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Migrating to a New Site without Interruption

May 12, 2017

BY JIM PANAGAS

The sheer mention of “redesigning the website” puts people and organizations into a cold sweat. The doubting Thomas say it’s something that should be avoided for as long as possible, costs a fortune, and disrupts the business in the process. That may have been the case in years past, but with modern content management systems, it’s quite a different story. 

Today, companies and organizations can learn a new software platform, build a new site, and successfully migrate from the old site to the new with virtually no interruption to the business.

Just ask the people who run Belfast Waterfront, an ultra-modern conferencing and entertainment center that has hosted meetings for organizations ranging from the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and presented live performances from Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance to Grammy award-winning Train. 
 

Using the website to promote the company's newly extended conference facilities

The original website, built using a custom designed CMS back in 2007, was focused on live events and performances. 

“Back in 2012, we made a decision to substantially expand the venue’s conferencing facilities,” explained Janice Crowe, marketing communications manager at Belfast Waterfront. “Following that expansion, we recognized that we needed to improve not only the functionality of the site, but also expand the range of content so that each of our key users’ needs were addressed.”

“It was determined that a more modern CMS was in order…and a dramatic redesign of the site was an absolute necessity,” added Lisa Turkington, digital marketing executive at Belfast Waterfront. “This is a spectacular venue, located in the heart of Belfast and offering stunning views of the River Lagan. We wanted to give visitors a sense of what our venue could offer and for them to enjoy a unique and memorable user experience.”

Partnering with local digital agency

Not having the internal resources to develop such a site, Belfast Waterfront put out a tender [equivalent of a request for proposal, RFP] and ended up partnering with local technology and design agency i3 Digital. A series of meetings were held so that the i3 Digital team became intimately familiar with the organization and the venue. Similarly, training sessions were held so that the Belfast Waterfront team could start getting accustomed with the new CMS platform.

“It’s invaluable to spend some time away from your desk, away from your normal work routine,” explained Turkington. “Spend the time and actually think about who your key users are, what kind of information they are trying to find, and the best ways to put that information at their fingertips. There’s no substitute for brainstorming like that.”

Dramatic imagery and mobile experience top the list of requirements

Together, Belfast Waterfront and i3 Digital determined that the site should feature a carousel of dramatic photography… showcase a wide variety of meeting spaces… accommodate fluctuations in site traffic (shows and concerts tend to create spikes in Web traffic once dates are announced)…support online ticket sales…collect information about website visitors…and present a very favorable impression of the facility on smart phones and tablets. 

“Some 60 percent of our site traffic is already coming from mobile devices,” noted Turkington. “So the mobile experience is crucial for us.”
 

The Belfast Waterfront website project started in Aug. of 2015 and took just six months, with the new website going live in Jan. 2016. 

Three million page views – and counting

“When I think back to what we had before versus what we have today, they are worlds apart. Since the website launch, we’ve had nearly 3 million page views and 1 million total visits. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.”

(Watch their interview here)

The new site is live but…

While the hardest part of the job may be over, keeping sites like Belfast Waterfront vibrant and alive takes a sustained effort over time.
 

“Building a well-designed, well maintained website is an evolutionary process,” concluded Neill Murphy, Technical Development Manager for i3 Digital. “The site is constantly evolving,” confirmed Mark Lyness, Marketing Manager at i3 Digital. “It’s not static, not something that you do just once and forget about it.”

“In addition to the daily and weekly updates that Lisa and the marketing team are making,” he continued, “we like to do a technical re-assessment every six months, to make sure that the site is at peak operating efficiency and taking advantage of all of the capabilities that the CMS platform has to offer.”

What comes next?

“Well,” said Turkington, “we’ve already launched a site for Ulster Hall, our sister venue. We used the same approach, the same principles.”

“Now that the Belfast Waterfront site has been up and running for more than a year, we’re certainly thinking about what comes next. Something that we’re working on at the moment is the creation of a 3D model of the building so event organizers can experience the facility online, as well as a VR-ready virtual tour of the venue.  We’re looking forward to launching these very soon and enriching the user’s experience of our website.”

About the Author

Jim Panagas has been writing about software and technology for more than two decades. He’s currently serving as the director of PR & analyst relations for Kentico Software.

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What Makes for an Effective Small Business Today?

April 21, 2017

BY WAYNE JASEK

It goes without saying that an effective small business website is critical today. Having a website that is able to track the customer journey gives you the ability to speak to your visitors as individuals.

People are extremely web savvy these days and appreciate when their digital experiences take into account who they are, based on their behaviour, demographics and history, in order to direct them the right content at the right time. Fail in this – fail to meet or exceed their expectations – and they will likely take their business and money elsewhere.

One of the most common mistakes small businesses make when it comes to developing their website relates to not delivering a consistent experience across all channels. If a visitor starts their digital journey on their mobile on the commute to work and finishes it at home on their PC, they want to see the same content delivered in a manner fitting the device they are using. If they are not able to do this, they feel a degree of disconnection with the content you are providing them.

Imagine you are shopping for that special gift for a loved one on your mobile device and want to complete your purchase at lunchtime on your work laptop. The online store should make this as easy as possible for you, not have you rummaging around on their site again to find the same item. You would probably give up and go somewhere else.

Never forget that customer loyalty isn’t a given – you have to earn it. Moreover, usually you get one shot at it, so you have to get it right from the outset.

Ahead of developing a website, small businesses need to consider who their visitors are and build detailed personas around them. They should really get to know them, interview them, map their customer journeys, describe their typical behaviour, what they read, where they go for information. Be as detailed as you can in order to make them as tangible as possible. Then, build a digital experience around this. Of course, it is much more detailed than this, but unless you can digitally shake the hand of your potential customers, you haven’t got a chance of devising a realistic digital strategy.

People want a digital experience on their terms, so make sure you give it to them. It is important that small business websites move visitors through their site in respect to the way they consume information, based on their persona and digital touchpoints.

It is vital that any content featured on a small-business website should be reader-first content. Know their pain points, know how you can solve them, know how you can reassure their doubts, know how their minds work. And remember, different personas want different things.

Small businesses are today dealing with consumers who are digitally savvy and, because they don’t have a lot of time to waste, rather unforgiving. If a business doesn’t deliver a website that connects with its visitors, they are missing a huge opportunity. It is critical that businesses build accurate visitor personas, update and constantly refine them to allow for a responsive and personalised web experience critical to thriving in today’s consumer-led digital age.

Wayne Jasek, Director of APAC Operations, Kentico

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How to Utilise the Whole Brass Section to Be Your Digital Mouthpiece

April 20, 2017

By Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager at Kentico Software

You’ve got a great product, and you are blowing your own trumpet so loudly, it would give Louis Armstrong a hernia, but it is all falling on deaf ears. Why? Just because you think you are awesome, it doesn’t mean potential consumers will believe you. However, if you managed to get your users and your employees to start lauding you instead, now that’s an entirely different story!

In an era of crowd-sourcing and funding user-generated content (UGC) makes perfect commercial sense. Today’s digitally savvy and active consumers are happy to take some guidance on what to share, yet only a small minority of brands provide any guidelines on what to write.

There are two great types of UGC, from the consumers themselves and your employees. These forms of brand advocacy increase your credibility, promote loyalty and allow you to gain actionable insights into the way in which your brand is being perceived. But before you rush to transform your community into a digital marketing force, it is worth considering giving consumers a helping hand into what your company values are and the voice you use to communicate with them.

People Trust People, Not Brands

Telling your brand’s story from a user’s perspective means they can start to imagine how they can relate to your brand and make it part of their lives. Social proofs through blogs, social media and testimonials promote your product as something that is valued and trusted on a consumer level, and allowing them to do so in their own voice comes across as genuine and open. By motivating and rewarding your users to become brand advocates in their own right.

Guide, Do Not Coerce

A brand bible helps consumers understand your values and aspirations as well as give them access to the correct logos and other useful resources, and gives them a sneak peek behind the scenes into what makes your brand tick—like a trusted confidante. And the important word here is guide, not dictate. The brand bible merely allows them to align their understanding of your company and their own perceptions. It empowers them to communicate their own thoughts more clearly and to feel connected and valued on an emotional level. And emotions sell!

It provides a feeling of involvement. Many of us humanize brands and what they stand for. If we have the opportunity to engage and feel a part of something, it makes us feel special. Think of your favourite brand and imagine if they asked to hear your story. How much more connected would you feel? Would you become an even better customer? Chances are you would tell anyone who would listen, share the brand’s story more often and buy more. It explains why UGC and brand advocacy go hand-in-hand.

But What Should It Contain?

Ideally, a brand bible should contain the company vision, mission, promise, values, personality and tone. It is also important to include a language and copy guide such as copy tone, writing tips and tricks, style samples, social media suggestions, and editorial guidelines. It is important to stress again that it is a guidebook, not a rulebook. Start imposing restrictions on your brand advocates and you face the danger of losing their trust in their value to you. A list of product-specific terminology and its meaning helps employees and users verbalise the things they might otherwise struggle to convey. And a non-preachy grammar guide is always a fascinating read, especially for would-be writers.

Pictures Matter Too

And don’t neglect graphics. Giving clear guidelines about graphics and colour suggestions can empower content creators to understand better the language of logotypes, fonts, images and use of colour. Plus, it helps ensure that they are not using the incorrect logo that might, in fact, damage the reputation of their work.

Types of user-generated content are blogs and blog posts, forums posts and comments, case studies, customer success stories, articles, ratings and reviews, social media posts and comments, videos, podcast and images.

What About the Workers?

And don’t forget employee advocacy. By inviting employees to be an active part of your communication strategy, because employees are trusted more as a voice than just the company, they can dramatically increase your social reach. This means as well as boosting their engagement, you can reach a new online audience. But you must make employees want to share content. As part of their personal development, encouraging them to develop their personal brand by providing them with content, they can become subject matter experts in their own right. And by extending the reach of your brand, so your credibility and social impact increase. And, according to LinkedIn, socially engaged companies are more likely to be perceived as more competitive, increase sales leads and attract top talent.

A Better Horn Section

By allowing others to do the advocating for you, you are encouraging loyalty, enabling quality content creation, increasing your reputation and growing mutual respect. The reach of a truly engaged community is something no company can achieve on their own. And being able to provide guidance and making sure it is a tool rather than a blocker, you can spread your message much further, and better still, let others be your mouthpiece.

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How to Accommodate Ad Blocking in the Hotel Industry

April 20, 2017

The danger of hotels losing revenue by not being able to cut through ad blocking is very real. In 2015, according to Pagefair, an estimated £17.37bn was lost in advertising budget due to the fact that people were choosing to restrict the online ads they received. So what can be done to overcome this threat and turn it into an opportunity?

The desire in recent years to turn web pages into cash cows by stuffing them full of as much advertising as possible has left hotels paying the price now that the digital worm has turned. Frustrated by excessive generic advertising that consumers considered intrusive, the rise of the ad blocker enabled them to switch all of this noise off. And often not just the annoying advertising, but all advertising. This means that many travel industry advertisers are finding it nigh on impossible to reach their audiences, but smarter hotel marketers are using this technology strategically to not only connect with the consumer, but to target them more effectively through personalisation.

Getting to Know You

This turn of events means it is now necessary to build a strategy based on getting to know a brand’s existing and potential audience better and then use this information to offer advertising that is relevant to them and their lifestyles. For instance, instead of offering adverts for over-sixties Mediterranean cruises on a website based on youth culture, by knowing the demographics of a site’s visitors and reflecting this, the viewer is more likely to be open to receiving these kinds of messages because they directly relate to them.

Getting to know your customers on every level, from the places they go, the teams they support, the things they buy, the TV shows they watch, etc., means hotel marketers need to build a strategy based on where to get these actionable insights. Furthermore, using customer data management and data brokerage platforms enables them to be sure that they are creating a message that connects with the right people.

Break on Through

The threat posed by ad blocking means hotels are looking for other, more effective means to connect with their audience. One such channel is messenger apps. Because of the wealth of information these apps gather when users are setting up their profile, hotels can use bots within the software to monitor the topics a user is chatting about to deliver a timely message that is relevant to them. Imagine that somebody is discussing holiday destinations with a friend and the app informs them of a hotel in that location that has a special promotion available for that day. The relevance of the message, based on the topic they are chatting about and their social profile, means the hotel is speaking to them at the best possible moment. This is a great example of targeted one-to-one personalisation.

Every Cloud Has a Digital Lining

The smart marketer is the one that is always staying ahead of their game. And while some people perceive ad blocking as a threat, others realise that it is an opportunity to get wiser in the way they target their content. By constantly updating the information they are using to build their customers’ profiles, they are getting one step closer to establishing a relationship with them based on understanding. The lazy practice of bulk, disconnected messaging might have had its day, but in its wake is left a better-educated marketer that is able to push their advertising to a more welcoming and relevant audience. Moreover, by giving the power back to the consumer, this could be the breath of fresh air they have been needing for so long. And, after all that effort, you probably deserve a holiday!

Image credit of David Konecny

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Is your online presence attracting or turning away guests?

April 12, 2017

Q&A with Petr Palas, CEO of Kentico

What are the most common mistakes hoteliers make when it comes to developing their website?

Given the competitive market hoteliers operate in today, hotels simply cannot afford to get it wrong with their websites. Too often, you will see a hotel build a new site that seems to be at odds with a potential guests’ needs. Features like auto-start videos can actually turn guests away – in particular when website visitors are business travellers looking at the hotel at work and the auto-start video begins to broadcast in an open space office. Hoteliers need to understand their guests and online visitors better as well as build a website that reflects the unique personality of their property.

A common mistake many hoteliers make today is not delivering a consistent experience across all channels. What if a visitor starts their digital journey on their mobile device during the commute to work, yet finishes it at home on their PC? They need to see the same content delivered in a manner fitting the device they are using. If not, they may leave your site, never to return.

What is likely to turn a visitor away online?

The short answer is falling short of expectations. Web content that is not dynamic, for example, is likely to turn website visitors away. Hoteliers have a great opportunity to show website visitors an exhilirating experience that puts them first. Everybody has a different idea of what a hotel should be. They could be a businessperson interested in the conferencing facilities or how to unwind after a demanding day of presentations. They could be a young family that wants to see a child-friendly atmosphere. They could be a couple looking for a romantic break. Hoteliers must make sure that they present the website in a way that it meets or exceeds those expectations.

What helps or facilitates the online hotel booking experience?

When trying to convert website visitors into paying guests, the focus should be on ensuring that content on the site flows in a ‘reader-first’ order, leading them (through the use of filters) to the content (room type or holiday package) that they are most interested in quickly and easily. It is also vital that hotels have a visually attractive web presence that actively seeks to recreate the look and feel of a physical stay at their property in the digital world. It is important that webpages feature a lot of bold, captivating images and ways in which hotel guests can get a sense of the true hotel experience before stepping foot in the lobby.

How can hoteliers help turn their online visitors into customers?

In order to turn online visitors into actual paying customers, it is essential that the hotel’s booking process be made as simple as possible, but also that the actual website architecture delivers an enhanced customer experience. This could include user-friendly features that enable easy navigation, ease of booking, and offer as many payment options as possible.

A hotel’s website must also be informative and able to be viewed in multiple languages. Such multi-lingual capabilities cater to customers of different countries and nationalities. To further facilitate the booking process, hotel websites should reduce the number of steps it takes for visitors to book with the conditions and services they want.

Visitors to a hotel website want to be able to picture themselves staying at your property and they want to trust that the hotel portrayed online is an accurate reflection of the hotel in which they will be staying. To assist with this, hotels should incorporate peer review content from social media such as user ratings and comments. These reviews help to assure customers of the credibility and service standard of the hotel.

How important is it for a hotel to personalise their website for their audience? How can they do this?

In a competitive digital environment where the consumer is presented with an array of accommodation options for their desired location, personalised hotel website content is critical. Delivering personalised, dynamic content across all digital channels with advanced software platforms such as Kenticos EMS, means that a hotel is keeping visitors on its pages longer, which in turn increases their conversion rate.

To personalise their website for visitors, hotels need to consider who their visitors are first and build detailed personas around them. They should really get to know them; interview them, map their customer journeys, describe their typical behaviour, what they read, what types of activities they enjoy, what dining preferences they have, and more. Once detailed personas have been built, they need to be cross-referenced against actual online behaviour on the website to ensure that digital touchpoints and content are effective and engaging and the website is delivering a personalised experience to their interests. For example, if a hotel website visitor is investigating the property’s meeting room A/V equipment online, they are unlikely to be interested in the childrens’ swimming lesson program.

One of the key benefits of personalising a visitor’s online experience is that it will lead to increased website conversions and on-page time, which also helps with a hotel’s all-important Google ranking. Through this increased activity, Google gets a better understanding of the type of business your website is attracting, which will help increase organic traffic. Additionally, when visitors reach your hotel website and discover that there is new, tailored content available, such as special hotel website-only offers, they are more likely to return, generating even more traffic.

How can social media help support online sales growth? What are some tips for hoteliers in this area?

Peer reviewed social media posts and trip advisory reviews, present hoteliers with the ability to find out what guests are saying about their property. This feedback can relate to the service, brand, product or value-for-the-money and enables hoteliers to address any shortcomings, such as long waits for check-in during peak periods, to offer enhanced guest experiences in the future.

To improve a hotel’s online reputation – where peer reviews actively promote the property as a desirable location to stay; hoteliers need to enact a customer advocacy programme that motivates guests to share their experiences online by offering them rewards of discounts on future holidays, or the chance to win a weekend break. These incentives motivate guests with positive experiences to share their opinions of the hotel online and can help encourage online visitors to become actual future guests.

The bottom line is that hoteliers need to use digital marketing and website capabilities wisely and make changes and adjustments based on the feedback that they receive. In today’s digital world hoteliers need to listen to their guests, think creatively about how they engage with online visitors and be mindful that a first impression can make a lasting impression; so, make sure it is a good one. 

About Petr Palas

Petr Palas is the Founder and CEO of Kentico Software, which has 1,000 digital solution partners and powers over 25,000 websites across 100 countries. With Kentico EMS, hotels can achieve real-time actionable insights to ensure they deliver exceptional customer experiences, that boost sales, and turns visitors into customers. With offices in the United States, United Kingdom and Czech Republic and more than 1,000 partners in 80 countries, Kentico is one of the industry leaders worldwide.

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NHHTC member news: The latest from Council member companies

April 03, 2017

Kentico Software, a fast-growing software company with offices in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America, announced it received a 2017 Top Rated badge for Content Management Systems from TrustRadius, a leading website where end users share real-world insights of business software through in-depth reviews and networking. This honor is distinctive because it represents the true voice of customers-based solely on how end users have rated the Kentico platform. More.

Kentico Software supported world water day by co-sponsoring a water filtration for Palla, India; donating software to power website for Planet Water Foundation. More.

 

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