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How City YMCA has used online to drive business

How City YMCA has used online to drive business

Background

City YMCA, London is a Not for Profit organisation working alongside young people, striving to helping young people build a future.  City YMCA has a wide ranging audience, varying from students and international travellers to conference customers and stakeholders, who all make contact with City YMCA through the website for services such as booking accommodation and conference facilities.

City YMCA needed to re-connect with its audiences and improve the online experience, which was suffering as the site had become static and was seen as being out of touch with it's consumers.

With staff keen to embrace the web as a cost effective sales and marketing channel the question of upkeep also needed to be addressed in terms of efficiency of use for the staff updating the pages.
Turning to leading Yorkshire digital agency, Coolpink, for the re-launch of cityymca.org the City YMCA team were keen to embrace what the web has to offer to help them improve their relationships with customers.

The Brief

Coolpink was commissioned to re-develop City YMCA's website, with the project objectives of:
•    re-connecting City YMCA with their clientele to enable them to be recognised as more current
•    increasing website efficiency
•    improving the online customer experience
•    generating a stronger ROI for the website through increasing bookings and occupancy
•    effectively communicating and engaging with City YMCA's target audience through innovative web tools and a stronger alliance with their lifestyles
•    raising the profile of City YMCA in order to generate funding
•    Setting City YMCA apart from other Not for Profit organisations and low budget hotels
•    encouraging interest in working at City YMCA through more online information and advertised vacancies

The Process

Award winning Coolpink won the pitch as they not only had the experience and vision to create a site which would reflect the aspirations of City YMCA and its audiences, but also showed they understood the charity and the challenges it faced.

1. Securing Internal Buy-In

Committed to integrating the site into the organisation and its processes, Coolpink  worked with City YMCA to develop a project group across both teams to provide input and feedback into the process, as well as securing the long-term success of the website through training of staff on the in-house content management system used to update the site.

2. Producing a more youthful design

To help reflect City YMCA as an organisation aligned with young people, emphasis was placed on youthful, vibrant online creative that inspires and engages the target audience. Audio was also used to showcase songs produced by the young people of City YMCA to help more closely align the organisation with its audience and promote successes of its members.

3. Ease of use

A key development to the site was making it easier for people to book their accommodation, through a new online booking system, created to appeal to visitors who want to be able to use the site for an end-to-end transaction -gain information on the hostel, check availability, book and pay, all with the click of a few buttons.

To ensure a seamless experience for the web visitors a complex payment facilities system was required. In order to construct the online booking system, Coolpink conducted an in depth analysis of the previous booking process, considering the allocation of rooms both online and offline, and pricing structures including discount pricing and VAT rates, in order to determine the most successful strategy.

A HR function was also developed to improve recruitment efficiency and increase the appeal of the organisation to job hunters by enabling candidates to apply for jobs online and encourage volunteers to get involved. This was also integrated into an easy to use content management system.

The Results

The combination of these additional online features provides a single base which serves multiple and diverse audiences.

Many of the features added to the website are particularly innovative for Not for Profit organisations, raising the bar of their website as a business tool and giving City YMCA the opportunity to compete for business on a level with professional organisations.

The website has achieved, and overachieved, not only reviving the brand and its relevance to young people, but also in generating significant revenue.

The project has contributed to decreasing a projected deficit of the organisation for 2009/2010 from £53K to them having recorded a surplus of £191K.

The success of online accommodation booking, which has increased the hostels occupancy by an average of 3% (94K), as well as hitting the gym membership capacity of 950, has played a strong role in this impressive business performance.

The new site has also been praised within the sector, which has helped boost the organisation's credibility within the industry as well as presenting them as more attractive for future funding.

With an increase in online accommodation bookings City YMCA are able to report better efficiencies on resources. The number of online enquiries for accommodation, fitness and conference bookings has risen by 49% and the site now boasts an average of 6300 visitors to the site a month.

In terms of the HR functionality, a total of 8 vacancies have been advertised with 12 applicants applying via the web, making recruitment a more efficient process. Online volunteer applications have proven even more successful with 18 placements being offered between April 2009 and March 2010.  

“The new website has produced substantial results, over and above our original forecast, which would have led to a deficit of £53K,” said John Faulkner, Director of Operations at City YMCA

Future Plans

City YMCA are committed to investing in their online presence and will be looking to further evolve the site with additional features on an ongoing basis. As the online bookings continue to grow the digital strategy will also continue to be refined and refocused towards their next business challenge.

AJR
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