Some significant organisations dominate the Internet. The extent of the dominance is often not realised.
Take PayPal, for example. Currently, it has over $13bn of customer cash in its coffers. That’s our money – it belongs to us, the users, but we leave it sitting in PayPal accounts. Can you imagine the interest received on $13bn…?
Meanwhile, American Express – a significant financial institution – has only a quarter of the amount of money that is held by PayPal. Even a humble coffee shop, Starbucks, has more customer cash than some banks.
Then, when you look at online commerce, you discover that the amount of money spent with the number-one retailer adds up to more than the total income of the next five companies on the list. Amazon takes in over $92bn in the USA, but the total online income of Apple, Dell, Walmart, Staples and Macy’s adds up to only $70.7bn.
And as if that were not enough data to demonstrate the dominance of individual players, along come more statistics on social media proving just how big Facebook has become.
Facebook continues to grow, now having more than 1.7bn active users each month, whereas Twitter can only manage 313m regular users – less than one-fifth the amount of people using Facebook.
From these charts, it is easy to see that PayPal dominates online payment, that Amazon reigns supreme in online retailing and Facebook is the outright winner in the social media race.
However, for the rest of the online world, this all presents a problem.
Around 27% of people’s online time is now spent on Facebook. Another 10% is spent in online shopping. Essentially it means that, on average, almost four hours out of every ten are mostly spent with two websites. If you take into account the amount of time we all spend on Google as well, the typical experience of “the web” is with a number of websites that can literally be counted on one hand.
The web itself has more than 1bn websites, yet most people only use a handful. What that really means is that people perceive the web to be those few websites they use on a regular basis. It means that the average experience of the web is so limited that people think that what they do online IS the web. When they visit websites that do not behave like PayPal, Amazon, Facebook or Google, they are dumbfounded and do not know what to do.
It’s like driving a car
Almost all cars in the world work the same, look roughly the same and operate in the same way. There is a dashboard, a steering wheel, some pedals and so on. It doesn’t matter which brand of car you choose, or which country you are in, you can pretty much drive any car anywhere in the world.
If BMW decided to dispense with steering wheels, you wouldn’t know how to drive their cars. If Volkswagen opted to remove the dashboard, you’d be really confused. If Ford reckoned you could drive one of their cars by facing the seat backwards you would think they had lost the plot.
Yet, from an engineering point of view there is no need for a steering wheel or a dashboard or to face the front. There are all kinds of ways you can drive a vehicle.
However, all the car manufacturers choose to have steering wheels and dashboards because of the dominance of the standard design. If they deviate too much from that, they confuse people and have to re-educate them.
The same is true on the web. The dominance of the leading websites means that if you deviate from them and the way they work your visitors have no idea how to use your site.
The dominance of the web’s super powers is forcing website owners to work the way they work, otherwise, your visitors become confused – just as you would in a car without a steering wheel.
How close is your website to the design and function of the world’s dominant super-sites?
And if you are not sure how dominant they are, since you started reading this PayPal has pocketed a further $7,500 of cash, Amazon has sold $68,500 worth of itemsand 900 more people have joined Facebook.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+