Manulife Web redesign nabs Toronto firm international award

Toronto-based digital design and consulting firm Delvinia Interactive Corp. scored a double win at an international business competition with its Web site redesigns for Manulife Financial and the Canadian Opera Company (COC).

Delvinia’s overhaul of the Manulife site took top honours in the insurance division for the international business category of the Stevie Awards, while its rebranding of the COC Web site garnered the award in the not-for-profit division of the same category.

Delvinia had some stiff competition; there were over 3,000 submissions from companies and executives in 40 countries for this year’s Stevies, whose name is derived from the Greek word for “crowned.” Founded in 2002, the Washington, D.C.-based Stevie Awards honour workplace excellence in four main groups: American business, international business, women in business, and sales and customer service.

Though the actual awards trophies will be handed out on Oct. 11 in Abu Dhabi, a location far more exotic than your average convention centre hot spot, Delvinia’s team will probably be content just to toast the honour at home.

“We hadn’t assigned a budget (to attend). But that’s not to say it won’t happen,” says Delvinia president Steve Mast, when asked about his chances of actually jetting off to the United Arab Emirates in a few weeks.

Delvinia revamped the Manulife site to make the site more user-friendly, he says.

“We basically found that our old site was more product (focused) and very one-dimensional. It was very heavy with ‘insurance speak’ and just an overall inconsistent experience compared to what it is today,” says Manulife marketing manager Joanna Korach.

Though Manulife had separate Web sites for its health, dental and other insurance lines, Delvinia brought together easy access to all of those product lines on Manulife’s main site. Delvinia also simplified the site’s online application forms so potential Manulife customers can get price quotes and request product brochures more quickly.

“They had a very long, dragged out process and we streamlined it. Getting insurance can be a chore and we wanted to make it less of a chore. The other thing is, people just want to get in and out (of a site quickly),” says Mast.

Manulife also drove traffic to its site by adding a ‘refer a friend’ tab for customers online and embedding key words and phrases into its actual site content for SEO. The result has been dramatic, with visitors to the Manulife site up 15 to 20 per cent since the redesign, brochure requests up 40 per cent and applications for insurance up 20 per cent.

Nearly everything about the COC Web makeover was inherently dramatic, as can be expected when the client is a national opera company freshly installed at a new state-of-the-art home in downtown Toronto, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Delvinia redesigned the COC Web site in 2009 as part of the opera company’s overall rebranding of itself. Armed with more customer and user data from that site relaunch, Delvinia added more improvements to the site in 2011. They include a new home page with more prominent links to buy tickets and online subscriptions, tabs directing users to upcoming events, a blog, and a ‘behind-the-scenes’ content area.

“It was about brand realignment. For the most part is was a visual redesign but keeping all the usability around it,” Mast says.

The new site got an ovation from COC customers, with online ticket sales jumping 20 per cent, click through rates up 10 per cent and email subscribers growing 30 per cent since the redesign. The new Web site even became the COC’s primary sales channel for single ticket purchases.

The bottom line for top Web site performance is to consider the needs of the customer, not just your company, Mast says.

“It means looking at customer behaviour and their actual needs and user experience. It’s not always about design. They’re not going there for an entertaining experience. They’re going there to get in and out as efficiently as possible.”

Other Canadian winners in various Stevie categories were: Cascades Tissue Group (Candiac, Que.), Eagle’s Flight Creative Training Excellence Inc. (Guelph, Ont.), EXIT Realty Group International (Mississauga, Ont.), Bombardier Inc., (Montreal), RSA Canada (Toronto), IFDS Canada (Toronto), and BioExx Specialty Proteins Ltd. (Toronto).

Christine WongChristine Wong is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow her on Twitter, and join in the conversation on the IT Business Facebook Page.

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