Case study: How a site redesign doubled returning visitors

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Red Door Interactive was hired to build an entirely new site for Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants, a chain of all-you-care-to-eat dining experiences that focus on fresh ingredients. We formulated strategies and recommendations of our own, but we wanted to hear directly from the most dedicated fans -- the more than 1.3 million members of the Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Club Veg, the company's advisory board (the Kitchen Cabinet), and users of the site. Because of their loyal following and passion for the brand, we wanted to build a site for them, by them. So, we sent out surveys and incorporated those results into our design, a step that, in the end, allowed us to validate our entire process from discovery and strategy through design and implementation.

The challenge: Build a state-of-the-art site incorporating social media and more
Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes' online community had been growing strong since Red Door Interactive launched its Facebook and Twitter properties early in 2009. Facebook fans numbered more than 48,000 fans, and Twitter had more than 13,000 followers. We needed to unify that loyal following and grow it within the new site as well as cross-promote contests and monthly menu promotions.

When coming to the new site, we wanted users to see Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes as a fresh, wholesome dining choice -- where food goes straight from "farm to fork." It needed to tell the story of how the company hand-picks its growers for the highest quality ingredients and uses those to create made-from-scratch salads, soups, and baked goods. The content needed to be playful and ever changing. The site needed to allow the users to make it their own, just like in-store where you create your own unique meal and experience. With the opportunity to plan, design, develop, and implement a completely new site from the ground up, it allowed us to create a completely customized experience for users.

The goals

  • Keep it fresh: Contemporize the site; make it relevant, exciting, interactive, and delicious; and give the users a reason to keep coming back.
  • Engage the audience: Implement a blog that allows guests to get inspired, share, communicate, and engage in fresh content. Include a section with fun activities for kids.
  • Personalize: Allow users to make this site their own just like the in-store experience.
  • Grow Club Veg: Increase customer loyalty and grow memberships through initiatives such as refer-a-friend campaigns.
  • Grow the community: Create an environment for the active social community to engage on the site via live Facebook and Twitter feeds.
  • Make shopping easy: Develop a complex shopping cart for online gift card purchases that allows users to ship to multiple addresses.
  • Improve technology: Develop the site in the latest .NET platform for increased security, stability, and sustainability.
  • Increase store traffic: Boost in-store sales via an easy-to-use fundraising-booking tool.
  • Localize: Allow users to select their home store, which gets memorized and allows users to receive localized content and special promotions each visit.
  • Searchability: Make the site SEO friendly to maximize organic rankings, traffic, and conversions.
  • Optimize: Research, plan, select, and install an enterprise-class web analytics tool.

The solution

Overall site. is a completely customizable experience. Users can select their favorite background (mine is the penne pasta as you see above) and home store. Immediately they are served with promotions for their local restaurant such as a brunch call-out, and it remembers their choices each return visit.

For the homepage animation, we used one simple word -- indulge -- to tell seven unique stories about Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants. There is a surprise and story behind every letter in the word "indulge." For example, the letter U tells the story of how the company hand-picks its farmers, the letter E highlights its made-from-scratch menu items, and the letter N showcases the salad bar, and so forth.

Fresh Ideas blog. The blog encourages visitors to communicate and discover fresh content. You can comment on blogs, tweet them, or share them to any social community such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. We also included a Facebook fan box and a Twitter stream with live feeds. Users can share what their favorite menu item is or even go as far as recommending a new one. The robust search allows you to find any blog topic, or you can just browse by category or popular tag cloud.

For Sprouts Only section. In this section of the site, designed for kids, you can play an interactive arcade game called Spud-Man, with classic music and all. Downloads in this section include coloring sheets, activity sheets, and a "Travel with Sweetie" picture. Animated screen savers and fresh desktop screens are also available.

Gift card shopping cart. We completely rebuilt the entire cart adding functionality and ease of use.

Join Club Veg form. We optimized the form and functionality to include localization and kept it short and sweet.

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Nona Carson
Nona Carson June 8, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Great case study; congrats and thanks for sharing! I cringed when I saw the one week for internal testing - ha- can relate. We had a client last year who actually let us do focus group testing (rare!) during a beta launch and it made a huge difference in the final site. Agree w/the research on the front else could your brand be aligned with your customers? Proof is in the numbers!

Liz Zedo
Liz Zedo June 8, 2010 at 10:50 AM

Great reminder on the real objectives and achievements that internet publishers should keep their minds and teams focused on - the users! Users/traffic are what makes the advertisers pay the publisher more money!!

Marketing Manager
ZEDO Advertising Technology