PROBLEM: How to make a traditional Food publisher more competitive in the online space?
SOLUTION: Apply a mobile first approach to redesign the website, grow social media engagement with a dedicated community manager and explore innovative omni-channel marketing strategies.
Smudge Publications are award winning food and travel publishers. They bring an authentic knowledgeable voice to the food scene and produce wonderful books that have done well in Australia and overseas.
In 2015 they went online with Smudge Eats, a website to showcase restaurants and recipes for people to know what is popular and trending. Unfortunately they enter a space that is dominated by many established players and they found it challenging to grow their online presence.
So, the question is
‘How do we improve Smudge Eats’ online presence, brand and social media engagement?’
My first task was a thorough audit of their website and social media platforms. The results revealed that most of the performance issues could be addressed simply by following standard best practice with backend data management and e-commerce design, but other issues would require a major adjustment to the information architecture.
On social media the situation was a little bit better, the Smudge Team have a good eye for photography so their content looked fantastic, the drawback was that they weren’t able to effectively engage their audience and lead them to use the website.
I was able to arrange extensive interviews with the stakeholders and a couple of the café owners listed in the books, as well as a number of website users. The priority here was to understand how the business was operating and identify any issues that needed immediate improvement.
A picture quickly emerged of a very warm and friendly relationship between the publishers and the venue owners. The businesses are happy with the way they are being represented and are proud of their involvement. However there were key communication issues that needed to be addressed, particularly concerning promotional campaigns and events.
During the course of project Smudge ran a campaign to promote their new Specialty Coffee book. Some cafes did very well during the campaign, whilst others were not even aware that it was taking place. There were also supply chain issues with some cafes receiving the promotional materials very late and weren't able to coordinate an effective marketing campaign.
Another key finding was in observing how people were using the website, I validated my initial impression that the layout could be great improved, especially with the search function. People were confused and had difficulty finding specific items they were looking for. Though the recipe section did quite well.
You can see the website yourself here
I wanted to focus on understanding the key behind the success of other food directory websites. Looking particularly at Urbanlist and Broadsheet, who are virtually neck and neck in their market dominance.
I examined their websites and social media to pick out strengths and weaknesses, researched the company’s history and founder interviews for key lessons that could be applied to help reshape Smudge and also examined their analytics to understand their user patterns.
One of the key insight was the importance of social media. People rarely go straight to the website, but rather make their way there after being prompted by content that interests them.
The websites themselves are organised better than Smudge, but also have room for improvements too. If Smudge can offer a faster, more refined experience they might be able to do really well here.
Below is a graph illustrating the user traffic. It is clear that Smudge has a lot of room to grow.
After consolidating the research I was able to start prototyping our solutions. I redesigned the website with mobile in mind after discovering that over 50% of traffic was coming from mobile, and this was a key strength Smudge’s competitors had over them.
Then I went through the process of paper prototyping, then wireframes and finally a
hi-fidelity mock up for the client presentation. Running tests with users, re-iterating and refining as we go.
After 3 weeks of research I concluded that we needed to address not only the website, but the social media presence too. We presented Smudge with a three stage solution:
Community Manager – this could be done immediately without any technical upgrade. A community manager is essentially a more proactive social media manager.
Their task is to represent the company in it’s interaction with their social media user base, as well as coordinating and driving promotional campaigns.
Mobile First Redesign – Smudge had a limited budget so I had to look at using templates and plugins rather than going the Bespoke website route.
Nevertheless there are many great options that will serve the purpose well until more funds become available.
With the information architecture it was obvious that we would start by having a geo-specific landing page, so users can only see content relevant to their city.
Beyond that it was essentially simplifying the various types of content to create a more refined experience as well designing more seamless cross-selling avenues for their books.
Omni-Channel – Smudge has made some inroads into the Asian market, tapping in the coffee boom that’s happening right across the continent.
To help them make a real impact in this crowded market we explored some more innovative marketing strategies, particularly around QR codes which are very popular in China and will likely increase in popularity here in Australia in a few years.
This part of the solution is mostly speculative as it is beyond the scope of the brief, but we felt it was such a massive opportunity that it was worth investigating.
To see the slides of our official presentation please select the link below. Please