the death of websitesA couple of weeks ago, we had a pretty intense conversation in the PR Dream Team about the death of websites, which was spurred by an article that ran in TechCrunch.

I fully realize some of it is there to motivate clicks and to invite people to have a discussion.

But to predict the death of websites is a bit much.

It’s like saying the news release is dead. Or SEO is dead. Or content marketing is dead.

None of it is dead.

It’s just evolving.

But allow me to back up.

Chicken Little! The Sky is Falling!

Last week, I was at Social Media Marketing World and you would think the sky is falling.

Chicken Little! The sky is falling!

Everyone was down on all of the Facebook changes and on information overload and on crappy content and on learning as the new procrastination.

But if you think about it, this all makes sense.

For years, we’ve been saying, “Don’t rent your business out to somebody else.”

But there are firms that focus only on social media.

There are organizations that have built their ecommerce in Facebook.

And there are others that have created content in places like Medium without connecting it to their website.

Well, the perfect storm is here.

These things no longer work—and we either can be down in the dumps about it or we can look for the opportunity to innovate.

Nothing is dead.

It all still works.

We just have to evolve with it.

The Death of Websites is an Incorrect Prediction

And we aren’t faced with the death of websites, either.

Sure, they are evolving—just like they have for the past 27 years.

Remember when websites launched and they were just an extension of your sales brochure?

If you were lucky, it was four pages and it looked exactly like what the sales team handed out at conferences.

Well, that’s changed, hasn’t it?

Now your website is a living, breathing document and it requires careful care every day, just like a plant.

It can be your number one sales tool, if you care for it as though it were a plant—or a human being.

From the article in TechCrunch:

As much as 90 percent of calls placed to a company’s contact center originate from its website. The journey looks like this: consumers visit a website to get answers, become confused and have to call. This has become an epidemic, as contact centers field 268 billion calls per year at a cost of $1.6 trillion.

First, if people visit a website, get confused, and have to call—that isn’t the fault of the internet.

It is the fault of your website—but it doesn’t mean it’s dying.

It’s the fault of the organization not communicating its brand promise correctly.

What if you could care for your website enough to lead consumers to buy without having to call?

What does that website look like?

But We Can’t Handle the Call Volume

The TechCrunch author goes on:

To put that in perspective, global advertising spend is $500 billion, meaning the cost of customer care—these billions of phone calls—is three times more than a company’s marketing expenses. More importantly, they create another bad consumer experience.

How many times have we been put on hold by a company when it can’t handle the volume of incoming queries? Websites and apps have, in fact, created more phone calls—at increased cost—and upended digital’s promise to make our lives easier.

Fair point.

We all hate the phone tree experience and it does lead to frustration.

Not to mention the experience of finally getting someone on the phone who doesn’t understand your challenge.

You end up hanging up and trying again—just to get a different person.

It’s not a great experience.

But if you can’t handle the volume of calls, freaking fix your website.

It’s supposed to be there to provide information, answer questions, and convert consumers.

If it’s not doing that, it doesn’t mean the death of websites.

It means your website is broken.

Fix Your Freaking Website

Now let’s say your website is fixed.

You’ve begun to care for it like you would a newborn baby.

You might even have sleepless nights as you get it fixed—because you can save thousands of dollars each month on phone calls.

It’ll be worth it in the long-run.

But human beings still like to have conversations—and they need person-to-person interaction.

Enter artificial intelligence and chat bots.

The TechCrunch articles goes on to say:

There is something innate to our psychology in getting our questions answered through a conversation that instills the confidence in us to spend money. This is why there is so much chatter about bots and AI right now. They tap into an inner understanding about the way things get done in the real world: through conversations. The media are putting too much focus on bots and AI destroying jobs. Instead, we should explore how they will make our lives easier in the wake of the web’s massive shortfalls.

I agree that conversations are what creates the opportunity to buy.

If we can replicate that through bots and AI, that’s fantastic!

It doesn’t mean the death of websites.

Au contraire!

You need your website to manage these conversations—and to educate throughout the process.

We can use AI and chat bots to do that.

Amazing, isn’t it?

It’s evolving, not dying.

Make Sure Your Website Doesn’t Die

The TechCrunch article’s author made a bold prediction:

In 2018, we will see the first major brand shut down its website. The brand will shift how it connects with consumers—to conversations, with a combination of bots and humans, through a messaging front end like SMS or Facebook.

If a brand doesn’t have a website, it will be awfully difficult to have commerce conversations.

Not to mention, you will be renting those conversations to Facebook Messenger and chat bot application software.

Do you want someone to go to something someone else owns to have those conversations?

Or do you want them to come to your website for that?

The future is less about not having a website and having conversations on rented land.

The future is about evolution and how you create the opportunity to reach you where it’s convenient for your consumers.

What are you going to do to make sure your website doesn’t die?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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