Hands on: Royal &SunAlliance

With more than two million direct customers and a large range of products and partners, insurance group Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) realised it was not maximising the potential of its online presence. The group's portal was made up of 25 individual web sites corresponding to its many different lines of business – for example home insurance or motor insurance – plus links to external business partners. With the launch of its new consumer brand MORE TH>N in February 2001, R&SA decided it would consolidate all of these sites into one single point of access for customers.

Although originally the different sites were linked by an HTML-based homepage, many were built on incompatible technologies. As a result of this, R&SA could not offer customers a single point of registration, could not track customer activity across the multiple sites, and was unable to take advantage of significant cross-selling opportunities.

Furthermore, many financial services organisations had already developed sites that allowed customers a single point of online access to multiple products and services, so R&SA had to work fast to keep up with its competitors. R&SA set a hard deadline of June 2001 for the completion of the MORE TH>N portal, giving developers just over three months to the relaunch date.

The group considered a number of options, including partial reprogramming of each of the sites. However, this would have made R&SA very dependent on particular people with the relevant skills, says Mark Christer, R&SA's ebusiness manager. As for completely redeveloping its online presence, R&SA simply did not have the time, and felt that the financial cost would also be unnecessarily high.

The various R&SA sites already had a lot of functions the group wanted to keep, for example insurance quote calculators, so the team did not want to have to redevelop everything from scratch. The company's re-branding was also being kept as secret as possible, so R&SA did not want all of its partners to know too much about it beforehand.

R&SA opted to use the Net2020 system from software vendor InterX. Net2020 sits on top of InterX's Bladerunner content management system, bringing together content and applications from all areas of the group's activities into one, unified portal. This allowed R&SA to re-use all the capabilities it wanted to use, and "none of the other solutions we saw offered us this", says Christer.

A team of between 10 and 20 systems integrators worked on developing the Net2020 system for R&SA, which took approximately two months to complete. The team also carried out substantial load and performance testing on the portal to ensure scalability, reliability and security. In terms of branding, the design and layout of each site had previously been extremely varied, so R&SA redesigned pages to give the site a common look and feel throughout.

Since the relaunch, R&SA's site is seeing double the activity in terms of unique and repeat visitors. When MORE TH>N's launch advertising campaign began in June, the portal was receiving 100,000 unique visitors a day. Since then, visitor numbers have stabilised at around 20,000, according to Christer. R&SA is also now better able to cross-sell and upsell its products, and the proportion of customers buying new products online, rather than through another channel, has risen to between 8% and 12% of total sales.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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