Bluewater’s extranet was out of date and increasingly in need of improvement. It was awkward and time consuming to update, and crucial retailer information was hard to find. By taking a user-centric, agile and structured approach to design, content and functionality, Agidea delivered an extranet that made an immediate transformational impact and increased usage by over 400% in the first 30 days.
Bluewater in Kent is one of the largest shopping centres in Europe, covering a vast 240-acre site, including 154,000 m2 of retail space. Every year, around 27 million people visit its 330 shops, 40 cafes and restaurants, and 13-screen cinema.
With so many separate businesses under one roof, effective communication and engagement with all stakeholders – retailers, café/restaurant managers, employees – was essential. A vital tool in meeting these challenges was the extranet. Since opening its doors in 1999, the Bluewater central management team had relied on an extranet as one of its main communication tools with retailers and other stakeholders. The existing system had been in place for over seven years, but it had become increasingly clear that it was no longer fit for purpose. It was poorly designed, hard to update, lacked critical functionality and made it difficult to engage with retailers.
Early on in the process, the Umbraco content management platform was identified as the best option for meeting Bluewater’s needs. Agidea is a certified Umbraco partner and knew that this powerful, flexible CMS would integrate well with Bluewater’s existing Microsoft technology and systems, such as databases and other asset management tools.
Agidea’s combination of innovative ideas, in-depth technical knowledge and user-centric design has earned it a fast-growing reputation as a web development agency that bridges the gap between IT and marketing – making it an ideal partner for Bluewater.Agidea recognised that there were two priorities for the new extranet – it had to have the functionality necessary to work as an effective operational and promotional tool; and it needed to combine this with a visually appealing, easy-to-use interface in order to win buy-in from retailers.
By leveraging the Umbraco’s CMS flexibility to implement a structured content approach to publishing and updating information, the Agidea team dramatically improved the speed in which retailers could access information. The whole site was also made fully searchable. And the responsive design, meanwhile, meant retailers could access the extranet on the go, including invaluable data like footfall, sales figures and lost property records, as well as being kept up to date with forthcoming promotional opportunities.
The transformational impact of the new system was maximised by ensuring the look and feel of the user interface, and the extranet’s usability in general, reflected the technical innovation and quality of the system that underpinned it.
Thanks to the rapid, agile approach to research and development implemented by Agidea, the core wire-framing, Umbraco development and user-focused design of the new extranet was completed within 9 months.
After the extranet went live, the results were immediate. In the first month after launch alone, use of the Bluewater extranet increased by over 400%.
Bluewater continues to benefit from the retailer customer engagement platform and support and maintenance services provided by Agidea. The partnership is ongoing and Agidea are always on-hand to offer advice and guidance on both technical and non-technical issues. For example, the extranet was recently re-platformed to Microsoft Azure and Agidea were called upon to support with the migration. Discussions are currently ongoing into what other features and technologies can be employed to improve the user experience even further.
We are delighted with the new Umbraco extranet. We believe that there is no comparable system currently available that allows such a high degree of engagement and participation with our retailers.- Retail Communications Manager, Bluewater