:: By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor ::
Fast, strong, smart, reliable - the characteristics scouts look for in athletes isn't all that different from what business buyers need in the solutions (software and services) they seek to help run their Web-based businesses.
Like a prospective player, a digital offering must not only be vetted with tests, trial periods and talks, but it also must complement a team (and, of course, fit into its budget).
Thanks to the very Internet they look to dominate, how business buyers make these crucial decisions has rapidly changed and that was very apparent in 2015. In fact, these decision-makers can be up to 90 percent through the buyer's journey before engaging sales (read more at wsm.co/b2buyers).
Everything from vendor websites to user reviews can provide decision-makers the information they need to feel confident about picking up the phone, filling out a form, engaging in a trial or indicating in another way they are now ready to take the next step in their conversion path - and start fielding calls and emails from salespersons. Website Magazine is also here to help. In addition to access to industry executives and early announcements, our editors are provided the opportunity to test a variety of digital solutions thanks to the companies who offer us demos or accounts to vet their products. These insights help us provide this Digital Powers Players resource to assist readers in scouting the services they need to be successful online.
This year, our list is separated into more than a dozen categories with 112 solutions honored with the label of Digital Power Player. Readers will find, however, that a company listed as one type of offering may fit in many other categories as well. In the New Year, tech companies will broaden their offerings even more through acquisitions and feature expansions, making the categorization of products and services more difficult, so keep an open mind to how the Power Players have been placed.
From there, readers will likely ask, "What does it take to be a Digital Power Player?" In short, both emerging and established companies must help accelerate the success of their users through product innovation, client education, reliable service and easy-to-use features that help Web professionals create, power, optimize and analyze their digital presence.
There are more companies deserving to be on this list, of course, so we encourage you to let us know which Digital Power Players you would have included by tweeting us (@WebsiteMagazine) or commenting on this article below.
A new category in Website Magazine's Digital Power Players list, the products and services that allow Web professionals to create content in a variety of formats deserve recognition. For instance, the ability to repurpose a blog via an infographic - and without the help of a busy design team - is a win for digital marketers, as is providing the same content in an affordably made video. Content marketers should consider the following 10 products and services in the New Year, as well as check out this infographic on how to repurpose content correctly at wsm.co/repurpose16.
+ Pagemodo.com (shown below)
Using a freemium model, Placeit.net allows brands to place their art on items (like the wine bottle shown above) to create instant mockups without editing software.
Search Engine Optimization
Sixty-one percent of chief marketing officers consider search engine optimization (SEO) to be an effective channel for their businesses - tied with media coverage and second to a corporate website, according to a recent Accenture study. While the search engines will continue to update their algorithms (and indices) to benefit their users (and themselves), plenty of solutions exist that can provide search marketers with the insights they need to gain a competitive advantage; 50 of which are ranked at wsm.co/top50seo.
Call it a Web experience platform, a content management system (CMS) or a digital experience cloud, the providers that allow marketers to speak to current and prospective customers in a personalized manner are helping to accelerate conversions, loyalty and even end-user expectations both in B2C and B2B realms. What's more, the platforms providing everyday content developers the ability to easily test, analyze and optimize messaging are those leading the pack.
+ DNNSoftware.com (shown below)
With DNN’s Evoq 8, marketers and content writers can quickly see how their content is performing on both a page level and the site as a whole.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, as well as other solutions that allow for the effective management of accounting and finances, play a crucial role in a company's ability to make decisions and move forward. The following are the power players in ERP, but other financial management offerings (for enterprises of all sizes) are addressed at wsm.co/mattersmoney.
A staple in digital marketing, the email experience has not only kept up with users' and enterprises' increasing demands, but in many ways surpassed them. For instance, Monetate's open-time personalization offering enables brands to deliver relevant messages for the moment a customer opens the email (as opposed to when it was sent) to increase the relevancy of the promotions and products included. This experience serves customers much better than what they are getting nearly everywhere else. Monetate is not alone in improving the email experience, of course. Listrak's partnership with Olapic, for instance, allows its customers to tap into user-generated content to select top performing images for inclusion in email campaigns - allowing customers to view the products in use by their peers (a group seen as more trustworthy than brands).
Testing & Optimization
The answer to most digital questions in 2015 like included..."test it." From calls to action (CTAs) and copy to social media widgets and site search results, there wasn't anything Web professionals couldn't test the effectiveness of. The following companies provide some of the top offerings that enable testing and the ability to collect feedback to better the user experience and the bottom line.
What should digital brands be testing in 2016? Our editors have prepared a checklist at wsm.co/runtests.
+ SiteSpect.com: "Only the SiteSpect Digital Optimization Platform enables customers to test the entire user experience, from the front-end 'look and feel' to the back-end functionality, and centrally manage those tests across channels, product lines and business units," said SiteSpect VP of Product Justin Bougher.
+ VisualWebOptimizer.com (shown below)
Web professionals use VWO to tweak, optimize and personalize their websites with minimal IT help.
Aspect Software released a report last year that indicated 76 percent of consumers look at customer service as a test of their value to a brand. While consumers want top-notch customer service, they'd actually prefer, however, to solve issues on their own (3 in 4). This further proves that enterprises must provide service any way the customer wants it, whether that's through live chat, customer reviews, social media or via email. These 10 companies will serve any digital brand well if catering to the often-demanding modern consumer is their goal.
While chief marketing officers (CMOs) have long felt the pressure to deliver a return on investment (ROI) from digital marketing efforts, just 46 percent of those executives surveyed in Leapfrog Marketing Institute's newest benchmark report said they are now able to track digital sales, compared to 63 percent the previous year. While some of the blame can certainly fall on social media's digital shoulders (brands continue to struggle to prove ROI for the channel), plenty of tools exist to streamline efforts in the form of better social media timing (when posts are sent), identifying of influencers and analyzing key metrics (e.g. click-throughs, conversions, etc.).
While .com is still the most-used and most-coveted top-level domain, 2015 witnessed gTLDs like .xyz and .club rise in the ranks. GoDaddy and its competitors helped brands and domainers snag the perfect address and are sure to propel this space forward as more gTLDs are released. The registrars listed in this edition of Website Magazine's Digital Power Players are those who consistently top the ranks of premier providers.
Interest in "big data" reached its peak at the end of last year, with more companies looking to harness and act on big amounts of customer, business and performance data. Website Magazine's, "Business Intelligence: Generating Dollars from Analytics Change" whitepaper is a must read for those serious about using data to expose opportunities for change. Download now at wsm.co/bidollars.
Marketing & Sales Automation
Forty-four percent of marketers are not fully satisfied with their marketing automation systems, according to 2015 data from Autopilot. The top reasons being that the software takes too long to implement, is difficult to learn and is expensive. With more than 200 solutions on the market (source: Capterra), the competition should help for quicker implementation and drive lower costs and learning curves over time. Many enterprises, however, have found success with these 10 power players, companies that consistently prove they are more than capable of helping brands automate their key marketing and sales processes.
InsideSales.com accelerates sales communications, engagement tracking, forecasting and even rep motivation and hiring to mitigate risk, improve revenues, and automate and leverage prospect data (including real-time buying signals) to close more deals – creating better operational efficiency similar to traditional marketing and sales automation platforms.
With record online sales (catch up on all the latest news and numbers on our e-commerce channel at wsm.co/ecommerceexpress), having the right e-commerce partner was vital for a retailer's success in 2015 and will be of even more importance this year. From the ability to easily get started selling online to more sophisticated use cases like bridging the gap between online and offline stores with omnichannel offerings, these 12 companies helped power the most in-demand shopping experiences.
One of the foundations of Web success, how a company's digital properties perform on a technical level (e.g. availability, speed) is vital to a company's reputation, the likeliness of conversions and repeat business and even high search rankings. These eight companies make those operating on the Web faster, more reliable and overall more effective.
+ Cedexis.com (shown below)
One of the Cedexis offerings, Radar Live shows a global view of anomalies, based on data from the Cedexis Radar Community.
POWER ON PLAYERS
Much like a high-performing athlete, running an online business takes speed, stamina and strength. Web professionals must not only commit to success in areas of accounting and automating and planning and performance - and everything in between - but the providers they choose to help them succeed must also commit to their growth. Website Magazine's list of Digital Power Players will certainly serve the online enterprise well, but each decision-maker will need to do their part - researching, testing, inquiring - to ensure the solution, software, service fits with their team, their budget and their objectives.