Overview

Chicago is one of the largest (and, in our opinion, one of the best) metropolises in the country. But the city’s official tourism and convention bureau, Choose Chicago, didn’t have a website that matched the only-in-Chicago visitor experience.

In 2019, Destination ENV was brought in to revamp the website’s functionality and visual identity — while showcasing the very best of the city and Choose Chicago’s 1,500 member businesses.

The Approach

The challenge

After driving record visitation with goal-shattering media campaigns, it was time for the Destination ENV team to turn our attention to where we were driving the majority of traffic — the Choose Chicago website.

Even with thousands of pages of website content, Choose Chicago struggled with how to use data to connect users with relevant experiences and partners. And the look and feel of the site didn’t reflect the vibrancy of Chicago and the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

After an in-depth discovery period, Envisionit’s recommendation was to start fresh and scrap every element of the website  — with the exception of the member database that could not be moved. 

In addition to a new visually driven approach, Envisionit recommended a series of integrations and custom functionality built on a strong yet flexible foundation.   

THE WORK

The work

We embarked on a multi-year initiative to reimagine the property, including leading stakeholder interviews and requirement definition, auditing nearly 4,000 pages of content, and building a new visual experience from scratch.

Here are just a few of the steps along the journey:

Visual experience

  • Established a new visually rich, mobile-first approach with an emphasis on video and new photography.
  • Led photo and video shoots, as well as post-production editing.

Content strategy

  • Aligned content strategy to our behavioral and contextual media approach.
  • Performed a full audit, clean-up, and migration of existing content.
  • Provided copywriting to incorporate brand voice and new messaging.
  • Optimized templates and rewrote content for key pages to enhance technical and on-page SEO

Website functionality 

  • Re-platformed the site from Simpleview CMS to WordPress for increased flexibility and customization.
  • Overhauled site taxonomy and architecture with a new focus on visitor stage and search intent.
  • Added integrations with Expedia, Simpleview CRM, Crowdriff, Mapbox, Miles Media ad network, and BotsCrew.
  • Established a data infrastructure and tagging strategy to capitalize on related content opportunities and enhance site search.
  • Reconfigured, enhanced, and optimized key parts of the site, including member business listings, event listing pages, and neighborhood pages
  • Integrated digital display ad strategy and significantly scaled and enhanced onsite revenue opportunities.
  • Created separate on-site experiences for secondary audiences (meeting planners, travel trade, members, and Chicago Sports Commission).

All this, while maintaining their existing CRM.

The results

The new website has exceeded all previous benchmarks for visitation, content engagement, and key conversion goals across hotel/trip bookings, visitor guide downloads, and meeting RFP leads.

  • 18% increase in organic traffic
  • 25% increase in traffic to partner listings
  • 305% increase in blog visits
  • 9.4 million website visits in 2021, a new record

Since the site launched in September 2019, we’ve seen significant increases in traffic to the blog, partner listings, and events calendar — even through an industry-devastating pandemic. 

Typically, site migrations can cause a decrease in organic traffic. But our careful planning and execution avoided any negative impact. In fact, we saw an increase in organic traffic just a few short weeks after launching the new site. 

In 2021, the website received a record 9.4 million visits and won Best Website at the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism. Plus, Chicago was named Best Big City in the U.S. by Condè Nast Traveler readers — the only city to ever win this award for five years in a row.

Finally, the new website is an improved experience not only for frontend users, but also for the people that have to manage the backend. The new website and content framework is dynamic and flexible, enabling Choose Chicago’s small, but mighty, web team to manage the site with ease. This has also made it easier to adapt and evolve the site during the various stages of the pandemic, and whatever the future may hold for the tourism industry.