I’m very lucky to work in a non-profit space where I am given lots of opportunities that a corporate job would never think to give someone with my level of experience. One of these fun projects will be project managing the redesigning the Wilma Theater website. Over the summer, my project group worked on process and UX improvements to the Wilma site, and I’m excited to put these insights into action.
The Wilma website is damaging to our brand at this point. It is difficult (and in some cases impossible) for us to update in house, so we are displaying a confusing and out of date brand image. Our work has changed significantly over the last 6 years, and we are committed to an entirely different aesthetic artistically, but this change isn’t reflected on our homepage. Behavior and expectations of our audience has also changed, particularly in the importance of social media and mobile use. Having a website that isn’t mobile responsive is hurting us in search rankings and with our younger ticket buyers. It’s practically impossible to buy a ticket on your phone to one of our shows. The site isn’t intuitive and is difficult to navigate in part because it doesn’t follow modern navigational conventions.
In a lot of ways, there’s nowhere to go but up!
It’s rare to have a project with so few ways to fail. Our own staff describes our site as a “garbage train”. Using the checklists from Mobile Marketing has been informative as we start this process. I’m going to walk you through the steps I have followed so far.
Defining users and personas for scope
The first step has clarified what form our site should take. As a first pass, we asked everyone in the organization what they needed from the new site for their department to function, and what the dream idea is. In fact, the most requested feature is a comprehensive and accurate calendar for our public offerings. What all folds into this? Of course we sell tickets to some of our shows, but smaller events often only have a suggested donation. These events are not populated into the site calendar because it is connected to our ticketing system.
Writing this all down pointed to the fact that so many of the needs of our internal stakeholders could be satisfied with a blog/news section. While we have had a blog in the past, it was full of lengthy academic posts punctuated with long periods of inactivity. As we transition to making the Wilma a place where many voices can tell our story, the blog is going to be essential for highlighting our community outreach and educational initiatives. My big dream for the blog is that it can help establish ourselves as subject matter experts and further expand our national reputation. It will also play a key role in showcasing our content; right now, all our eggs are in the social media basket.
Since handing off the list of personas and tasks to the developer for an estimate, I’ve gone back and traced which paths lead to income generation, which tasks are mission-driven, and which are functional/logistical. Once the new site is launched, we will need to continue to optimize the income generating paths. Once we have more data, we can assess where mobile plays different roles in our customer journey. I’m already thinking of how our restaurant and parking partnerships can be showcased in mobile site navigation. The current chart of our users and their needs looks something like this:
Benchmarking: underdeveloped analytics are making further segmentation difficult
I was honestly shocked to learn my organization had a Google Analytics account at all. The second I logged in, I could see it had never really been used. Based on the password choice, someone opened the account in 2012, but no one has ever set up campaign tracking or even a single goal. Now I understand why we don’t know who our audience is.
Our new Marketing Director and I are working hard to get multiple digital assets fully under our control so that we can really start using analytics to drive decision-making, but this will likely be a project that runs parallel to developing the new site. This means we won’t be able to use that data now, but that when we start fresh, we should be in a much better position than we are today to understand which efforts are driving ticket sales, donations, and class registrations.
We do know a few things: Online ticket sales make up 71% of total tickets sold, and 67% of the revenue from ticket sales. Obviously, online ticket sale volume is going to be a key KPI. We will also keep an eye on the bounce rate for mobile users. I’d expect that a mobile-friendly website will lower the bounce rate overall, but we will definitely want to watch the pages where our marketing is driving customers closely. We will also be launching the new site at the same time as our subscription renewal campaign. I will definitely be looking at online subscription sales during that period closely.
As far as I know, we’ve never integrated data into marketing decision-making before. I can’t wait to see how it affects our KPIs and discover new things about our audience.
Other revenue drivers that will have dedicated space on the new site include rental information and class sales and registration. We know that some of these initiatives will have to be supported and marketed through the creation of content to really get at the value proposition.
Our primary and secondary objectives relate to attracting new audiences
Like many arts organizations, our primary objective is to attract and retain a younger audience to replace our dwindling subscription audience. This is where mobile responsiveness is key, and we will be upgrading the ticketing portion of our site first to ensure at least one domain is mobile responsive. Upgrading to TNEW7 will take about 4 weeks, which is just the right timing to start selling tickets to our next production. This also means we will get a little trickle of data started before the new site launch.
Attracting a younger audience is a cross-departmental effort. The Development Department is reengaging with our Wilma Young Friends committee to create experiences that better meet their needs. The Young Friends want real opportunities for professional development and networking, and the committee members want experience that will take them down a path to joining boards of other organizations one day. A lot of this is work that needs to be done face-to-face, but that momentum is going to extend into the mobile journey through social media. The initiative is in partnership with several theater’s Young Friends groups, and it is really aimed at cultivating the next generation of arts funders and audiences.
Across the board, we are looking for ways to tell our audience they can (and should!) engage with us actively; our offering is not passive.
Obviously, we are only beginning our journey to change how we think about our marketing decision and how our digital assets can build connections with our audience. It’s a long road we will be travelling down, and we are moving very fast to catch up. Constant, imperfect progress is going to be key to setting the stage for future success.