A few years ago, the only way for a company to reach Internet users was through its website. Those days seem long gone… The sites are not obsolete, but they’ve somehow lost their relevance. We see this everyday, when trying to find the opening hours, address or telephone number of restaurants or shops, for instance. We rarely need to visit their website – their Google listing provides us with all the information we need. 

Since platforms have emerged, led by search engines and social networks, they have become a necessary step for consumers and they are giving it all to keep this privileged position.

Google Business Profile, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok… In the midst of all these new players, the decline of the website seems to be inevitable. Once the central wheel in the digital mechanism, the website is now just one piece among many others. A valuable piece, certainly – but one that is competing with and gradually being replaced by other players.  

Google shakes things up

Internet users’ habits are evolving among the shifts of these new players, who benefit from a considerable audience. Google and the development of Google Business Profile (former Google My Business) is the most striking example. 

Illustration de l'évolution de l'affichage des photos dans l'aperçu des fiches Google My Business
The evolution of Google Business Profile since 2016: the platform is becoming more and more image-based.
Examples of secondary URLs on a Google Business Profile listing
Examples of the data available on Google Business Profile in just one click.

This tool, designed to connect users and businesses via Google Search and Google Maps, is extremely effective. We don’t need to visit a website anymore to find a phone number, send a message, search for directions, make a reservation, check the availability of products, learn the opening hours, read customer reviews… Everything is already available on the listing. 

The new features announced during the Search On Conference 2022 align with these shifts. From now on, Google wants to provide the answer even at the suggestion stage: users will be referred directly to a Google Business Profile, for example. The classic results pages (SERP) will no longer be displayed systematically, but a set of content sorted and selected by Google will be shown instead.

Illustration de l'une des nouveautés annoncées lors du Google Search On
With this new feature, Google makes suggestions even before the search results show up.

In short, in this context, there is no real need for the website. By favouring its own universe, the search engine works less and less effectively as an intermediary. Thus, it would not be surprising to see the rate of “zero-click” searches increase further in the coming years.

Purchasing directly from platforms – really?

Do we always need to go to a business website before visiting the store? No: Google listings are often enough. The purchase journey is becoming increasingly digital and continues to the website stage. 

Why bother visiting the website when a restaurant’s listing includes:

  • A button to book a table
  • Up-to-date opening hours
  • A menu accessible in one click
  • An address and the option to calculate your journey from Maps
  • An average rating and a list of customer reviews

All the information you need is here! For finding information, making decisions and even taking action. Of course, this is an extreme case. The website is still useful in many cases, for example to find out more about the services offered by a company. However, it is no longer systematically the heart of companies’ digital strategy. 

It is now possible to order at the restaurant directly from its listing.

It is still unusual to purchase from a Google listing or other platforms, but more and more brands on a worldwide level are joining the trend: you can shop via Whatsapp at JioMart in India or via WeChat in China, order a Burger King menu directly on Google Maps in the States… Companies are seizing on the new channels to keep up with consumers’ new habits. A very attractive promise, full of potential. By combining comfort and practicality, these initiatives have everything brands are looking for.

In India, you can easily shop on WhatsApp. You can fill your basket and pay in just a few clicks.

Will the website really disappear?

It is true that the growing influence of platforms in the buying journey is negatively impacting the audience of websites. But we believe they remain and will remain relevant.

The website influences a company’s SEO and should continue to do so for many years to come. If your site is well designed, hosts quality content, and includes a Store Locator, it will help you to rank higher on the queries typed by your customers on Google. This is a major competitive advantage in a time when the buying journey often starts on the Internet.

Moreover, today, platforms only give an overview of your offer or the basic information that the Internet user needs to make a choice.

The website, on the other hand, allows your target group to go further, and is the ideal medium for developing your value proposition through sharp copywriting.

At the time of making an important purchase, when they are hesitating between several companies, consumers still have the reflex to go to the Internet sites. This is your chance to get ahead of your competitors, by building a unique user experience.

Tomorrow, as platforms offer more and more possibilities to Internet users, websites could have a new vocation. That of offering Internet users a more complete dive into the brand’s universe. It will be a way of attracting potential customers and strengthening the relationship with existing customers. This will be especially valid for expensive purchases or in the luxury sector, where consumers think twice before giving out their credit card number.

Author: Andile

Next articles