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Corporate websites don’t have to be stuffy, sterile and niche. Unilever set out to re-imagine the experience for 26 million annual digital visitors to Unilever’s 48-strong global corporate website network.

Together, we set out to tell a powerful and inspiring sustainability story, one told in 28 languages. We told it by re-crafting content, design and accessibility, and we’ve been so successful that in the past year alone, we’ve engaged 2 million more visitors than the year before. Not only that, but independent research by Millward Brown revealed 84% site-positivity among influencers (up from 50%). Also, 43% of consumers confirmed they would be more likely to buy a Unilever product after visiting Unilever.com.

Synopsis

The transformation was realised through an approach that:

  • Ensured all Unilever’s global visitors could access their local site via mobile. It’s often the only way people can access websites.
  • Reworked 900+ pages of site content, transforming previously utilitarian & siloed design into a dynamic, user-friendly, magazine-style 'hub'.
  • Integrated Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan into Unilever.com, and rolled an edited version out across 47 international sites in 28 languages.
  • Ensured our approach supported Unilever’s strategic pillars:
    • Expose what Unilever is doing and how it’s doing it
    • Humanise with people-centric content and design
    • Mobilise – develop unique content for key audiences, making them more likely to share
16%
increase in visitor numbers since launch
43%
percentage of visits to country websites via mobile (up from 25% pre-launch)
56%
rise in views of sustainable living content

Strategy

Unilever wanted each of its 23+ million visitors to feel unique, informed and valued. So, we began a make-over that would focus on two key sections across the site network: Sustainable Living and News & features. The make-over needed to:

Optimise for mobile: Because, for many of Unilever’s global visitors, mobile is often the only way to access websites.

Reach a broader audience: The websites had to cater for all visitors - from consumers to investors, nutritionists to journalists. We needed to realign every site section, transforming previously utilitarian, siloed design into a dynamic news showcase with engaging, easily shareable content.

'Make sustainable living commonplace': Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is at the core of its strategy, yet sustainability content was fractured and hard to engage with. We needed to create a streamlined sustainability section for Unilever.com that made complex information easy to understand and share, then roll it out across 47 international sites in 28 languages.

Research and planning

We:

  • Reviewed 'digital data insights' across the network to understand visitors and their journeys.
  • Conducted a 12-month, on-website survey* across all websites, giving quantitative and qualitative insight into visitors' experiences that fed improvement planning.
  • Used the Bowen Craggs Index to review Unilever.com and identify improvement areas. Recommendations ranged from content updates to overhauling section-wide. The placement of feature content, for example, was confusing for journalists seeking company information.
  • Conducted a Google Survey of visitors to the Sustainable Living section on U.com, identifying user content requirements as the basis for setting and measuring section KPIs.
  • Developed personae based on the above to improve target audience understanding.

Implementation

The scale and reach of this project presented huge implementation challenges, including:

  • Accommodating all news in one image-rich section: We reviewed, audited and moved 900+ content pages - and sourced photography - to create a magazine-style section that attracts users through imagery, labelling and a robust category and keyword search.
  • Simplifying navigation: We developed more coherent navigation to reduce the clicks required to assess the importance of one item over another
  • Making key information clear: We used a ‘mosaic’ style device in the site’s Sustainable Living section to make content easier to access and view
  • Mobile responsiveness: Our testers QA’d the sites on many devices, but could not test every possible combination of smartphone and browser across 92 countries. Documenting and solving each bug was our greatest challenge; when a stakeholder raised an issue, we had to fix it quickly
Webby awards statistic

Creativity and innovation

The innovative solutions we found in presenting huge amounts of information in multiple languages included:

Information structure: How could we fit all Unilever’s sustainability targets into a one-shot, non-scrolling view? By innovating a three goal/nine topic format.

Progressive disclosure: We developed a hub that naturally revealed content of interest and encouraged interaction, without overwhelming visitors.

Shareability & storytelling: We put people at the heart of the design process, using creative design to tell stories. Specific Tweetable modules made stories easier to share. Immersive experience: Our long-drop takeover page on Unilever.com summarised Unilever’s sustainable living position, delivering big information creatively, accessibly, and immersing visitors in the narrative

Immersive experience: Our long-drop takeover page on Unilever.com summarised Unilever’s sustainable living position, delivering big information creatively, accessibly, and immersing visitors in the narrative.

Results

  • Over 26 million visitors have come to the sites in the year post launch – 2 million more than the year before. 80% of all traffic was to country websites (excluding Unilever.com)
  • Visits to country websites via mobile rose from 25% pre-launch to 43.1%.
  • Unique visits increased 17% in the year since launch.¹
  • The sustainable living section saw a 56% increase in views on the previous year.
  • Research by Millward Brown revealed “84% of influencers would speak highly of Unilever’s efforts around Sustainable Living after visiting Unilever.com. Before visiting this was just 50%.”
  • Post launch research* (64,212 responses) asked visitors to rate site effectiveness. Ratings for desktop/laptop and mobile were statistically identical, with high satisfaction levels (71%), showing that no users had been marginalised in the quest for a brilliant digital experience.
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