Until very recently, where website innovation is concerned, New Zealand’s rural sector has been left out in the cold. Constrained by limited, sporadic and poor quality broadband and a general perception that farmers are too busy 'down on the farm' to worry about joining the digital revolution, having a powerful, interactive and user-centric website aimed at farmers and rural folk seemed superfluous to requirements.
But for Ravensdown, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A strong, committed web strategy now lies squarely at the heart of the organisation’s technology and business roadmap. The Rural Broadband Initiative is set to bring high quality broadband to 86% of New Zealand within the next six years. A customer survey clearly showed Ravensdown that its customers were most certainly not just online but also doing their research, banking and shopping online. Ravensdown quickly saw that being in the web space was an absolute necessity, not an optional extra.
“Of course, we've had a web presence for quite some time,” says Erin Webley, Ravensdown’s Web Manager. “But we built our old website and then left it – it just wasn’t a part of our core day-to-day activities.
“With our new website we know that it’s a journey, not something that’s ever finished. And recognising the importance of the website as a vital business channel for us, we established a dedicated web team to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.”
Over the past 18 months, Intergen has worked closely with Ravensdown to help make its web vision a reality. Intergen’s technologists have not only built a new website, but by working with Intergen’s Web Strategy team they have also undertaken comprehensive user testing and analysis to find out what Ravensdown’s customers really want, using this information to design a useful, informative and intuitive customer-focused site.
“The rural sector is no different from any other sector now,” says Tim Roulson, Ravensdown Project Manager. “And in the last couple of years we’ve put a lot of time and effort into our web presence as a core business channel. We've made it a more intimate point of connection with our customers and focused on understanding what works on the internet and what doesn’t. It’s no longer a case of putting some information up there and hoping it will work.”
Ravensdown’s well-considered web strategy is a careful balance of user research in the field and the use of leading edge technology, with Ravensdown choosing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 as its web platform. The website is now the customer's first port of call. Information is now tailored to the needs of real customers and it’s also easy to search, underpinned by a powerful search engine.
Having a flexible and future-ready content management system has simplified the content management process and has removed bottlenecks and maintenance issues. Backed by robust technology, Ravensdown keeps a close eye on measurement, paying close attention to what works on the site and what doesn’t. It uses Google Analytics to hone its content and approach, based on real information, in real time.
Since the website’s go-live the results have spoken for themselves, with bounce rates down, and the number of page views and average time spent on the site doubling – not to mention the positive feedback received from users. But despite these achievements, there’s no room for complacency.
“This is just the beginning of the journey,” says Erin.
An up-to-the-minute e-commerce platform is the next step in the Ravensdown web journey, which, when complete, will offer customers a more comprehensive and interactive online shopping experience. Future plans for a full service customer portal are also underway, with more than 1,600 customers having provided input into what, for them, will provide the greatest value and use.