A Pirate’s Bay
For hundreds of years, pirates, sailors and indigenous island peoples have visited a tiny island called Jost Van Dyke now part of the British Virgin Islands. Since 1971, the Soggy Dollar Bar, on Jost’s White Bay, has been an oasis for modern sailors, vacationers, and beach bums – a beach bar where you could stop to sip one of their signature Original Painkiller drinks while watching the waves splash on arguably one of the most beautiful shores in the Caribbean.
Before: A Throw-back Beach with an Antiquated Webcam
While on vacation back in 2012, Steve & his wife Carrie took a day charter over to White Bay and he noticed they had a webcam installed but their website wasn’t displaying any imagery. He asked the manager and they explained how it had ‘broken’ a few weeks back and they couldn’t get it working. Challenge accepted! Steve work for an hour in their small office above the bar and had the camera updating fairly low-resolution SVGA images every 1 minute for the rest of the world to catch a timelapse glimpse of White Bay beach life.
After: A New HD Video & Live Streaming on a Budget
Fast forward a few years – Steve and his wife Carrie now stay at Sandcastle Hotel (Soggy Dollar’s 6 room bungalow ‘hotel’) for a week in March each year. In 2016, Steve mentioned recent work on streaming HD webcams to the managers and how, if their internet was fast and stable enough, we could help out. We have had great success using a custom application to send a custom RTSP stream to YouTube live events. This removes the normal monthly fee for streaming to a 3rd party video streaming services AND puts all the bandwidth requirements (other than the single stream) on YouTube. It also enhances a client’s YouTube Channel by bringing back repeat visitors to watch the webcam(s) and see other video offerings in the sidebar. Webcams typically make sites more ‘sticky’ for new and returning visitors alike and clients can not only use the viewing page to display alternate content (online store specials, lodging availability, future events), but also use the launch of the camera and as an opportunity to communicate. They liked the idea. So over the summer we ordered the camera and set it up on a test platform in our Vermont office.
In October 2016, as the leaves began to fall off the trees in Vermont, and the first snow fell, Steve (and Carrie) loaded up backpacks and fashioned a large handle to the Axis network camera box and flew down to the Virgin Islands for a ‘working’ start to their annual stick season vacation.
Steve spent the first morning on Jost Van Dyke setting up the camera in the Soggy Dollar office, installing software, updating firmware, and testing firewall, bandwidth and YouTube integration. The maintenance staff helped create a custom wedge for the Axis mount and the camera was up and running in a hidden account before Halloween. By the second day, the camera had been streaming for 18 hours to YouTube without noticeable impact to the office staff’s or visitors’ internet usage.
General Manager Jamie Gladman spent the afternoon modifying how the new public webpage would look and planned the official announcement via a Facebook post on the morning of Thursday, November 3rd. The sharp new website would have links to the Webcam page, which in turn had a call-to-action to hopefully drive traffic to their newly updated online storefront.
(Not So) Shocking ‘Hockey Stick’ Launch Day
As we expected, visitors that already spent time looking at the antiquated 60-second refresh still image kept coming and stayed longer. Then there were thousands of others who visited from browsers and smartphones. They came from the website, Facebook, emails, and texts from their friends, and YouTube. At one point on the 1st day, we saw a steady 200 simultaneous visitors staring at the stream from the website and another 25 on YouTube directly. The first day saw a 630% increase of visitor sessions from the daily average.
Two weeks later…
After nearly 2 weeks, the excitement has settled down and we see an entirely new baseline of website analytics that proves the theory: a little investment in quality technology pays back in both volume and quality.
Better Visitors and more of them
The new daily average sessions are up over 2.8x!
- Sessions are up 300%
- Users up 260%
- Pageviews are up 257%, and
- Average Session Duration (time spent on the site) is up almost 25%.
Granted the bounce rate is higher, but with a single page containing a sexy view, that is expected and actually not as bad as we predicted.
If we had a mantra here at VickeryHill, it would probably be “a website is not a poster.” Even before the launch, we were already coming up with future possibilities for SoggyDollar.com. We’ve laid out communication/marketing opportunities including broadcast email, online store promotions, Facebook advertising, timelapse videos, and even live audio streaming for beach events. We’ll look at the analytics 4-6 weeks from now and possibly make suggestions for layout, navigation and action calls.
It’s still early days with this new technology, and it’s early into the 2016/2017 winter season down in the Virgin Islands, but for us (and many, many others), the new streaming HD webcam gives us a live glimpse at a beach paradise when things up in Vermont (or around the world) aren’t the sun-shiny peachiness we hoped for.
We’ve even got it live on our 32″ LED video conference screen in the barn!
If you want to talk whether you’ve got the view to give some stickiness to your website, give us a call.