Every client or prospect we work with today is asking the same question: "How do we improve ROI on what we are doing?" And, more importantly, they want to know how to measure ROI for all their marketing investments, online or off.
I'm fond of saying that, with online marketing, everything is measurable, and it is true, if the strategy is set up correctly and it includes the expected ROI and a pre-determination of how that ROI will be measured. What cannot be totally guaranteed is that everything is completely measured objectively. Branded manufacturers will say that is it almost impossible to measure direct ROI from online marketing efforts because they are a step or two removed from the actual customer who purchases through their distribution channels. Coupons, offers, coded registrations and special online 'extras' are often not sufficient to know the extent of how well efforts are working,but they are good options. Sometimes companies simply need to look at spikes in sales activity as one objective measure of success, although it may be due to a variety of factors including the mix of online and offline marketing and sales activity.
What is in the control of any company marketing on the Web is how well its online experience conveys its brand, its differentiators, and its value propositions. Google and Yahoo! and Apple did not get where they are through poor online experiences - it is precisely their ease of use and rapid delivery of that which they promise that compels millions to beat a path to their door. Shaw Floors may not be able to know precisely the degree to which their online simulation that places their products on a photo of your home interior drives sales, but they can know their online experience is likely to foster a stronger brand affinity than that of their competitors. Any catalog retailer who has a great selection and fast-loading large photos but has a lousy online shopping cart and payment process is likely to see a reduction in orders offline as well. Why does every major auto manufacturer offer almost the exact same type of online experience and functionality now? Because they needed to do so to level the playing field. Prospective customers start on the Web and the experience better be good or they'll go somewhere else.
Every touchpoint matters and leaves an impression. It's like a music system that only sounds as good as its weakest component. If there is any area of your online experience that suffers, the total impression is likely to suffer. And the impact of a brand's online experience does not have to be subjectively evaluated; it can be measured through Website satisfaction surveys or even page-specific 'Was this helpful?' inquiries.
The actual value of a highly engaging and flawlessly executed online experience? Priceless, for any company serious about growth and customer satisfaction.