Destinations Council Destiny Awards > Destination Website
Destinations Council Destiny Awards > Destination Website
About This Entry:
In 2018, Visit San Antonio, in partnership with its Agency of Record, The Atkins Group, began the journey of rebuilding the leisure destination website. With that journey came the hard discussions of how to ensure build of a site that can remain one of the most relevant, authentic travel resources out there. Read any article on the challenge of destination websites today and it will say DMO sites lack modern interface or only include “touristy” information, so they are overlooked and disregarded. Yet, DMO sites remain a huge driver for awareness and engagement measurement – a DMO site must be protected, it must be elevated, and it must perform!
Business and market challenges had to be analyzed to determine clear targets for transformation. Visit San Antonio was moving to a membership model and members had to be given value. In addition, Visit San Antonio had recently completed extensive research that identified four primary traveler personas that serve as the key target audiences for all leisure initiatives. This effort led to a new creative campaign launch, and the new site was to be a visual representation of that campaign effort, as well as a platform that would serve relevant content to specific audiences in an intuitive and personal way.
The Visit San Antonio/Atkins Group team aligned on capabilities, trends, and expectations. This process included analyzing dozens of premier national and international destination marketing websites, isolating the most relevant digital marketing trends, and discussing the broader technology landscape. The team then outlined the following primary objectives for the website:
1. Develop relevant, authentic content strategies through various activation concepts and regularly added new content, to establish trust, authority and inspiration to drive user engagement.
2. Improve user engagement through well-defined information architecture and best design practices, while creating methods to further improve our understanding of the potential traveler through conversion optimization and intuitive on-site search.
These objectives were an outcome from five in-person, facilitated working sessions conducted with internal stakeholders to help the team understand everything from pain points to wish lists. The team isolated over 40 specific requirements and criteria that directly influenced the vision for the website to be the most credible, authentic source of information to define the San Antonio experience, a mission we called: The San Antonio Authority.
The team then examined the technology landscape to find providers, suppliers, and integrations that could support and improve upon our collective vision.
First step was a show stopping design. The site is very visual, using a mix of video and new photography created for Visit San Antonio’s persona ad campaign. Large graphic headers drive the first impressions of the site, using subtle panning, zooming and fading effects. There are nuances of the San Antonio quatrefoil (found throughout the city and part of the brand logo) used throughout to enhance the branding. Hovers, clicks, scrolls and transitions are smooth and fluid no matter what device you’re using.
The approach for content was to be welcoming, friendly and focused on key information that is inspirational and easy to read. Easy-to-find content was a development priority, and the new site minimizes the number of clicks that a consumer needs to make to find relevant information.
Layered on this, a membership model had to be applied to the site to enhance member value, yet represent this content in an authentic way. The solution was to develop membership based logic that not only considers the membership level to determine site ranking, but also TripAdvisor review value. This way peer reviews were taken into consideration to determine position on the site. In addition, all members are defined by a custom colored badge noting their membership level so that it is transparent to the user.
Integration of Swiftype made the site smart, enabling us to create, weight and control search experiences for more personalized search and journey mapping. Bound 360 allowed us to render personalized experiences based on the user’s geographic location.
Key criteria for measurement and performance of the new Visit San Antonio leisure website is overall online engagement (OLE), measuring engagement on all Visit San Antonio owned media channels, including all social media channels and websites. Online engagement goal for FY2019 is 20 million, of which, the leisure website accounts for more than 18 percent, resulting in over 3.2 million web sessions needed to hit that goal.
Since site launch November 2018, through April 2019, we are not only on pace to meet the web sessions goal, but also outpacing the overall online engagement goal by 62 percent. In addition to web traffic increases, key web conversion metrics have had year-over-year increases of 20% for email capture, visitors guide requests and clicks to outbound partner sites.
The site personalization tools are also helping define users as they enter the site, to get them to more relevant content like the Neighborhood Guide – encouraging exploration across the city, City Stories – featuring real people from San Antonio sharing their favorite City assets, or Local Adventures – offering curated trip ideas. We know this through key analytics that indicate the staying power of the site: there was 63 percent decline in bounce rate, 28 percent increase in page views and a nine percent increase on pages per session.
In addition, the search tools are allowing us to identify what people are actually searching for on the website. Reviewing this content data guides development of new, relevant information based on what users are searching for most to increase visits and returned growth. For example, after reviewing content on Swiftype, we were seeing numerous people searching for coupons; however, they were not pulling a result on “coupons.” This allowed us to create synonyms for coupons to autocomplete into “deals.” After creating this synonym, non-completes went down and allowed us to convert users into the correct page.
Overall the new Visit San Antonio site is developed to be nimble and agile to keep it the authentic San Antonio authority in the digital space.
The budget for this website was $250,000, including software and technologies.
Why This Is A Finalist:
The applicant's description of their rebranding campaign and associated website redesign is an excellent example for other destinations. It clearly articulates the vision, strategies, objectives, technologies, research methods and goals of the new design. It also has a topline metric for success for FY19 of acquiring 3.2MM sessions by year's end and says that it is out pacing that goal by 63% (roughly equating to 1.3MM sessions 3-mo after launch). The inclusion of TripAdvisor reviews as a means to both communicate trustworthiness of content as well as to have a quantifiable rationale for display order of member listings is an innovative practice for DMOs -- use of consumer reviews in general would help many DMOs to remain relevant in the face of competition for travel information and tips from OTAs and travel aggregator sites.
- Category Winner