Giftware Association embraces the digital revolution with new-look website

StephanieHalThe Giftware Association’s new-look website – which is being launched to coincide with Spring Fair 2013 – is set to embrace the digital revolution.

Innovative web strategies will herald the introduction of new e-learning opportunities – including webinars, digital training programmes and live streaming – as The GA seeks to modernise the image of trade associations.

“We want to create so much value for members that it will be literally pouring out of the cup,” says marketing and communications manager Stephanie Hale. “Our new web strategies will better meet their online needs. Many members are very tech savvy and this will help them feel that they are part of a forward-thinking organisation.”

The association has studied Google Analytics and the ‘user journey’ made by members visiting The GA website and is now able to offer them “genuine value by giving them more of what they want”.

Stephanie says the new platform will also engender a “sense of community” among retail members. She adds: “They are currently being underserved. The high street is extremely competitive and those running their own individual shops can feel they are operating in silos with nobody to talk to and nowhere to go to acquire information and intelligence.

“We intend to change that by making the website a regular, must-visit hub. They will be able to meet other retailers in forums and, led by experts, seek advice and discuss their own work experiences and the issues that concern them.”

As The GA strives for greater interaction between its members, it will also create a virtual showroom where supplier members will have the option to display images of their products to retailer members. This gallery will be themed for special occasions and events throughout the year – such as Easter – and give retailer members the first opportunity to see new products and special offers.

Access to the virtual showroom – as with the forums – will only be granted to members. Some of the member webinars will be free, offering best practice, advice and knowledge. Others will be more specific and drilled down into bespoke training programmes: some will be discounted by more than 50% for members.

Stephanie continues: “These e-learning opportunities will be tailored to individual needs. E-learning offers big advantages over the bricks and mortar seminar: there are no travel costs or time spent away from the office, which means that afterwards members of staff can immediately return to work. And in most instances they can revisit the webinar or training programme.”

She is urging member companies to encourage staff from their various departments – such as marketing, accounts and distribution – to become regular users of The GA website and maximise the benefit they receive from information. Stephanie cites the recent GA warnings about anti-dumping duties on ceramic products out of China, which saved businesses thousands of pounds.

Members will also benefit from the online guides provided by The GA’s service providers and other industry experts. These will cover a range of subjects – from intellectual property protection (Copywatch) and visual merchandising to marketing, PR, bookkeeping and insurance.

Non-members will, however, still be able to visit The GA website for free core information and will also have access to the 100-word profiles – each with three product images, a logo, social media icons and relevant press releases – which GA supplier members are being encouraged to upload onto the website with contact details.

Keywords from these which are entered into a search engine would then direct users to The GA website and the supplier in question. There will be no charge for these profiles, but those wishing to enhance them by adding a video, brochure or additional pictures will pay a fee.

Retailer members are also being asked to upload profiles of their businesses – each with a shop front image. These will also be carried free on the website, together with contact information and a map giving location details, making it easier for suppliers to find them. The new-look GA website will also be easier to navigate, with the home page having separate click-on points for retailers and suppliers and a simplified membership subscription process.

Stephanie concludes: “It’s not always about revenue from new members: we want to offer and serve existing members by delivering tangible benefits and generating opportunities for them to promote themselves. We want to take our members with us, and these changes will be phased in over the coming year as we introduce a system that is based on their collaboration, their experience and their knowledge.”