Degroof Petercam has thrived over its 150-year history by continually updating its services to meet customers’ changing needs. After a thorough audit of its public marketing ecosystem, the company realized it was lagging when it came to modern marketing practices. Management concluded it was time for a complete digital transformation.
Degroof Petercam had six public websites, each with its own database and siloed content. Site performance was slow and varied from one site to the next. No one was tagging or targeting content to guide site visitors on any kind of customer journey. And though the company’s blog boasted rich content — more than 2,500 articles on all kinds of financial topics — it garnered low search rankings and little traffic due to poor SEO practices.
“We saw that we could double the amount of content we generated, or revise and optimize it endlessly, but because of our scattered, non-unified digital estate and poor SEO fundamentals, none of it would make more than minimal impact,” says Evert Willems, head of digital marketing at Degroof Petercam. “We were not set up for success.”
After a period of analysis and observation, the digital team determined the company needed a headless CMS to consolidate its websites and assure that valuable content could be reused across digital channels. Contentful was chosen not only because it is a leading headless CMS solution, but also because of its API-first structure, wide range of integrations and scalability.
Degroof Petercam’s websites included market specific corporate websites, each on its own domain. There was also a lead management website, a press page, a lead-management website, a site for publications and the blog.
The disadvantages of having many separate sites were myriad: - Any porting of content from one site to the next was via manual copy-paste - Staff knowledge and skills that applied to one site did not apply to another - Governance was different for each site which was both expensive and inefficient - Each site had its own risks so total risk to the organization was high - Operating multiple different sites was expensive and scaling to support growth was complex and difficult
“Our main goal was to condense all our sites onto one technology stack where we would be able to scale and iterate much more quickly than in the past, while reducing our costs and our risk footprint,” Evert says.
Working with Belgian front-end development consultancy, Two Point O, Degroof Petercam decided not to overhaul all its sites at once, but instead begin with its largest and most complex site, the blog. Getting this transformation right would make lots of great content available for other sites, and would set the methods and direction for refactoring the rest of Degroof Petercam’s digital estate.
The blog was entirely rebuilt in just three months. “That’s pretty impressive for a project of this size, in my experience,” says Evert. The top 400 articles were refactored for better SEO, including new metadata to improve indexability for search engines. The user interface and user experience were also reworked and improved.
What made the build so fast was the component library that Degroof Petercam and Two Point O paired with a flexible content structure inside Contentful. Content thus lives inside Contentful, ready to be re-used wherever needed, while the visual components are managed outside of the platform. Thanks to this approach, the content author who works in Contentful only has to think about the content while the display on the page is handled automatically.
The new blog loads, navigates and refreshes much faster than before the rebuild. Embracing the benefits of static websites. SEO has improved tremendously, as evidenced by higher blog traffic and search rankings. These great results validated the new architecture, technology choices and working methods for the team.
All of the newly refactored blog content is now fully reusable for other purposes, making it much faster to build new tools and customer-facing services, and also guaranteeing consistent content across all digital assets.
Degroof Petercam and Two Point O took advantage of reusability for the next project: a sales enablement tool. Like the blog, the tool is run on Contentful. Drawing on the blog and other useful content, the new tool allows Degroof Petercam salespeople to rapidly build a customized packet for a new prospect from any device, and send it immediately to the prospect via a unique link.
Building the sales enablement tool took just seven weeks. Building more new internal tools or customer interfaces will also take much less time than in the past. “We estimate we can deliver a new project in half the previous time, because of all the building blocks we have now,” says Yana Dirkx, digital customer experience consultant at Two Point O.
The sales enablement tool is just one example of how much the new digital platform has already changed marketing for Degroof Petercam.
We can very quickly deploy landing pages or other new content, and distribute it. That's not something which has historically been the case for us. So for the business side, Contentful been a very obvious benefit. - Evert Willems, head of digital marketing at Degroof Petercam
Consolidating onto a single platform means Degroof Petercam’s entire digital estate can be hosted in a single location. “That alone makes the business case for our new platform,” Evert says.
Operating in several different countries means that content has to be localized for each location’s specific laws and regulations. Contentful allows Degroof Petercam to create content that’s both consistent across all locations and modified as needed for each country, and to do it efficiently and at scale.
Segmenting content for specific types of customers is also important to Degroof Petercam, which provides financial services for a wide range of customers. Integrating data stores with Contentful’s content structure makes it easy to design informative and persuasive customer journeys for each type of visitor to Degroof Petercam’s website.
Many organizations have found that with content placed at the center of their digital architecture, development, marketing and editorial colleagues can collaborate much more easily. Degroof Petercam and Two Point O were delighted to discover that the content-first approach enables better agency-client collaboration, too.
This small-batch, iterative approach was new to both companies — and very effective. “We were able to work on one element, test, see how it evolved and scaled, and adapt as we learned,” Yana says.
Working on small batches is, of course, the classic Agile approach — but it’s not always easy to carry out, as Yana observes. “Everyone wants to be agile, but we've noticed that it is usually just waterfall in disguise,” she says. “But once we implemented the correct process, we saw an increase in speed. The development team was much more sure of what they needed to accomplish, and when they needed to accomplish it.”
The small-batch, iterative approach was not only faster, it was also a good path for two companies working together for the first time. “This was really the best project approach for building trust with the client,” Yana says. “When you start with a smaller project, you get to see what the customer values, what they find important, and you can build on that.”
The successful implementation of Degroof Petercam’s new digital content platform has encouraged the company to move forward with Two Point O on several projects. One important effort is the complete integration of all sites into a single domain. Once complete, this will strengthen domain authority for Degroof Petercam, building search rankings and traffic across all areas of the website. Core Web Vitals, which have already improved, should improve even more once all assets reside at a single domain. It will also be easier to keep the entire digital estate secure, and will lower hosting and other maintenance costs.
Nurturing customers and prospects more effectively is another goal. With the new digital content architecture and personalization technology, Degroof Petercam can target content to more precisely defined customer segments. “We’ll be bringing more dynamic customer journeys to life,” says Evert.
The successful development of the new sales enablement tool has shown how quickly and easily new products can be built with the digital component library, so the team is planning some new content integrations.
Degroof Petercam is now fully enabled to take advantage of new technology developments as the company grows its footprint and ambitions. “We are truly set up for success,” Evert says.
*Two Point O part of Xplore Group, is a digital development consultancy company headquartered in Kontich, Belgium. Two Point O strives to co-create scalable and maintainable solutions, using battle-tested best-of-breed technologies. By allowing their customers to focus on the business challenges at hand, they want to act as a catalyst for new ideas and empower their clients to implement these ideas with incremental speed to market.