Messe Frankfurt’s new website was launched on August 22nd. A total of 170 websites provide information on the individual events, services and the world’s third largest trade fair organiser itself under the umbrella of messefrankfurt.com. The significance of this web presence as well as the complexity of a relaunch of this scale deserves a look behind the scenes. We talked with Martina Bergmann, Head of Digital Services at Messe Frankfurt, who has overall responsibility for development of the new global web presence.
Ms. Bergmann, what is the strategy behind the new web presence?
For us, the messefrankfurt.com portal serves as the digital enabler for business encounters. Our vision – “Messe Frankfurt as the first choice for business encounters in the markets we serve” – should be immediately recognized by all market participants in the digital context as well. The over seven million visitors to our site each year should immediately feel like they are in the “place to be”. Our web offerings should therefore be refreshing, simple and up-to-date, while fully meeting our customers’ requirements.
To achieve this, we have developed our new global web presence completely from the perspectives of our diverse business partners and customers. Based on surveys and in-depth interviews, we have created a website that positions us, as a state-of-the-art information and service provider, to support our visitors, exhibitors and other customers in a targeted way in each phase of their respective customer journey.
In addition to these guiding principles, our list of objectives included:
– a modern look and feel as well as optimization of the customer journey to achieve real conversions that provide added value.
– a new generation of CMS and an update to the technology for future-oriented handling of coming technical requirements.
– connection and integration of our diverse activities in the social web.
– development of the platform in light of the further globalization of Messe Frankfurt’s digital presence, because 84 of our 134 events take place outside of Germany.
– Optimization of the back end for end-to-end integration of online services and information offerings with internal processes for exhibitor and visitor services, or marketing and marketing services.
What has changed specifically and what new things can visitors expect?
Based on our “mobile first strategy”, we have now created a fully responsive offering that includes optimization of all content and features for use on mobile devices.
The individual websites have been designed according to the long-pager principle, so that customers can gain orientation in an exploratory way and rapidly access more in-depth information. Fast-track elements such as quick visitor registration and ticket purchase guide users to their goal in just two clicks. Call-to-action buttons also link to frequently used offers. Our mantra here consisted of focussing on value-added communication throughout.
Another new element is the so-called “burger menu”, which we tested for usability and acceptance in all age groups and various markets. Due to the increasing significance of social media and messaging, we have provided sharing and recommendation options throughout the entire web presence. A new social wall provides visitors with the latest news from social media about Messe Frankfurt and its events.
Our semantic exhibitor search has been significantly refined and will be further expanded in the future. The already very extensive exhibitor profiles (company / products) have been made much more appealing, both visually and with regard to functionally. This also applies to the presentation of information about our own trade fairs or congresses as well as the presentation of our services for event organizers, who wish to use our facilities for their own events.
Last but not least, we are one of the most important marketing partners for our clients due to the high importance of trade fairs in the marketing mix. Therefore, the presentation of and access to our increasing number of marketing services have been significantly optimised.
How did you actually go about implementing this complex project?
We wanted to implement the innovation project quickly and on schedule. Among other reasons, we therefore decided to take a path that was entirely new for Messe Frankfurt. We relied on agile methods and, more precisely, on SCRUM. This was not only a milestone with regard to relaunching messefrankfurt.com, but also for the much more intense process of comprehensive digital transformation at Messe Frankfurt.
There were no requirements specifications and no linear master plan. Instead, we set up our own little Silicon Valley on the trade fair grounds in the past 12 months – our agile project office. On 2-3 days per week 15 Messe Frankfurt employees worked with 15 employees of our internet agency in various constellations to design and develop the new web presence, and then launch it following comprehensive usability and function testing.
Another major characteristic of our project is the incremental rollout of each of the 170 websites are under the umbrella of messefrankfurt.com. We first launched the corporate offers and the websites for upcoming trade fairs like Heimtextil in Frankfurt in the new look. All other sites will be switched over in the coming months.
The results are impressive. Our project took 12 months total before the launch. We are faster than expected and the detailed results are convincing.
A constant flow of pizza, gummy bears, soft drinks and coffee certainly contributed to the project’s success. The methodology, however, was crucial. If you have several hundred colleagues around the world, who are affected either directly or indirectly by a web relaunch based on a new methodology for most of them, then you can expect frowns and lots of questions. Synchronization of the many interfaces to all the trade fair’s departments was demanding, but ultimately successful thanks to the cooperative attitude of all involved.
Especially within the company, the sophisticated project communication played a prominent role, whether integrating interests, sharing experience, communicating new ideas, ongoing coordination, and gaining acceptance and support. Besides all the conventional communication formats from email to meetings, the project office, which was open to anyone, as well as our “walk-in lab initiative” worked well in this regard. Over 200 colleagues visited this project lab, gained insight into the current state of development, got a practical impression of the methodology and were even able to spontaneously pin further suggestions and ideas on the wall covered with thousands of post-its.
What innovations can we expect in the future?
First, we will focus on fully launching the project and, as usual for a relaunch, perform a bit of fine tuning. But, of course, there are other topics to manage. We will continue to push ahead with integration of our digital infrastructure, especially in the areas of marketing services, customer relationship management, and business matching. We also have concrete plans for the further optimization of our semantic search using our content pool with exhibitor and product information. Finally, we are paying great attention to the technical development of approaches that could be useful for our business. Personalization, chat bots or other AI applications are just a few of these approaches. We will be proceeding very carefully step by step. There will be several pleasant surprises.
Thank you for your insight, Ms. Bergmann.
If you would like to learn more about Messe Frankfurt’s digital strategy or the digital transformation in the exhibition industry, we recommend reading the interview “Digital transformation: we see ourselves as a pioneer”.