The One Big Problem With Large National Websites

by Toby

November 30, 2014

problem with 1 large website

One of the biggest problems with conversion for large national multi-location business websites (e.g. franchises) has to do with consumer usability and global menus that lead customers away from local contact information. Site usability is poor as a result and consumers get lost easily once on the website and it becomes difficult for the customer to find local contact information – this greatly inhibits lead generation and sales.

If You Didn’t Start With The Customer First

If the website design, layout, copy, and architecture of your large national website with locations in many different metro areas did not start with the customer in mind (understanding what she wanted to accomplish on your website), then it probably suffers from usability issues (many website design projects do not start with the customers’ needs, they start with the company’s needs which is backward).

All too common are IT/web techy people that lead the design and layout without thinking about the customer first and what tasks she is trying to accomplish. Instead, new fancy features are built into the site, or the latest promotions of products and services are presented without a logical flow through to a conversion.

You gain insight into consumer behavior on your website by diving into your site’s analytics and listening to the customer when they are in your store.

Get Out Of The Way Of Your Customers

Any good business strategy, whether online or offline, starts with the customer and understanding her needs. If you put the customer first throughout the process of website design you will be one step ahead of your competition. What does it mean to put the customer first when designing a national website? It means making it easy for her to accomplish the tasks you know she wants to complete. And one of the primary goals your customers want to achieve is local contact information.

Global Menu Systems Are The One Big Problem

If the main menu at the top of your multi-location website leads customers to national pages not localized to a particular market, this causes a precipitous drop in lead generation. Usually, these general national pages lack any local information for a possible lead to contact the store closest to them as there’s no local phone number accessible nor a contact form.

Global Menu System
Global Menus At The Top Of Websites That Lead To Non-Local National Pages Hurt Conversions

So perhaps a customer came in on a local page deep inside your website, looked around, liked what they saw but wanted more information so they click on a menu item at the top of the site which leads them out and away from the regional or local page. This is where the lead generation of your website just takes a turn for the worse.

One Of The Top Tasks Customers Want To Achieve

A customer wants to be able to easily contact the location nearest them. When the customer has clicked on the global menu at the top of a website which led them away to a national page without localized information (i.e. phone number or form), it now has become increasingly difficult for the customer to convert to a lead. They no longer see a local phone number, nor can they find a form to contact that specific business. The customer has to drill back down through a national locations page, then to the metro area, and then hopefully find the individual location closest to them – this is multiple clicks away! And the more work you make a site visitor do, the lower your chances are of converting them to a lead.

More Work For The Customer = Lower Leads

Take for example the customer flow chart below of a national franchise site with locations in many metro markets. The far-left green bar is where a customer started their journey, which was on a specific location page. From there the customers went to the “1st Interaction” (one click away) and none of the pages visited were local pages, instead they were national pages that had no contact information for that specific location. The “2nd Interaction” (or now 2 clicks away from where they started) shows a very small amount of customers that made it back to the original location page (7), and only 3 converted (/thank-you page). The “3rd Interaction” (now 3 clicks away from where the customer started) only 5 site visitors made it back to the original local page, and 2 made it to a “Reservation” page. All the other pages you see in this customer flow chart had no local store information. Ugh.

Overall you can see the customers visited many many different pages that were not localized and had NO local information on them for conversion. It takes many clicks for even a few customers to get back to the point where there is a phone number they can call. In the “2nd Interaction” column only 7 site visitors (out of 162 that started) made it back to the location page which had a local phone number on it.

Customer Flow Chart: Begin On The Left, End On The Right

Isolate Inbound Traffic To A Local Metro Area

The below graphic is what the customer flow chart looks like when the traffic is isolated to a local metro area and the global menu at the top of the page stays in a local market with the minimal ability for the customer to click away to a national page with no local contact information.

From the data below you can clearly see in every click away from the starting point (customers start at the far left green bar) that one of the top pages visited is “Request A Reservation” page which has a form that customers can submit along with the phone numbers for all locations in that particular local metro market readily available.

Customer Flow Localized
Customer Flow Chart: When The Customer Is Isolated To Local

The Key Takeaway

Conversion optimization is a vital component of national franchise websites. The more you can funnel site visitors to conversion and make it easy for the customer to contact their local store, the more conversions you will have. If you create more work for the customers by making them hunt for local contact information you’re inviting them to leave and go to your competitors.

Options For Conversion Improvement

One: create microsites for each local market where all the inbound traffic is isolated to a regional website (I wrote a post and whitepaper here about franchise SEO strategy using microsites). Or two, create microsites within the national website by removing links in the global menus that take customers away from a local market page.

About the author 

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

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