At a click
An internet presence is regarded as essential for the majority of businesses and nursery groups are no exception. The 20 largest chains all have dedicated websites and a click through the Nursery Chains directory reveals that most of the others do too.
"Nursery websites have really taken off in the past three to four years as a marketing tool," says Melissa Kao, company director of NurseryCam. "We have got people coming to us to design a website because they feel they'll lose out to other local nurseries if they do not have a web presence. But nursery chains tend to be more business-minded and are more aware of the technology and sales channels than individual nurseries. A lot of nursery chains have had websites for many years and are now updating their sites."
Treetops Private Day Nurseries' website is an "invaluable tool", according to marketing manager Helen Bower. She says, "It is the first thing that busy working mums and dads look at to get a feel for the company.
"The website is about educating people to understand the nurseries' ethos. There is also information about where the individual nurseries are located, career opportunities in the company and information on the company as a whole. We can give all that at the click of a button."
Toad Hall Nursery Group has had a website for less than a year and it already generates approximately 22 per cent of the chain's requests for information. Leapfrog Day Nurseries aims to achieve an average of 5,000 individual visits to its website from different people each week. Director Nigel Moon says, "It is a really important part of our marketing armoury and delivers a lot of enquiries."
Through monitoring traffic on nursery websites, NurseryCam has found that a lot of parents do their childcare research at night. "Ten o'clock at night is the peak hour," says Melissa Kao. "Of course, nursery managers are not on call through the evening so the site makes it possible for the nursery to do the marketing out of hours. Parents have a lot of time to browse during the evening and go to a lot of pages such as the facilities, fees, philosophy, curriculum and link through to the Ofsted report. They also like to request or download a prospectus online. Parents also like to use the websites to arrange a visit to the nursery."
Many chains' websites have a home page to that groups all the nurseries together and then incorporates links through to the nurseries, so that each can give the browsing parent an idea of its individual character.
When designing its website Kids Inc Nurseries studied other nursery chains' sites and decided on a different approach - even including pictures of nursery pets! - which contributed to the site winning Nursery World's Nursery Website of the Year 2005. Balvinder Kalsi says, "The majority of nursery sites give a lot of information about the company and head office but not much about the individual nurseries. We have taken the opposite approach because parents want to know who will be caring for their child, who is in charge of their child's nursery and what it looks like. They do not care about the corporate level. We also wanted to make the site personal to existing parents so they can keep in touch. It is an informal and personal website."
Consumer first impressions count a lot, according to Melissa Kao. "If a nursery group does not improve its website and it looks old fashioned then parents can have the impression that the nursery is the same. Not updating fees and details such as phone numbers is also a big mistake," she says, "It affects the selling point of the nursery. If a nursery group does not care enough to do the website well then parents can doubt the quality of the childcare service."
Leapfrog'ís Nigel Moon says, "It is our goal to keep the website as current as we can and we do small updates pretty much everyday. Content management and updating copy and pictures is done in-house by the marketing team. If there is a big change to be made, such as re-designing a page, then the web designers help us with that.
website current is a joy and a battle but the more we put in then the
more we get out. There is a definite business heed so it is important to
invest the time."
Director Nigel Moon says, "The website enhances the values of our brand - that we are an open, caring company with children and parent at the heart." It has four main targets:
To make the site easier to navigate, the number of tabs on the home page has been reduced from around 16 to eight. The language is simple and the aim is to keep the site looking clean and modern, but not clinical.
gives people a clear feeling for what to except when they go to the
nursery - the look and feel of the nurseries and what happens there,"
says Mr Moon, "It is like a window into the nursery. In fact, we have a
video on the site which is a nice touch. We produced a DVD and put it on
to add more background to what we do. It also gives the site a more