Cantarus is an award-winning digital agency that helps clients create and improve engaging digital experiences and deliver exceptional results. We had the pleasure of working with the agency recently on a new app for memcom and were truly blown away by their fresh ideas, drive and technical know-how. It’s no wonder they’ve recently been named as Number 24 in The Prolific North Top 50 Digital Agencies 2019 and have been shortlisted for three awards at the memcom membership excellence awards 2019 including Best Website and Best Use of App.
We caught up with Lee Adams this week, CEO & Co-founder of Cantarus, about all things websites – thanks for your time Lee!
What kind of website challenges have membership organisations approached you for help with? Have you noticed any common themes?
Membership organisations are increasingly – and rightly – looking for more than just a visual refresh or ‘something more modern’. Wiser organisations are now tying website requirements to performance metrics associated with organisational strategies such as membership growth, reducing attrition, greater self-service and more effective digital sales execution.
Can you talk us through some of your most innovative solutions to these challenges?
The truth is that even an average website provider should be able to create an aesthetically pleasing and performant website. Innovation with websites therefore tends to be less about the technology and more about the implementation and consideration of the broader organisational and technical landscape.
Where one does not already exist, we assist clients with the generation of a comprehensive digital strategy that enables them to connect their business strategy and their digital projects. This strategy is the starting point for a successful web project and acts as the foundation of subsequent work; it ensures investment always has an end goal in mind, rather than the more erratic tactical investment that is commonplace.
In terms of execution, I am a strong believer that our work in the commercial sector – including for WHSmith, Sports Direct and Worldpay – combined with our expertise in membership, more optimally positions us to deliver websites for the sector that help membership organisations deliver on both their purpose and their bottom lines. A key component of this is deep integration with clients’ existing back-office systems to minimise re-work, ensure maintenance of a single (often centralised) source of truth for all important data and generally allow employees to focus on delivering value as opposed to wrangling disparate information silos.
What tend to be the biggest traffic drivers for membership websites? What do people often forget about / downplay?
Membership websites have many drivers of traffic. The membership organisation themselves will typically drive significant traffic via email and social channels; some also use PPC or other forms of online advertising. More broadly, great content drives visits from organic search and this can be an excellent way of both amplifying an organisation’s reach and bringing in prospective members.
I see significant potential for new traffic generation via more effective use of social channels – for example better use of Instagram – and online communities. There is often a miscomprehension that discussion forums and online communities are the same thing; they absolutely are not, and an active online community can be the life blood of a membership organisation.
How does the Cantarus team work together when approaching a website creation / improvement brief?
The key is to start with the client’s purpose and strategy and from there use workshops involving disparate skillsets – typically design, technical, marketing and business – to compose an approach. Projects are led by our Consultants – all of whom have an excellent technical background combined with a good all-round skillset – on our ‘One Team’ principle to ensure ongoing engagement and buy-in from the client and all of the disparate skillsets required for optimal delivery.
Why should the BVCA websites win best website (in 10 words!)
They have delivered exceptional and objective KPI performance and look fantastic!
Any predictions for website development over the coming years?
Website development will increasingly be seen as a component of a broader digital strategy and presence, one which combines, synchronises and optimises web, mobile apps and social. Content will become a standalone entity – perhaps stored in headless content management systems – reformatted and repurposed for multiple channels, rather than just being mastered by websites. I’m also excited to see if Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) can deliver on their promise.
Any websites from the commercial sector we can learn from?
Sports Direct springs to mind because they own diverse brands and yet are able to tailor their offerings to their different audiences effectively whilst leveraging a common technical back-office infrastructure to minimise costs and guarantee manageability. One nice feature we helped them to build was synchronisation of in-progress shopping baskets across website and mobile app; this is a great example of providing a unified and seamless experience across platforms. Like most retailers, they also understand the importance of often overlooked Non-Functional Requirements (NFRs) such as page load performance and its impact on revenue.
I also really like some of the user journeys delivered by the new wave of ‘challenger’ finance companies (think Monzo, Revolut and the like); these organisations tend to be agile and relentlessly focused on making what is often a complex process, very user-friendly. Many membership organisations’ join journeys could benefit from a sprinkling of such user experience magic!
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