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Inside the internet

If you had the chance to sneak a look at how your competitors were performing behind the scenes, would you pass it up? Unlikely.

An online service called ebusinessassurance enables firms to monitor their own internet service performance and their rivals.

The service sits behind the website and observes its progress. It can check if the service is always available – and pinpoint when and where it is not.

For example, it can report that for a time, the site was not available in Nottingham but users elsewhere could find the site. If Nottingham is a major area of business for a firm then it would be important to know if availability was a problem.

The service measures the time it takes to download pages, which Informed Choice managing director Nick Bamford believes is good news for IFAs. He says: “A service that lets you know how many of your clients click their mouse and sign off your site after, say, eight seconds when the home page has not fully downloaded is useful inf-ormation.

“I can see why IFAs would find this helpful. It is good to know how people are really responding to your site and why and when they are dropping off.”

A recent study of 80 million internet users by internet marketing company Zona Research shows people leave sites which take longer than eight seconds to download.

Zona says billions of pounds are lost each year in potential sales.

Ebusinessassure director of customer experience Mike Halley says: “Ebusinessassure uses the principles of the oldest rules in the book – the importance of keeping the customer happy.”

He says it is basic customer relationship management but is easier to do with the latest technology. “Ebusinessassure is a secret weapon when it comes to sussing out the competition. It can monitor the websites of your choice – from the big boys, the likes of Hargreaves Lansdown and Chase de Vere, to your direct rival on the same high street.”

This gives you the chance to see what your competitors are doing well and where they are falling down.

Halley says you can then tailor your own website to cut its download time.

Some IFAs are waking up to the benefits of looking at the competition and using their findings to structure the design of their own websites.

LM Financial director of marketing Tony Wright-Jones says: “We looked at various sites when we were researching our new website. We even looked at sites that were nothing to do with financial services, just so we could see how successful ones worked. We have taken the best ideas and adapted them – there is no point in reinventing the wheel.”

Bamford says: “Without a doubt, IFAs need a web presence as it is a chance to tell clients and prospective clients about what we do. But if it is not efficient, people get fed up.

“Filling in forms – time-consuming at the best of times – can be doubly frustrating on the web if it takes a long time. People have high expectations of the speed of the web and get disillusioned if it is slow.”

Some of the businesses that already use the system are top financial institutions. But Halley is reluctant to disclose names as he says: “They do not want their competitors to know the edge they have.”


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