful information, but many of your competitors may have elected not to cater to this group, setting your company and your site apart for these “just looking” researchers.

Make basic information easy to find on your site. Consider including some kind of “search tool” that allows these early stage researchers to query the information that they are looking for and find the exact pages of your site for that content. You can also consider adding a “101-style” page of a “FAQs” page that contains the basic questions and information this group of visitors may be after.

2. The Comparison Shopper

The next group of website visitors are those that are further down the road of being ready to make a purchase. They have been educated and largely know what they are looking for in terms of the product or service they need, now they are trying to determine who is the right company to provide that to them. They want to know what sets your company apart and why they should work with you instead of with someone else.

In a way, these visitors are also looking to be educated, but not on the general aspects of what you do. Instead, they want to know about your company specifically. These people are motivated and will likely make a commitment soon. Now is your chance to show them why that choice should be you.

To cater to this audience, consider adding pricing to your website. This is not always appropriate or even possible, but price is one of the deciding factors in almost all purchasing decisions, yet many companies elect to leave pricing off their website because of fears that they will show their hand to competitors (more on that later). If you can add pricing to your site, do so! Even if you are not the lowest, adding pricing has value because so few of your competitors have pricing on their sites! This sets you apart and, for some visitors, it may immediately answer a major concern for them (“what is this going to cost me?”) and, if that price is what they were hoping for, you may be able to seal the deal right then and there.

Besides pricing, other helpful information that you can consider adding could be warranty or service information, average timelines for the work that you do, or any other content specific to your organization and offerings.

3. The Decider

The next logical group to cover are those customers that are absolutely ready to buy. They have been educated on both the products or services that you offer as well as on what sets your organization apart. They have decided that you are the right fit for them – now you need to make the purchasing process as easy as possible so you can close this deal!

If your website actually coverts business online, meaning you allow for online purchasing or registration and that is how you gain customers, then make sure that the check-out or registration process is simple and working! I am always amazed when I see a website that does a great job educating visitors and differentiating their company, but a technical glitch prevents visitors from taking that final step and becoming actual customers! Error messages that come up during checkout or registration will destroy the relationship you have been working hard to forge, so be sure that your site is up and running as intended!

You should have some kind of “regular checkup” planned for your site. Waiting for customers to report to you that something is broken is waiting too long, because many customers will never report that problem to you – they will simply take their business elsewhere. This is why your site needs to be working as intended always – and you need to have a process in place to review the site’s functionality regularly.

If you do not allow customers to convert online, but they instead need to call to schedule an appointment with your company, then make sure that it is obvious that they need to do this and make sure your contact information is easy to find! Furthermore, consider doing away with automated phone systems whenever possible. A motivated buyer who picks a phone and is greeted with a too-long, robotic welcome message is often as much of a deal-breaker as a website that throws errors. You’ve convinced this person that your company is the right fit for their needs, now greet them with a human touch and stay away from the automated systems.

4. The Familiar

So far, we have looked exclusively at net new customers, but one of the best sources of new business for any company are their existing clients. While your site needs to appeal to new customers, it should also speak to existing ones who are familiar with your company and happy with your services.

In many cases, customers may work with you for one specific product of service, unaware of other services you offer as well. Your site can make these customers aware of your full range of offerings and strengthen the relationship you have with them.

Your website also allows you to inform existing customers about important updates or announcements that may affect them. These could be simple hours of operation changes for your company or other updates that they should be aware of. Remember, if you started out a relationship by being a thought- leader and provider of useful information, that should not stop once you are engaged with those customers. Consider adding an ‘Existing Customers’ section to your site with this type of information. You do not necessarily need to password protect this information, assuming it is not client-specific and sensitive, but rather allow anyone to view it. In this way, you can give existing customers useful information and show other visitors your commitment to long term relationships with your clients!

5.The Applicant

Stepping away from the ‘customer’ side of your website’s audience, there are other visitors to your site that you should consider. One of these is potential new employees.

If you site has a ‘careers’ or ‘job openings’ page, then this is likely where potential new employees will be looking. You do not need to give these pages front-and-center, top-level billing – most job seekers are motivated enough to find this content even if it is not given the same level of prominence that you give you customer-oriented content (and if that job seeker is not motivated enough to find the link, you probably don’t want to hire them anyway).

In addition to the actual job listings, however, you may also want to consider adding some content about what life is like at your company – your ‘company culture’, for instance. When you are looking to recruit the best talent out there, they will want to know more about your company than just the hard facts covered in a job listing. This is where a little information about your company culture can really come in handy and help you appeal to the best of the best.

6. The Competitor

Earlier I mentioned that many companies do not put pricing on their website for fear that their competition will find it. This doesn’t end with pricing. I have seen companies “hide” content behind registration systems, or elect to leave it off a site altogether to prevent competitors from gathering that information. In almost all cases, this is a bad idea. After all, if you make your information difficult for competitors to find, you also make it difficult for actual customers to get that same information.

Yes, there are times when the information you provide to customers is so individualized or sensitive that you could not make it public on your site, but that is an edge-case. For most businesses, the only reason they elect to leave this content off their site is that aforementioned “fear of competitors getting it”. Here’s the reality, however – if your competition wants that information, they will get it. If they are motivated to get that info, they will jump through the hoops you set up. Customers, however, will not generally go to those lengths. So by “hiding” content from competition, you really only keep it away from the very people you want to speak to – new customers!

Do not be afraid of your competition. Be bold and put your content out there for all to see. One of two things will happen. Either your competition will follow suit and put their info out there as well, which allows you to compete on a level playing field, or they will continue to hide it away, which shows customers how open you are and often makes you the more appealing choice. Either way, by making your content easy to access for all categories of visitors to your site, to do the best job of serving the ones that matter to you most.

Appealing to all visitors

By understanding the needs of the visitors your website has, you and your web or marketing team can make the right decisions to best meet the needs of all visitors.

Jeremy Girard
Jeremy Girard has been designing for the web since 1999. He is currently employed at the Providence, Rhode Island-based firm Envision Technology Advisors and also teaches website design and front-end development at the University of Rhode Island. In addition, Jeremy contributes regularly to a number of websites and magazines focused on business and the Web, including his personal site at Pumpkin-King.com.