HIA website overhaul the first step to digitising the business

Residential building industry body strives to change its approach based on what the customer needs, starting with a content strategy overhaul

Bricks and mortar are going ever more digital as the Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) traditionally face-to-face membership business model transforms off the back of a website overhaul.

Pivotal to the residential building industry, the 75-year-old HIA wanted to give its site’s 20,000 members, potential members and anyone with an interest in home building a central, personalised digital experience with strong ecommerce services and marketing automation based on user data.

One key element was content. While parts of the HIA’s previous website were publicly available, much of it was gated from non-members. 

HIA GM, digital, Ben BrookerCredit: HIA
HIA GM, digital, Ben Brooker

“That was an acquisition killer for us, because you had to be a member to understand the value of membership,” said HIA general manager of digital, Ben Brooker. “So we’ve exposed that content on the new site and made it visible and accessible.”

The original template-based site was overhauled and rebuild as a component-based site so HIA could share the same content across various parts of the site, curated and cross-promoted for better exposure.

Content is now split across three tiers: Freemium; accessible in exchange for data; and member-only. People can see what’s available, register a free account and pay for a report or other resources as needed. 

“That enabled us to have the free, high-level content exposed to anyone on the site. Then there’s an upsell - ‘this is the next bit of content you probably need to read’,” said Brooker. 

Award-winning strategy

HIA partnered with customer experience strategy consultancy, Switch to develop the new-look site, which was originally built on the Sitecore platform. Switch's strategy for the site, which won a Good Design Award, had four key goals: To raise awareness and capitalise on it; increase a sense of belonging; grow HIA revenue; and build an efficient digital operating model.

The association’s digital transformation also included improving its onboarding and membership model, an overhaul of ecommerce and continuing professional development structure, and creation of a digital resource library. The latter makes available content previously hidden in PDFs, tagged to refer people to relevant topics. Again, content is gated to three levels of users.

Brooker said Switch challenged HIA “in a really good way”, encouraging the organisation to understand how customer liaison or a product could be digitised but also what that meant from a from a customer point of view.

“It was hard initially to get the business to see that we should no longer have an inside-out view of ourselves," Brooker admitted. "We're now not only seeing how the customer views us, our products and services but also modifying the way we speak to them and about ourselves to ensure their journey is consolidated around what the customer needs next. It hasn't filtered through the whole business yet, but it's definitely made a huge change in the way that we talk about ourselves and with our members and that makes sense.” 

Early results

As part of the launch, HIA needed to re-educate members about the site’s functions, starting with telling them that the simple things are going to be much, much easier. 

“We spent a lot of time making sure search was particularly well defined and well done,” Brooker said. “So our communications emphasised we have mountains of information to support users and, if you search the new site, we’re confident you’ll find what you’re looking for.”  

Positive early results came through just a week or two after the site’s launch. According to Brooker, first-search resolution was already “through the roof” and the HIA received feedback on how pleased users were to find it is as easy as they’d been told. He estimated successful search had already cut query calls and emails to the HIA down by at least 10 per cent.

Integrating ecommerce with CRM and internal fulfilment processes also makes it seamless for customers and saves staff time otherwise spent on manual processes or chasing orders or payments going astray. 

Read more: Digital transformation

HIA's wider business strategy focuses on digitising the business. As more efficiencies are created, staff will be repositioned to add value in more important areas. 

“We have lots of other manual business fulfilment processes, teams and customer engagement offline and want to go through a series of programs of work in the next year or two to bring much more of this into the digital realm,” Brooker said. “Then our staff can spend their time adding more value in conversations with members or in meatier tasks, rather than doing smaller, transactional conversations."

HIA has gone in-depth into online personas to segment its audience, initially building half a dozen personas with which most businesses work.  

“Our membership is so diverse, I'm actually embarrassed to say that we got up to 26 personas,” Brooker said. “Obviously we haven't been able to service them all. At this point, we've rolled them up into broader personas to go live while we focus on core members, and non-members using our services, then anonymous users, and aim for conversion at some stage." 

Brooker planned to dive into sub-segments and more personas longer term. "This site is the foundation for us for the future. We wanted to make sure the site is scalable and global, and that we can definitely use this as building blocks to add to as the next years roll on," he added. 

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