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How can bringing customers together set you apart?

Digital transformation can triple customer conversion rates and generate great ROI results. But can a large, global business responsible for thousands of high-profile conferences and events make a significant shift to digitise their business model and begin creating year round customer communities? Yes they can, and this is how.

Knowledge and Networking (K&N) is a £225mn division of Informa plc that runs 2,000+ multilingual conferences, webinars and training events a year in more than 70 countries.

Informa recognised that it was vital to enhance their online customer experience and begin to utilise their core physical networking and content capabilities in a digital way. In addition, they needed to move a large portion of their sales to a fully online ticket sales model.

Ultimately the question we faced was how to connect the physical (the events) and the digital (booking platforms and content channels) worlds; and also how to connect the complex business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) networks and communities who rely on K&N’s knowledge and networking services.

Together, EY and K&N established a vision of building customer value through digital solutions.

Understanding customer needs

The first step was to get to the heart of the needs of their customers, and understand existing and potential future communities, both online and offline.

Extensive analysis identified customer behaviours, journeys and segmentation both at events and online. With a fresh understanding of exactly what customers valued, the focus turned to collaborating with Informa to transform their digital presence. With c.2,000 different events running off a variety of platforms (some with online booking features, others without), it was clear that a single platform was needed from which all events could run. The platform needed to be quickly and cost-effectively regenerated and automatically tailored for current and new events.

“The aim was to use customer-centric product design to create a B2B2C platform and service offering which enhanced value for all customer segments, including delegates, sponsors, speakers and corporate employers”, Matt Neal, Engagement Director EY.

Meeting those needs

We built and led a team of skilled individuals and market-leading third party providers (including a branding agency and technology developer) to work with Informa. As well as leading the end-to-end design and delivery of the platform, we sourced the best vendors and created high performing teams. K&N valued this approach as it gave time back to the Informa leadership to focus on high-value strategic, sponsorship and shaping activities for the platform as well as additional product evolution, acquisitions and other key management focus areas.

We worked as one team, creating a digital platform to not only look great, but to be both consistent and tailored at the same time across varying sectors, customers and communities. Digitalisation of each event was made easy though a modular template that applied customisation with ease, allowing a marketer to create a fully integrated on-brand website for each event in less than a day. As well as being ready for search engine optimisation, this provided customers with a seamless, branded journey from product to product.

An agile ‘test and learn’ approach was used throughout. For example, the team designed and built an easy-to-use mobile app that helped the sales and leadership teams to measure real-time metrics including conversion rates, ticket sales and web traffic. This provided a simple and transparent way for Informa to track progress and make key business decisions.

Reshaping the existing marketing strategy and capabilities was also key. Together with Informa, we developed a new approach to content and marketing, overhauled skills, used new digital tools, hired new agency partners and created a centre of excellence to target and engage with audiences. Links were developed further through existing customer networks such as LinkedIn groups and trade publications. New apps were built to engage with customers anytime, anywhere. The integration of Google analytics and Mailchimp data helped improve customer segmentation and targeting.

Better valued customers are more valuable.

We wanted to test whether there was a connection between the extent to which Informa customers enjoyed their enhanced online experience and their willingness to buy K&N products and interact with the communities that had been established. The statistics showed a revolution in digital marketing. Conversion rates more than trebled, the amount of time spent on websites jumped nearly 40% and the number of users coming to the site via social media increased 20%.

Whereas previously it could take weeks of time and additional third party expenditure, the time to set-up an event website that could take online payments from scratch is now six hours. This allows Informa to quickly deliver the most innovative events and learning opportunities to their customers. Most importantly, the proportion of Informa’s revenues delivered digitally grew dramatically and the internal operating model changed significantly.

The benefits to Informa K&N go beyond these metrics, they helped shape Informa’s long-term growth strategy and to embed a digital culture. As part of the Informa-wide GAP programme, K&N are now continually enhancing all aspects of their products and services with many other digital and non-digital changes in their business model for the benefits of their customers. Major events such as SuperReturn, Africacom and BIO-Europe are continuing to set the bar in the industry thanks to these investments and the sustainable capability build which has accelerated as part of this digital transformation.

The project is also being recognised by the business world, having reached the final in four industry awards within digital design, branding and consulting.

“We have completely transformed our customer services support and brought it into the digital age. The results are outstanding” Carl Barnes, Chief Financial Officer, Informa “This project was completely transformational for our business. A perfect combination of innovation and empowerment. We’re now set up as a business of the future - a triumph”

Isobel Peck, Chief Marketing Officer and Programme Sponsor, Informa