The world of digital marketing moves at a frightening pace, and a lot of businesses in the leisure sector are far too preoccupied with delivering their daily customer experience to concern themselves with the latest website developments. According to Tracey Burridge, director of creative agency, Tribe, there is one element of web technology that all businesses should be aware of, and that’s the Responsive Web.

Leisure is all about an experience, and customers want this to be fluid and to feel that a website is responding quickly to ‘their’ needs.

One way to achieve this on digital platforms, as well as in the physical leisure environments themselves, is to consider responsive web. Put simply, the responsive web is all about flexibility – the ability for customers to see what they need to see from a website on any device they happen to be using: desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or even gaming consoles.

To put this into context, imagine having a room in a building that is adapted in size and content to suit the requirements of each individual. That’s basically what the responsive web is, but in the digital space, and it’s a room that progressively enhances as time goes on.

Beyond the importance of receiving a great customer experience from the first touch point of a website, responsive web’s other great relevance to the leisure industry is the fact that most people browse leisure in their downtime, and not at work.

Downtime for most people is during the daily commute and time spent waiting – where they are most likely to be using mobile devices such as smartphones. Thus leisure brands need to face the fact that a significant number of customers will first visit their site in this way – and if it’s not really built for mobile – those customers are likely to bounce away to a competitor’s site that is.

When responsive websites are built, there are different considerations to those of ‘normal’ websites. They are usually designed considering smartphones first, as these are the most restrictive platforms that users will view the website on. The responsive web responds to a user’s platform. They log on and the media query decides what they need to see.

The next consideration is what we call ‘content hierarchy’. In short, it’s what the brand wants customers to see and what the customers need to see. Also considered is where the customer is when they make the connection and why they’re visiting the site. The browsing experience can then be personalised even further, helping to make that all-important connection between customer and brand.

Content hierarchy is also important for search engine optimisation (SEO), taking people to the right page of the site that they require and not just the homepage, when they have typed something into a search engine.

It’s also crucial that there is brand consistency across the platforms, as customers may look at a site up to four times during a day on different devices.

So for all of this effort, what will a good responsive website deliver for a brand in terms of ROI?

I estimate that a responsive website takes 30% longer to build than a normal website (web industry mean) and so this time will be reflected in the cost, with a £40,000 website costing £52000 if built to be responsive across platforms. So with this in mind it’s important to show that responsive would recoup this cost and then some.

To begin with, it’s understood that brands that don’t have a responsive website are potentially not communicating to 20% of their customers, so this box can be ticked.

If people can see what they came to find on a website and it’s fast enough and has the key messages they need, their impression of the brand and trust levels increase. We also know that customers will be able to view the site in that most valuable of ‘downtime’ time, wherever that may be.

In my experience, site traffic increases up to 40% following the introduction of responsive web with increased average visit times to boot, which equates to more dwell time and more bookings.

A responsive website is no longer a ‘nice to have’ marketing tool. It’s now expected that a website will offer a smooth, fast and sympathetic service experience. Service starts here now for any brand in the leisure industry, and it represents what the customer expects to see. For me, responsive web represents an opportunity for brands to extend their reach in a more tactile way.

The responsive web is a strategy that copes with more or less anything that is coming around the corner in the digital world and this flexibility means that brands won’t have to keep investing in rebuilding sites every few years, with responsive websites needing to be nurtured as opposed to rebuilt over time.

To conclude then, apart from our own (obviously!), here are two leisure industry responsive websites that I am fond of. Be sure to view them on all platforms to see what I mean.

http://www.cowshedonline.com/spa

Nice use of hand-drawn icons and muted colour pallette creates a cosy, friendly feel. The use of a fixed full-width-background image on the desktop version creates a striking parallax effect.

http://www.goldenisles.com/

The problem of squeezing links into a horizontal navigation at smaller breakpoints has been solved by elegantly dropping it down to two rows (whilst the logo stays the same). On mobile devices, the navigation links are made into 'easy-to-click' buttons. Perfect for grown up fingers! The search box is made more prominent, as mobile users often need to find content quicker with less page-loads.

For more information on responsive web visit the website or follow @tribeuk.