The Website is No Longer the Hub
A really simple bet
In 1996 I was really into snowboarding. Really into it. I was 12.
My cousin and I would go through print issues of Transworld Snowboarding and Snowboarder Magazine and call every company from every ad, give them our addresses, and ask them to send brochures and stickers.
This was normal. The ads all had a number, and they all said to call for swag and catalogs.
I distinctly remember the first couple snowboarding brands that started moving that process online. In fact, Morrow Snowboards is the first website of any kind I remember- mrrw.com. Instead of calling them, we could just look at their website, right when we saw the ad. (Well, as soon as our parents let us tie up the phone line for 20 minutes to use the internet.)
Since then, the website has almost completely replaced the brochure. It took a little while after 1996 to hit peak saturation, but we hit it. Fast forward to today, and I believe we’re about to see another shift.
Why? The website is not real-time enough.
Today, if you want to get information about a company, social media paints a more current, more authentic picture of a brand than their website. Even if that brand isn’t very active, there are customer posts, comments, reviews, and Tweets.
Websites are still great brochures and catalogs, but they’re for after you’re interested in a business. They’re what comes in the mail a couple days after you call the number in the ad. The ad? That’s social media. Or the internet. Or whatever you call all the new, real-time technology-based interactions we have every few minutes.
Buyers are finding and vetting companies on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. They’re seeing Tweets, using referral urls, and asking Yelp before asking the company itself. All of these things are properties that need to be maintained by companies. They’re technical debt that fights with the website for attention and budget.
When faced with the choice of a cutting edge website or a year’s worth of social posts, I’d take the social posts and pop up a Squarespace site. However, I’d still be missing some important components of ecommerce.
There are two key places where social media falls short– listing products and handling the purchase. That’s where websites-as-catalogs come in.
It’s that exact sentiment that led to Really Simple Store. I was seeing lots of folks (myself included) who were building brands on social media and driving people to the website only when it’s time to physically purchase.
Of course the site needs to be great to convert someone into actually buying- that’s still very hard- but the website really didn’t need to do much more than that. Even with Google and SEO, this holds true. Banks and Indie- where I sell dog collars and leather products- puts Instagram above our website on SERPs.
What does it mean?
It means websites can be simpler. Time can be spent on other things without hurting a business. That’s our really simple bet with Really Simple Store. It does exactly what it needs to do, and it does it very well (including converting traffic into buyers). However, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, and it doesn’t take a lot to maintain.
Today, this is still a hard sell for some, but for others, it’s the exact solution they’ve been looking for. We’re encouraged, to say the least.
I’m currently writing a more thorough view on the evolution of the website itself for Smashing Magazine. I believe the website industry needs a little shake up (or it may just go away). If you’d like to get an email when it’s published, sign up for my 10 Second Reads email list, and I’ll announce it there.