Website Traffic: Marketing Fantasies vs. IT Realities

Marketing wouldn’t function without IT these days. Think about it, before the internet, IT wasn’t even a department within most organizations. Today marketing relies heavily on online campaigns to drive revenue and boost the bottom line, which means IT plays a big role.

For the most part, marketing doesn’t fully understand how IT works and IT doesn’t fully understand how marketing works. This dynamic can naturally create tension in organizations where communication between these two groups is flawed.

Not to worry. There’s hope to fix this relationship with the goal of making IT’s life easier when facing digital marketing fantasies.

To give you some context to marketing fantasies versus IT realities, we have broken down this post into the relationship between IT and marketing, websites that failed due to lack of communication and what you can do to fix it.

The Marketing and IT Relationship

It all began with the age of the Internet. IT departments started popping up all over the place to help bolster in-house IT infrastructure among other things. And, marketing began to take everything online in hopes of reaching the consumer faster and more effectively compared to traditional marketing methods (print, radio, TV, billboards, etc.).

As soon as this happened, by nature, marketing and IT became very close. But, here is where the divide comes in to play. For the most part, marketing is only thinking about the customer and is concerned with hitting their KPIs, while IT is mainly thinking of minimizing security risks while maintaining a stable infrastructure.

Jay Henderson, marketing expert and Strategy Program Director at IBM explains, “With consumers now communicating with brands through an increasing number of channels, it is essential that marketing systems are properly integrated to ensure customers are addressed with consistent messages and offers, whatever the channel. But, for this to happen, marketing needs to consult closely with IT to ensure this integration.”

This doesn’t happen all the time. What does happen is if IT says no to a project, the marketing department will go find a vendor who can help them. This could be good to get some tasks off of IT’s plate, or really bad if the vendor product doesn’t fit in with the current infrastructure.

According to a survey conducted by IBM, 60% of marketers point to their lack of alignment with the company’s IT department as the biggest obstacle to reaching today’s consumers. At the same time CMO’s and CIO’s are realizing the importance of understanding each other in order to generate revenue for the entire company.

In a survey conducted by Gartner, by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. As Simon Yates, former Vice President in the CIO Group at Forrester Research, wrote, “CMOs need to be masters of technology and CIOs need to understand the customer.” This new perspective is to collaborate under a common goal.

Marketing Campaigns Can Crash Websites

The miscommunication between marketing and IT has probably contributed to some big website failures. Generally, the pattern leading to a crashed website is: marketing creates a great digital campaign, the campaign launches, the website is flooded with users and crashes soon after launch. Not good for IT or marketing.

Here are some of the few failures that stood out to us.

Coca Cola’s Not So Cool Super Bowl Campaign

In 2013, Coca-Cola decided to put the fate of their big game advertising in the hands of their customers. “The Chase” was meant to be a revolutionary interactive ad aimed to get people onto Coke’s website to cast a vote. But, the ad was dubbed a swing and a miss by Huffington Post, when people tried to vote, Coke’s website load time drastically increased causing the entire website, specially made for this advertisement, to crash.

The website simply couldn’t handle the millions of users who flooded the site at once. This could mean marketing underestimated the amount of users and/or IT didn’t prep the website for the massive amounts of users.

Myer’s Boxing Day Crash

Boxing day is one of Australia’s biggest shopping days of the entire year. Myer, Aussie’s biggest department store group, ran into some technical difficulties when the website was flooded with millions of customers trying to snag online Boxing Day discounts.

According to the media, Myer spent millions of dollars on website improvements over the years. Despite the investment, Myer’s website continued to crash during times of heavy customer traffic effecting annual sales. This is a perfect example of damaging the brand image due to lack of proper technical support and infrastructure.

Kohl’s Black Friday Debacle

For several hours on Thanksgiving, any visitor wanting to cash in on early Black Friday deals as promised by the department store went to Kohl’s website only to become aware of the fact the website crashed. Lost profits and bad press was just the tip of the iceberg for Kohl’s.

There were so many deals offered online that it caused a huge traffic surge in a short amount of time, causing the website to crash and simultaneously created extremely frustrated customers. People trying to access the deals thought Kohl’s purposefully shut down their website so they didn’t have to give away deals.

We can speculate marketing didn’t fully communicate the details of the campaign very well. Did IT know this deal was only happening on Thanksgiving night? Either way, the site was not prepared for the sheer volume of users that hit their site, creating a mob of angry customers.

How to Work Better with the Marketing Team

IT needs to understand what the marketing department’s main goal is: hitting their KPIs. If they don’t, their heads could very well be on the chopping block. This makes them much more concerned with the concept, design and messaging of each digital campaign instead of being concerned with the infrastructure and how much load the site can actually take.

So, how can IT help marketing understand the importance of site infrastructure and load time in creating each of their digital campaigns? Here are some tips on ways IT and marketing can communicate better with one another:

1. Communicate often

We really want to drive home this point because communication, in any relationship, is the key to success. Set up a quarterly meeting with the entire IT and marketing team to debrief on what marketing is planning in terms of digital campaigns, how much traffic they expect to drive and what IT is doing in terms of keeping a stable infrastructure to avoid crashes.

2. Create a point person in both departments

This second tip really supports the one above. Create a marketing point person and an IT point person where part of their job is to talk to one another about what’s happening in both departments.

For example, marketing hits peak times around the holidays, (think Christmas and Black Friday) and IT needs to be aware of those times to perform all the necessary tasks to ensure a stable website well before the campaign launches. The two point people can quickly communicate their thoughts or questions on how to make the specific digital campaign work smoothly and relay it back to the entire team.

3. Set up educational meetings

One of the biggest issues between departments is the lack of understanding in terms of what each group does. Marketing is really good at understanding how to design and implement a website but don’t really understand how their design influences the infrastructure – like the servers or the amount of load a website can handle. They have estimates of how much traffic they will or can drive to the site, but they don’t understand the load that the site can handle.

Take the time to set up educational meetings where IT has the opportunity to talk to marketing about how a digital campaign can affect infrastructure.

Here are the main talking points you should bring up to get marketing’s attention.

Why Crashing a Website is Bad

  • Think about the customer experience. A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. Just look at how angry Twitter got when Super Bowl ads started crashing.
  • Even a slow website can cause customers to visit a competitor’s website. According to Google engineers even 400 milliseconds (the blink of an eye) is too long to keep visitors waiting. After 400 milliseconds most of your customers will search for another website.
  • If you are an ecommerce business, 51% of online shoppers in the US say that site slowness is the top reason they’d abandon a purchase.

Talk about those statistics and you will definitely get the attention of your marketing department. Ultimately, a slow or crashed website gives a bad brand image, which will cause customers to complain on social media, to their friends or worse switch to a competitor. Remember, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. At the end of the day, it’s up to marketing and IT to come up with a plan to communicate better with one another and create a better customer experience where everyone is happy.

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  1. June 11, 2014
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