From Cheerios brightening up breakfast tables to Blue Buffalo delighting our four-legged friends, General Mills has been delivering joy at mealtimes for over 150 years. At Sitecore Symposium 2022, Emma Wick, Delivery Manager at General Mills, and Matt Hummel, Chief Experience Officer at Paragon Consulting held a breakout session detailing how the food giant scaled and modernized its website and improved the customer experience.

General Mills background and challenges

General Mills’ goal as a company is to make food that the world loves. They want to bring people together while also positively impacting the world around them.

When it was time for General Mills to update their out-of-support legacy Sitecore platform, they took the opportunity to re-evaluate the digital experience they were offering. They wanted to ensure they were meeting the needs of their business, their individual brands, and ensure they were accurately and effectively telling the story of General Mills’ offerings and values.

House of brands vs. branded house

General Mills has a very diverse set of site audiences, encompassing brand-curious consumers, advocate consumers, career seekers, partners, investors, NGOs, and media. Paragon Consulting needed to take these various groups into consideration and create a site that was inspiring, practical, and brand-forward. They needed to modernize the site’s look and feel, without compromising the brand’s emotional appeal.

Consumer-centric vs. brand-centric

There was a complexity on the business side of stakeholders – legal and compliance, technical resources, design resources, marketing, and the main stakeholder - corporate communication. Corporate communication had an overarching goal to make sure that every visitor experience, regardless of their intent, wasn’t intrusive. They also wanted to ensure there was meaningful engagement for all users. Users would be able to complete their task in an easy way that made them feel they could trust the General Mills brand.

Paragon Consulting’s plan included a simple IA, a customer-centric content strategy, and dynamic, taxonomy-driven content display. They were also mindful about promoting opportunities to engage with the brand and telling the brand story as part of the experience. In addition, it was necessary to establish a framework for future personalization.

Form vs. function

Paragon Consulting took a mobile-first design approach, not only because it was a way of promoting the site that was inclusive for mobile users, but it also helped them focus on simplicity and streamline information hierarchy.

Accessibility was also a key focus. They partnered with WeCo, an accessibility audit company that employs people with disabilities to audit websites.

The content strategy was focused on making it very easy for people to find and consume content — they were targeting a fifth- to eighth-grade reading level. They also needed to honor an overarching communication goal of getting people to experience the brand story, even though they may not come there for that purpose.

Dynamically placed content — articles, news stories, blogs, press releases — were tagged so that as people encountered pages, brand story content was dynamically being fed to them. As they learned what individuals were consuming, they could continue to provide them with brand story information that would become increasingly relevant and personalized for each user.

As General Mills is also in the business of delighting people, they wanted to include “frosting moments” to make their digital experiences a little sweeter. One example is their 404 pages, which leverage the Cheerio cereal brand to deliver a “Cheeri-oh-no!” error message.

Today vs. tomorrow

Paragon Consulting and General Mills took an agile approach to the redesign. They wanted to make sure they were using the out-of-the-box SXA component wherever they could and didn’t want to rebuild something that was already built. However, they also wanted to make sure they were being as thoughtful as possible. They looked at what the business needed now and what could be rolled out later, the “nice to have” vs. the “need to have” so they could launch as soon as possible with an MVP solution.

Once the site was rolled out across all markets, they continued to enhance the website, making sure they were adding functionality that would continue to teach customers about their brands while also giving them new ways to connect with General Mills.

An agile approach allowed the team to create new features, including their “G Stands for Good” section that outlines General Mills’ CSR initiatives.

Designed for scale

The site’s technical architecture includes a master repository of content items which can easily be shared or repurposed on international sites. Site components can also be cloned for use on regional sites. A pattern library and brand guidelines ensure a consistent, seamless user experience.

Learnings and outcomes

As it was important for General Mills to establish stakeholder input and buy-in early, they set a regular meeting cadence. They wanted to make sure that what they were doing was as data-driven as possible, so that the team could validate any assumptions they had, test concepts and IA with prospective audiences, and back up their decisions with data. About halfway through the project they decided to carry out a review, which really helped iron out any issues before the project was completed.

Since relaunching the site, performance and user engagement have improved considerably. Lighthouse scores are up from a range of 68-74 to 90-98, session durations have improved by 16 seconds, and page views have improved by 8.9%.

Something the company didn’t anticipate was the need to create a product recall page. This was easily resolved by developing a microsite template that could be used to quickly spin up dedicated product recall pages when required.

Moving forward, General Mills wants to ensure that the website continues to evolve. The company is planning to roll out multiple international versions of the site, as well as chat functionalities, extend analytics for insights into coupons, create an executive voice platform, enhanced social media features and upgrade investor relations and recruitment sections.

To see if Sitecore Experience Accelerator can help you update your website, learn more here.

Fiona Hilliard is a Content Marketing Manager at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.