By Aimee Chanthadavong

A study from EPiServer has revealed that Australian businesses, including tier one and two retailers, are failing to maximise opportunities to engage with visitors on their websites.

The Engaged Web that surveyed 80 companies across eight vertical sectors – telecoms, charity, retail, sport, travel, public sector, finance and utilities – showed that only 18 per cent feature a community on their website and only 20 per cent regularly updated their blogs.

Ironically, two of the most consumer-focussed sectors whose websites are largely revenue-generating – retail and utilities – were the worst performers in the study, failing to effectively integrate content, community, commerce and communication to engage visitors and potential customers.

Andreas Stjernström, EPiServer Australia and New Zealand country manager, told Retailbiz that retailers often become too comfortable in the market and are not aware that there’s constant competition in the market.

“We’ve done this survey to look at several parts from social media, web dialogue to creating online communities and apparently here in Australia retailers are not doing that good of a job in engaging with their visitors,” he said.

“It’s because they don’t have too many features and are not encouraging dialogue. Having Facebook or adding Twitter to your homepage is not enough, you need to engage with them through more direct email campaigns and personalisation of the website. For instance, people who have looked at this one computer could also be recommended by the website as to what other people looking at this certain product have searched.”

Interestingly, retail brands, finance and telecoms lead when it comes to personalisation. One example is Woolworths with its online shopping feature that scored highly on the personalisation front. It welcomes returning customers and presents saved shopping lists and daily featured specials to ensure visitors receive a truly personalised browsing experience that engages and encourages brand loyalty through convenience.

On the other hand, brands like Bunnings and Ikea displayed details of the nearest store location but failed to offer customers such a customised shopping experience as it only displays products and offers from a generic range of categories.

At the same time, Australian companies appear to be embracing social media with 44 per cent of companies advertising their Twitter account directly on the homepage and 34 per cent drawing attention to their Facebook fan page. Telecoms and travel are strong in encouraging online interaction with their visitors and customers by participating in discussions and answering questions, while retail and utilities disappoint on this front.

According to Stjernström, bringing about dialogue to a website will help engage loyal customers and encourage more sales from existing and potential customers

“If you have a dialogue, you can see the attitudes and the behaviours of customers and act on them. If you see a tendency that people are complaining about a specific accessory you can see why they don’t like and work proactively in introducing a new type of accessory,” he said.