North Hills

Raleigh’s midtown is a bustling district full of places and destinations for business people, families, and singles alike. With over 200 venues, North Hills came to Walk West to personalize the growing district into something personal for every type of patron.

The Challenge

How do you personalize a digital experience for a massively diverse mixed-use development? That question was on the forefront of our minds as we began a new and cutting-edge approach to what is typical for mixed-use developments and malls all together.

While North Hills explodes with new eateries, hotels, retailers, and parks, the marketing team realized a fresh approach was needed for their digital presence. We worked with Eckel & Vaughan to devise a comprehensive strategy to personalize the North Hills experience while reducing the number of clicks needed to get the visitor to where they were going. We also wanted to make the experience high end and fun – mirroring the development. We employed a responsive framework equipped with a custom-built search allowing users to quickly use keywords to navigate the site. This was a primary departure from the typical approach used by mixed-use developments and malls across the country: a directory.

“O3 came to the table with a well thought out solution. It was obvious to us that they had done their homework and provided detailed research for each of their ideas. The end result was something that was unique and catered to the North Hills audience. We look forward to continuing our partnership with O3 moving forward.”

CEO, Kane Realty Corporation John Kane

The Solution

A lot of questions were asked. We wireframed every key piece of the website down to the smallest detail based on the answers we discovered. We validated each of these answers with North Hills along the way.

North Hills is a wonderful development full of vibrant store fronts and boutique eateries. It was important to the North Hills’ marketing staff that the digital presence reflect the feel of spending a sunny Saturday around the property. We wanted to capture the first person experience of North Hills from behind a screen.

We started our strategic messaging by asking the user one simple question: what would you like to do in North Hills today? By personalizing that experience and catering exactly what the user was looking for at every step of the site would be paramount in reducing click paths to get the user where they were going whether it be a restaurant’s menu or to find out when a particular location opened.

This lead way to one of the key features of the site: a robust keyword search tool. We realized that browsing directories was more of a “mall” experience and North Hills could not be any different from a traditional mall. Additionally, browsing a directory only gives location based results – not necessarily real time results of what’s currently happening around the development. Searching across content types from store fronts to events would be important in rounding out that first initial experience and getting the user from point A to point B in no time flat. Our search encompasses how people use the Internet today and showcases just how Google has transformed digital experiences. We don’t want users to browse a list of 140+ locations when a single search for “sushi” would be sufficient.

Not everyone wants to search and not everyone knows exactly what they’re looking for. So we put a great amount of emphasis on the browse functionality allowing users to freely find what they’re looking for in a set of action-based terms: Shop, Dine, Play, Work, Stay, and Live. Using these terms, a user with no familiarity with North Hills would understand that the property is much, much different from your traditional mall.

We took this intel further and made UI and UX enhancements to every key piece of content throughout the site resulting in a rich and vibrant experience fully indicative of the North Hills brand.

“We didn’t want just another website. We wanted something that reflected the North Hills brand. From our first meeting, we were more than confident in O3 to be able to provide this experience. The process was smooth and the end result speaks for itself.”

General Manager, North Hills Bonner Gaylord

An Inquisitive Homepage

We start with one simple question: “What would you like to do in North Hills today?” and let the user determine where they go next. A simple keyword search across categories, tags, events, and locations gives users an opportunity to discover North Hills right there above the fold and without doing anything else.

Events are an important draw for the Midtown community as well as the merchants who call North Hills home. We highlight 5 events with a call to action to see the full event calendar.

We explore the two primary consumer draws to North Hills with large advertisement areas for retail establishment and restaurant venues. A large profile image of the first location on the list gets displayed neatly to the side of the list.

The North Hills Live Blog is a brand new addition to the North Hills digital experience and was conceptualized by our friends Eckel & Vaughan. We feature two stories from North Hills Live which is more of a lifestyle blog than a general news and media room. More on that later.

A Presence For Places

One of the primary departures from the old North Hills website was the mundane and uniform nature of each of their merchant location pages. We kept with the familiar large cover photo theme with each of the merchant location pages. Using North Hills’ abundance of fantastic photography allowed us to capture the personality of each location. Coquette’s page looks like Coquette while Chuy’s looks like Chuy’s.

We continued the theme of offering the user real time information pertinent to their interests. We give a snapshot of opening and closing times based on the current day and time, gave quick access to ancillary materials such as menus and reservations for dining establishments, and give a quick color-coded map of the venue based on the district it resides.

The same search box featured prominently on the homepage finds its home as a complementary feature across each of these location pages as well as quick social profile links for that particular location’s social presences.

Different By Design

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