e-Business awards: Marketing award

Get your fish on the hook

It's no good having an all-singing, all-dancing Web site if nobody knows just how good it is. Below, we explain...

Get your fish on the hook

It's no good having an all-singing, all-dancing Web site if nobody knows just how good it is. Below, we explain why the three nominees for the marketing e-business awards won their place on our shortlist

One of the main aims of many insurance Web sites is to take the tedium out of buying cover, since insurance products are typically regarded by customers as unexciting, though necessary. However, Web sites also want to attract new customers, not only on the basis of cost, but by appealing to target audiences too. The Summit Group has been particularly successful in this respect, with a site (www.studentwatchout.co.uk) that incorporates innovations designed specifically for the student market.

The Web site, costing £90,000 to set up, is designed to reflect the way students want to use it, notably trying to take the hassle out of buying insurance. For example, users are offered market research that pulls together the best policies according to criteria such as good cover with minimal restrictions.

The use of the Web site specifically as a marketing tool, as well as sales channel, incorporates a number of additional aspects. Product information is provided with a "serious" tone. Its look and feel tries to persuade users that products are well researched and worthy of their 'Recommended Buy' status, for example. For its student focus, the Summit Group has an operation specifically responsible for matching products to student needs. It is also aware of attracting potential new customers from sixth form age, school leavers and their parents. E-mailing and online advertising is important in this respect.

E-mail and telephone support is also provided for answering queries. Since going online in May the site has attracted 600 visitors, though it should be noted that this is one of the quietest times of the year, in effect providing Summit with a "test" period.

Sponsor comment

In the rapidly changing world of insurance products, a site dedicated to giving comprehensive information to students and student advisers fills a clear gap in the market. Interestingly the company is very careful to monitor the level of business that transfers from the offline established business to the online. Given that most students have relatively free access to the Internet at college and university, the use of offline support for the online model should be a good combination. The distribution of information and selling of a service all offer benefits to the consumer making it easy for them to search for and check information in a complex market. The company benefits by being able to dramatically increase its presence and penetration into a fluid customer base.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic launched its first Internet-centric marketing campaign in July 2000. It has proven to be the most successful acquisition project the company has run. Called Global Miles Million Air, at its heart was the opportunity for customers to win a million flying club miles. The competition was the start of the effort within Virgin Atlantic to meet a number of specific marketing tasks as operations integrate Web-based activities. For example, the collection of e-mails for existing and prospective flying club members and migrating customers to the online services were important goals.

At the most significant level is the way the project fits into Virgin Atlantic's overall customer relationship management strategy. Whilst the Web provides the means to develop interactive, personalised contact with customers, it can be stymied by the simplest of problems, such as customers switching ISPs and loosing touch with Virgin as a result.

To date, only 3.5% of flying club members that have been active in the last 18 months have registered on the Web site, a total of 91,000 accounts worldwide. But once an online account has been activated customers notice an immediate change in their relationship with Virgin Atlantic. For one thing, they will be able to access account details whenever they choose. Regular product and service information will also be available via an online newsletter. However, the company recognises that the "killer application" for encouraging flying club members to register will be the ability to redeem air miles online, a development programme that is well underway.

Sponsor comment

The most impressive facet of this use of the Internet was the way in which it clearly demonstrated two real benefits of Internet data acquisition: speed and relatively low cost when compared with offline campaigns. The deadlines Virgin worked with would have tested many organisations' abilities to cope, but the breadth and level of co-ordination in the offline and online advertising campaigns, using e-mail, banner adverts, snail mail postcards and traditional newspaper advertising has worked well. The dramatic increase in the number of registrants and the high level of conversion should stand the frequent flier program in good stead for future campaigns.

Walt Disney Company

At the present stage of e-business development many multinational companies are finding themselves in the position of having to manage multiple, isolated Web sites of varying quality. This lack of central control and corporate consistency stems from the Web's early days when separate country operations experimented with going online.

Eighteen months ago, a team of three people was set up to manage the re-launch of the European Disney Channel, consolidating five sites that not only varied in quality but duplicated content production too. The task was to create a fully integrated Web solution for this famous global brand. Converging Web projects with television was also in mind.

The primary audience for the channel is children aged 8-11. The home page, that depicts Mickey Mouse as the controller, leads to various TV screens that act as windows through which various contents can be viewed and rotated. An example of localised material is the Playhouse Disney section, for the UK, a special area for 2-5 year olds. Another localised area is the Live Studio that is based on a magazine format with presenter profiles and details of celebrity appearances.

The new sites, which cost £150,000 to set up, embody new developments in Web activity too, notably in terms of interactivity and customisation through technologies such as Flash.

The balance between producing content that is global but reflects local variations has been achieved by having 70% of content created centrally, and 30% specifically for separate channels. Currently the site receives an average of 2.25 million page impressions per month.

Sponsor comment

I loved this site. It was very clear and integrated with the high degree of interaction that the inter-relationship between the Internet and TV allows. The clear increase in the level of interaction between the target audience and the online TV channel is clear to see. The use of the Internet to manage content, manage information flow and make it a resource for the TV viewer is interesting and the further expansion of interactive TV and integration will no doubt provide even more benefit. The online voting system has already gained acclaim and further ties in with the interactive games and competitions offered through both the TV and Internet sites. Very effective, fast and a really enjoyable site with lots to see and do.

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