“We launched in 1998, and our site pretty much had a 1998 look. There’s lots of comparison shopping online and lots of players, so we’re not only competing with other companies in our space, we’re also competing in consumers’ minds with the other sites they’re using every day,” says Andreanne Simon, Director User Experience, Mediagrif, which operates the online government bid procurement site GovernmentBids.com.
Earlier this year, Simon’s team realized they needed to bring the site’s appearance in line with today’s Web standards, but cosmetic fixes weren’t the only priority. Instead, a redesign needed to be part of a complete overhaul that addressed key navigation questions and boosted content offerings that contributed to the company’s primary business goals: increase conversions from visitors to subscribers and encourage existing members to upgrade to higher packages.
Those changes needed to reflect the complete spectrum of GovernmentBids.com users, from mom-and-pop operations that hoped to break into the business-to-government market to Fortune 500 companies that were used to serving the government market and had technicians who specialize in bidding on government contracts. CAMPAIGN
Simon and her team approached the redesign as a comprehensive relaunch incorporating new content, features and navigation paths that would market the site’s services more effectively for non-members and improve the overall user experience for existing subscribers.
Here are the five strategies they used to revamp the two sections of the site:
-> Strategy #1. Detailed analysis to identify upgrades
Although Simon’s team had a general sense of the improvements they wanted to make, they didn’t have detailed Web analytics or other data to identify particular problem areas. In response, they conducted a planning and analysis project to create a roadmap.
The process included five steps:
Step #1. Performance analysis of the existing Web site. Although there wasn’t a robust Web analytics system in place, the team analyzed the historical Web data and sales records to get a general portrait of the business.
Step #2. Interviews key managers. They conducted detailed conversations with the people who run GovernmentBids.com, including the Marketing Director, Sales VP and President, to learn more about their current business practices, marketplace conditions and recommendations for potential changes.
The interviews covered topics, such as:
o Their perception of the company’s current market positioning
o How they wanted to be perceived in the market
o Target markets
o Business priorities
“It was a really interesting exercise that allowed them to focus more on what they’re going for,” Simon says. “A Web redesign is not just a surface change. It’s a chance to ask them what to do with their next phase of online activity.”
Step #3. Conduct benchmark analysis of other sites in the industry. This is to see how competitors were positioning themselves and what features and services they offered.
Step #4. Interview sales reps in the call center. These conversations provided feedback on common problems users and potential customers see, as well as typical questions that prospects asked when considering a subscription.
Step #5. Profile and segment customers. Simon’s team examined the site from the standpoint of various users, such as small businesses new to the government bid process and huge corporations used to conducting business with government agencies. This helped them understand how users navigate the site, what kind of information was available and what resources they might need but weren’t getting.
-> Strategy #2. Create new content/features to encourage conversions
Hoping to turn more visitors into subscribers, Simon and her team gave special attention to potential conversion paths through the Web site. The approach was to provide new content, promotions, features and offers that highlighted the service’s value to potential bidders and lead them to a subscription option that was right for them.
The team focused these new elements on several key areas:
- The homepage was tweaked to make it more sales oriented and focused on clarifying the value of a subscription. New copy highlighted site benefits (e.g., more than 20,000 new bidding opportunities a month) and new links to encourage browsing bids by category or region.
- The team created a Bidding Advice section aimed at those users who were new to the government bidding process and experienced users looking for tips on improving their own bids.
Tabs in the bidding advice section organized content by:
o Government 101 articles
o White papers
o Case studies
Besides helping users learn more about the bidding process, these documents were optimized for search engines with specific keywords that companies used to conduct searches.
- A Flash-based product tour was added to two sections of the section -- the homepage and the Bidding Advice section.
- A new navigation section at the bottom of each page included quick links to relevant information, such as the most popular categories and most popular bidding states.
- A new, email alert tool that let subscribers and non-subscribers opt in to receive free notice of new bids added to the system.
- The search results or search browsing pages were expanded to let non-subscribers get more information about the information available to subscribers. Previous searches simply led non-members to a hard barrier that said they needed to sign in to see results. “It was more of a stop sign than an invitation to continue.”
The new search results/browsing page offered publicly available information, such as the title of the bid request, type of bid required, type of agency offering the job (state/local or federal), date the request for bids was entered and the date bidding closes. Additional information, such as details on the agency in question and more about the project remained behind a members-only barrier.
Like the bidding advice section, these pages also were optimized for search engines.
-> Strategy #3. Create new offers to upsell new/existing subscribers
GovernmentBids.com offers five pricing levels, ranging from $19.95 a month to $99 a month, giving users access to more types of bids and additional site features. To encourage new or existing members to sign up for a higher level of service, Simon’s team tweaked the site’s pricing page with special offers.
For example, a user clicking the sign-up page for the $19.95 basic package, which provides access to federal bids only, would see an offer to also add state and local bids (the next highest package) for an additional $29.05 a month.
-> Strategy #4. Develop new site architecture to highlight new features
With the focus on new content and features, simply updating the site’s look without changing its navigation architecture wasn’t an option. Simon’s team sought to rebuild the site from the ground up. “If your site is a mess, but you’re killer at making a sales pitch, you’re still not going to improve your conversions.”
The redesign process used the following techniques:
- A wire frame model for each page of the site. Wire frames were blank representations of each page, but with lines blocking off boxes where different types of content should be organized and displayed.
- A complete design concept that established a style guide for the site and incorporated corporate identification and branding practices.
- Specified areas for promotion placement. Simon’s team identified the areas of each page where they would deliver marketing pitches. For example, a new header was added to internal pages where the marketing team could make special offers, such as seasonal contests offering new members the chance to win an iPod when they signed up.
The right-hand column of each page also was specified as a promotions area, with supporting content geared specifically to the action on that page. For example:
- The right column of the Bidding Advice section included a “Why Subscribe” paragraph with a link to the pricing page.
- The right column of the search page included a “Need Help?” section with a toll-free number to speak to a sales rep.
“We have 20 or so modules we can use, depending on the objective of the page.”
-> Strategy #5. Install Web analytics to track impact of changes
Because of the project’s tight, five-month schedule, Simon and her team didn’t have time to test individual elements of the redesign. Instead, they installed a new Web analytics system that allowed them to launch the new site and track which areas were working better, worse or as expected.
For the first month after the relaunch, monitoring focused on basic elements, such as whether visitor traffic was flowing through the site’s navigation as expected, whether existing and new members were logging in successfully and if other transactional elements and actions were functioning properly.
But the system also included a dashboard that allowed the team to create detailed reports on elements of the site on an ongoing basis, to identify new opportunities or flag unexpected problem areas. “A redesign is not an end in itself. It’s setting the foundations for your strategy then launching the site and grooming it and monitoring it as you go.”
The redesign is delivering improvements across key metrics. Most importantly, Simon’s achieved her goal to increase conversions: Since the new site went live, daily average online subscription sales have increased more than 40%.
The value of those sales is way up, too, thanks to the site’s upselling efforts. While preferring not to disclose specific numbers, Simon and her team have seen significant increases in average revenue for new members and existing members who upgrade their subscriptions.
Revamping the content and navigation features also has paid off. One of the best performing features is the free email alert product, which was intended to generate leads for future sales. It turns out that the feature is influencing immediate buying decision in more than 20% of the users who visit the page.
They also tripled the number of pages available to non-members. Taken together, the new, free content is making the site a more compelling stop for potential government contractors. Average visit length and average page views per visit have each increased at least 20%
That content is also delivering on the SEO front. The site’s page indexation by major search engines has soared more than 400%, and monthly online direct sales from search activity has increased more than 100%.
“We’re pleased on two fronts. We’re really happy with the conversions we’ve ignited and the SEO results,” Simon says. “But we also created lot of best practices to be used for future projects. We now have a project methodology at a macro level and a micro level for every team involved. It’s more like a recipe book.” Useful links related to this article
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