THE IMPORTANCE OF A DIGITAL PRESENCE
Lauren Page, Events & Hospitality QM's Digital Marketing Executive talks about the need for an organisation to ensure its digital presence keeps pace with emerging trends and the process we went through when redesigning our own site in a piece for MyVenues.
THE STRATEGY UNDERPINNING THE LAUNCH OF A NEW WEBSITE
First and foremost, a website is a ‘shop window’, a snap shot of an offering to provoke interest in products. If sites are allowed to become out of date, visitors will lose interest. If High Street Retailers didn’t change their window displays, their reputation would fade and people would look elsewhere. The same analogy can be attributed to a website.
Events & Hospitality QM (the hospitality brand of Queen Mary University of London) officially launched in early 2011 with a new contemporary website to reinforce the E&H identity raising the profile of the brand within the academic venues sector. This project resulted in a bold departure from the comfort blanket of QMUL’s traditional corporate university website. Three years on and it's all change again as we reveal a brand new website!
WEBSITE USABILITY TESTING IS KEY
When looking to improve a website you need to consider the end user - the potential client. Don’t turn off the client by creating a website aligned to internal processes.
We commissioned an external agency to carry out website usability testing to analyse the user journey and highlight key areas for improvement using video capture technology to monitor behaviour. We undertook a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) audit and held internal workshops with our in-house team. Once the data was collated we proposed a development plan with the experience of the end user as the key driver.
TIME IS MONEY - LESS IS MORE IN THE ONLINE WORLD
The online environment allows instant access to information; with growing competition you need to make a good impression at first click.
Streamlining our new website so that is appears much cleaner and less ‘busy’, we’ve de-cluttered content replacing copious amounts of copy with a more visual design, using large engaging images and reduced navigation structure to aid journey flow. This allows the visitor to be immersed in our offering with little effort and without being given information overload.
We have built the site to be fully responsive, thus viewing on mobile platforms such as iPads and iPhones will not be compromised. On the desktop version we introduced a ‘sticky navigation’ feature so that when you scroll down past the fold of the page, the navigation will still be in view.
CREATING A CONVERSATION - TAKING COMMUNICATION TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Having a strong brand raises your profile and get noticed - but once engaged you need to be accessible allowing clients to see the face behind the brand. Everybody’s communication preferences are different, so empower your clients to contact you in a way in which they feel most comfortable.
We give visitors a choice of nine communication channels including email contact, an enquiry form, three social media platforms as well as traditional channels such as telephone, fax and post. Our most radical communication enhancement is a live chat facility.
DOES SOCIAL MEDIA WORK FOR B2B?
This is a point of much discussion and evokes a lot of skepticism. B2B can be challenging on a social level, but there are many other benefits to having a social footprint.
First of all having a presence socially gives credibility and transparency to an organisation and it's almost frowned upon if you don't have one!
Secondly, social media forms part of the 'digital jigsaw puzzle'; a successful digital presence comes down to key elements (digital tools) being used collectively completing the digital puzzle. For example, having a Facebook or Twitter link on your website enhances your SEO; Google likes web pages with social feeds and conversations surrounding a brand, rewarding such sites by ranking them higher on the Google search engine results page.
BEING CREATIVE ON A TIGHT BUDGET
Taking bigger footsteps into the digital world can be challenging for academic venues and resource is the key issue; people and budget will define the boundaries and limitations to your digital strategy. However; using a balance of free tools and paid tools will allow you to undertake a comprehensive strategy tailored to your targets and budget.
In my view, the key benefits of digital are speed and transparency. Real time reporting gives the ability to amend, update and publish out content immediately.
The digital world is constantly evolving, developing and most importantly improving - don’t be left behind! If your competitors are doing digital, then you should be too! Strive to be leaders in this transient environment, be constantly looking for new tools to enhance the online user experience. To do nothing is not an option in an increasingly time pressured world....