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There’s a little bit of everything in digital

13 July 2018

It can be a lonely life as a digital professional. Wherever we are (unless we work for Amazon), there’s a feeling that we are technical wizards who don’t understand strategy.

Often, we’re the last to know about digital projects in most organisations… cue the violins! But nothing demonstrates our wide range of skills quite like delivering a product. I was the digital lead for World Animal Protection UK’s Adopt a Bear. Since it’s soft launch in May 2018, the product has done more than help bears. It showcased our digital expertise, improved our working relationships with teams across the organisation and is a successful digital product we can all be proud of.

A product to tackle fundraising challenges

Adopt a Bear was the brain child of our UK fundraising team to offer supporters something new. Previously, we didn’t have any products to offer, so this was new territory. An adoption product could achieve two things:

  1. Give supporters something unique and fun to engage with.
  2. Help reduce the attrition rates of regular givers.

It also gave us the chance to do something new, with the potential for future digital growth.

The value of digital experience

I’ve worked in areas such as content strategy, optimisation, digital marketing and front-end development. Adopt a Bear gave me the opportunity to bring it all together and lay the foundations for a scalable product.

The agency involved in the ideation stages of Adopt a Bear was 11 London. They had carried out audience research to get an idea of what the desire for an adoption product would be.

Putting the user first

There’s a tendency to over-complicate digital products and I was keen to avoid this approach.

As a user, I looked to charities like The Dog’s Trust and WWF for inspiration on adoption products. When carrying out competitor research, it’s far easier to consider user-need, as you become the user. Experience also informs this process and you develop an instinctive sense of what could work.

As a potential user of Adopt a Bear, I asked myself the following questions:

  • Why should I adopt a bear?
  • What do I get?
  • How much is it going to cost?
  • How will I decide which bear to adopt?

These questions helped conclude that the design needed to be simple, engaging and easy to use. It was also likely these questions would be the first queries in the user journey. It was important to provide this information without disrupting the primary action. This resulted in the drop-down boxes “Adopt a bear”, “What you receive” and “Ending bear abuse”. To encourage engagement with the bear information pages, I left the answer to “How much is it going to cost?” there.

Mobile wireframe (left) and the live site

I built wireframes using Adobe Xd. This met stakeholder user-needs, as it’s often hard to interpret wireframes. With a basic prototype, key stakeholders interpreted the design and layout with ease. Following styling changes and technical tweaks by the developers, we were ready for User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Feedback on the UAT highlighted some minor issues we needed to resolve but it was a positive test. We were ready for a soft launch.

Preparation for launching digital products

This is an area where my content skillset got deployed again. Off I went to Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner to review search terms for animal adoption. High levels of search queries were coming up for brown bears, black bears and animal adoption. When creating meta descriptions, I considered this to create meaningful and engaging content. An example of a meaningful page description could be: “Thinking of animal adoption? There are plenty of brown and black bears in our sanctuary waiting to meet you.”

At the time of writing, the last 28 days of data shows 43% of traffic to Adopt a Bear comes from organic traffic. It’s important to think about your meta descriptions before you rush to get something out of the door.

Since 8 May 2018, it’s been ticking over with adoptions. A soft launch was a vital part of ensuring it worked as expected before going ahead with a paid launch. Early stats are positive, but we need statistically significant data to determine success.

What a little trust in experience can achieve

Key to the success of the project was the positive relationship I built with fundraising during the process. I ran a project in 2016, which improved our donation form conversion rates. This early piece of work showcased my knowledge, meaning my colleagues trusted me. It was a great starting point for Adopt a Bear.

Working in an international organisation can be complex. There’s often a disconnect between the desire of local teams and the focus of a global digital team. Adopt a Bear improved our working relationships to form mutual trust and understanding, demonstrating we really understand our market and what performs well.

By working closer together, we have reduced the barriers to innovation. Knowing the skills within the project team was a key part of the success of launching Adopt a Bear.

It also provides a solid example of how digital isn’t all about social media and sticking things up on web pages. It’s about content, strategy, data analysis, technical skills, marketing and so much more.

Make use of your digital team and get to know them. Chances are they can help you with a lot more than you think. When you give them a chance to do what they love, you can achieve some amazing results.

Image: World Animal Protection

Read more about digital strategy:

What the Charity Digital Skills Report tells us about driving digital change

Amy Clark

senior digital officer, World Animal Protection

Amy has over six years’ digital experience in the education, health and not-for-profit sectors. Digital avenues of particular focus for Amy include user experience, insights and how digital can be used to improve the world around us.