Trying to book a holiday in Wales threw up some interesting thoughts about the digital divide…
A while back, I blogged about the fact that many small businesses don’t seem to care about their email addresses, content to use Gmail (and similar) even after purchasing their own domains.
Now I’m not being rude about Wales…
But I think it’s true to say that their infrastructure isn’t as advanced as in other places. Heck, some have only been on mains power for a few years.
So perhaps it’s a no-brainer that their online integration won’t be as ‘integrated’ as in other areas.
This was brought into sharp relief when emailing various accommodation options with enquiries. Out of the ten promising places (well, those that had websites to start with), nine were running their email through generic providers. And all of these – yes all – had purchased their own domain names.
So they’ve got their own bespoke web addresses. But aren’t using them for their first point of involved-customer contact – their email addresses.
Intrigued, I had a quick skim on various sites offering UK accommodation. And while these weren’t perfect by any means, they had a better than 10% email domain use rate.
Is this a digital divide?
Without further investigation, I can’t say whether it’s a definite divide or whether it’s peculiar to the accommodation sector, or even the few options I was looking at.
But with a 90% fail rate, I’m thinking that it is a true digital divide.
It’s not their fault that there are mountains in the way.
However, given that the internet is pretty much everywhere (so long as you can connect to it in the first place), I would like to think that knowledge of simple things – like ensuring that an email address has the same domain name as the host website – would have spread across geographical boundaries.
But what’s the issue?
On a purely practical level, I couldn’t cut/paste my enquiry email. How was I to know that cottage A was attached to email@example.com or that B&B C was attached to firstname.lastname@example.org without making it clear in the email?
Or keep track of the replies when they came in just by skimming my inbox (assuming they avoid the spam filters, which don’t like Gmail at the best of times)?
On a secondary level, I believe that there’s a professionalism point to be made here. If a business has paid to design a beautiful website (as several of them had) and bought their own domain, wouldn’t it make sense to ‘close the circle’ and reroute the email via the site’s TLD?
Is it really that important?
You’ll have to provide your own answer to this.
However, I think it is. Rerouting email is free and looks a lot more professional than a generic provider. It’s the icing on the cake; it improves the customer experience and means that, if you change your provider, you haven’t got to change a million business listings as well…
But maybe that’s just me. Does this issue bug anyone else or am I in a minority of 1?