Gateways (part 1)

When was the last time you manually typed a web address, character by character, into your browser? w, w, w, dot…

If you’re like most people in 2017, you rarely type a web address. But you’re visiting more sites than you ever have, so how are you discovering and getting to brands’ online experiences?

Well, think about the places you do go directly to on a daily basis: Facebook, Gmail, Google, your news source, etc. These personal ‘go-tos’ are pretty few in number. Although you visit these sites and apps directly, you rarely type in their web addresses. They’re either apps, browser bookmarks, or URLs autofilled (e.g. type ‘f’ and your browser autofills ‘facebook.com’ for you).

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

These sites and apps you frequent all have something in common: they’re lists, or feeds. Facebook is a feed of posts. Gmail is a list of emails. Google Search is a list of search results. The Washington post is a feed of articles. Starbucks’ app is a list of products you can order for pick up. Etc.

These sites’ and apps’ feed-based design is very important because it hints at their unique yet captivating purpose for consumers: to feature the content of other sites and pages. For example, clicking on a Facebook post takes you to a page that was shared. Clicking on a link in an email takes you to a brand’s website. And so forth…

That’s why we call the places consumers visit gateways: because they are the medium through which consumers reach brands’ experiences. These experiences are often on a different website or domain:

Consumers go to a gateway, go to a site, go back to the gateway, and repeat.

Today, consumers mostly go to gateways, not brands’ websites. Gateways are the sites and apps through which the majority of Internet traffic flows to brands’ experiences.

There are four types of gateway:

  • Social (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram)
  • Email (Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook)
  • Search and convenience (Google Search, Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant)
  • Providers (CNN, Boston Globe, Starbucks App)

Think about all the places you go directly to online — they are gateways that fit into one of the above four categories.

It’s worth noting that gateways can take you to other gateways too. You can click on a post on Facebook and go to the Boston Globe’s website.

This shift towards gateways has, in part, been brought about by the rise of mobile. Consumer’s browsing sessions on mobile are generally less than two minutes. This means when a consumer is on their phone, they’re usually about to stop using their phone. Consumers, with their limited browsing windows, will naturally gravitate towards the low-risk places they know will give them guaranteed or immediate value: known gateways, not new websites.

Tracking the source of web traffic is notoriously inaccurate - a lot of technologies are trying to solve this challenge. Whilst that information can be useful, there’s a much more valuable problem brands can solve on their own once they understand the role of gateways. We’ll dig into how brands can make this shift to gateways work in their favor next time, so be sure to follow Blank Slate so you don’t miss out.