Simple, sticky, successful sites

What makes a site “sticky?” It’s a question that marketers ask themselves again and again as they work to draw internet users to their sites, keep them there, and keep them coming back for more. It’s long been debated whether there is a magic formula for developing a site that meets all of these objectives. While no single blueprint works for all sites, there are a number of tactics that marketers can apply to recruit and retain visitors to their unique product and service offerings.

At its core, a sticky site has two distinctive characteristics. First, it offers an abundance of content. Diverse and extensive site content not only draws consumers, but it also increases the amount of time they spend on your site. Secondly, the stickiest sites always include some form of interactivity. By inviting consumers to participate in an online activity, marketers not only ensure they are connecting with the brand, but provide an impetus for returning to the site.

These features are more easily employed by some sites than others. Portals and social networks, for example, are inherently rich in dynamic content and interactive tools and applications because they are largely reliant on third-party feeds and user-generated content (UGC). To achieve the same results for a brand site or campaign microsite, marketers must work harder to identify ways in which their products and services can be presented in an interesting and engaging manner.

Weaving a sticky website

America’s Cotton Producers and Importers has a long-standing tradition of producing memorable advertising campaigns based on its well-known slogan, “Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives.” This year, the organization launched a new effort that’s anchored by a creative — and sticky — microsite.

“The Fabric of My Life” site, which consumers can access through the main Cotton site, introduces users to the three musical artists — Zooey Deschanel, Miranda Lambert, and Jazmine Sullivan — who are featured in the advertiser’s TV spots. Users can watch the spots online and hear each artist’s interpretation of the Cotton theme song.

What makes this site particularly sticky, though, is the featured toolset offered on the site. Each artist has a dedicated section in which she uniquely demonstrates her style and the role that cotton clothing plays in her life. On the Zooey Deschanel page, for example, users can review the fashionable singer’s personal stylebook before creating their own. A Flash-based application allows consumers to complete a series of questions about their signature look, select from different outfits and accessories based on their personal tastes, save the finished product, and upload it to Facebook or send it to a friend. The application can be used again and again to create new stylebooks or edit existing ones, giving consumers a reason for a return visit.
Jazmine Sullivan’s section of the site, meanwhile, provides visitors with a “StyleMap” of the singer’s favorite shopping spots around the country. Users can add their own listings and share the map via social tools like Digg, Facebook, and Twitter. Because of its interactivity, the map is always changing — a good reason for users to come back for another look.

Sticky auto sites with soul

Few make better use of microsites than the automotive industry, a sector that relies on the web to increase awareness of — and interest in — virtually every new vehicle model that’s launched. Typically, these sites provide a flashy overview of the product using video, and offer access to vehicle configuration tools. But they don’t normally have what it takes to encourage repeat visits.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. One comes from Kia Motors America in the form of its new microsite for the Kia Soul. In addition to the standard configuration tools, the site incites them to play a fun little online game called “Escape from Hamsterdam.” Naturally, the game incorporates the Kia Soul vehicle and is consistent with the light-hearted image associated with the Kia brand. It also allows viewers to compare their high score to other fans of the car, giving them additional incentive to play again.

Ford Motor Company has infused its 2010 Ford Mustang microsite with lots of exciting content and interactive features as well. The exclusive content ranges from musical artist and actress Queen Latifah driving the new Mustang on the racetrack in the “Mustang: Queen of the Road” video series, to constantly updated third-party articles about the car, and links to community forums where fans discuss their Mustang obsessions. Here, Ford has essentially created a Mustang portal that’s as sticky as any, while also acting as a potential vehicle sales tool.
Immersive, engaging, and interactive, these sites are online destinations as much as they are brand and product marketing vehicles. It’s this winning combination of characteristics and features that makes their success stick.