Did you know that we work with one of the UK’s largest travel companies, reviewing their performance data and optimising their user experience? Well, we do and it’s fab. Take a look at how we went about optimising their website to improve their online performance.

It happens every year…

and really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Not to us and certainly not to our client.  The January rush to get this year’s holiday booked is as predictable and certain as the Christmas rush before it and the feeling of ‘was it all really worth it’ that comes after.

Similarly predictable is the call that has come in to us two weeks into the new year, for the last three years.  It goes a little like this: “We’re down on forecast.  We’ll have too much open capacity, unsold rooms and empty flights.  What’s happening?  What’s gone wrong?”

Our client is one of the UK’s most prominent package holiday companies.  Every year, they send millions of us Brits off on amazing holidays around the world and every year, just like every other business, they demand more sales and revenue than they achieved this time last year.  We support them with performance data and analysis and a lot of their marketing decisions are based on our insight.

So, when that call comes in it means that there’s a conference call to come with the media team and the channel specialists and the developers and hosting providers and the booking system team and the IT team and the marketers and the Chief Exec pops by and everyone looks at the data and has their own view.  They have each cut the numbers their way to provide their own perspective and reassurance that it will all be alright in the end.

Then the focus shifts to us.  We’re the data people, after all.  What do we have to say and can we stop the alarm ringing in the customer sales centre and maybe switch off the red beacons that are flashing through the building?

What’s gone wrong?

Cutting the numbers

First things first, we have to find the source of the problem.  This is a forensic analysis of the website’s performance and a review of all of the different causes and potential faults.  We have to provide a clear identification of the source and cause of the problem.

This is the worst part of the review.  Not because it’s a detailed and laborious task or that it’s a hard thing to do – those bits are the things that we get our kicks from to be honest.  No, it’s the worst part because it’s usually the part that proves to be the least palatable part of the medicine we all have to swallow.

This year, the IT team were pointing the finger at the website developers who were blaming the team from the booking system who were blaming the media agency who were blaming IT.

Our detailed analysis of the data looked at everything.  PPC clicks, social traffic, website uptime, 501 errors, transaction times and dates, server uptime and downtime, change requests sent to the web developers, log files and the change history in the CMS. We tracked conversion rates and analysed them year-on-year as well as seasonally and across the last 18 months.  We looked at each and every factor that could possibly have lead to a dip in performance.  And there it was.  In the couple of days between Christmas and New Year a small change to the homepage which had created a 7% fall in conversion rate.  A small change that was making a big difference.

We had the CMS user’s name, IP address and a list of the changes that they’d made.

But it didn’t matter

I don’t say that it didn’t matter because the findings caused a couple of people to feel a little embarrassed.  That was always going to happen and the culture with our client means that no-one’s getting fired.  It didn’t matter because we weren’t going to let it happen again.  It didn’t matter because it was in the past.  It was done and it was never coming back.

The powerful part of our presentation wasn’t what had happened, but what we were going to do about it.  Quick changes to the website homepage got the conversion rate back up to expected and required levels by the end of that business day and the improvements we made to the page moved the conversion rate even higher within the week – sales were beating previous records and our client was happy.

Since then we have implemented a series of multivariant tests on their website.  The homepage, search page, flight and hotel details pages are all encompassed within the test platform.  This means that not only are we now constantly improving the pages, we were removing the subjectivity from the process.  Opinions were out, real performance data was in.

The overall benefit?  Firstly, a client who is now confident that their website is doing what it should and that sales are growing.  Secondly, an end to subjective conversations about why something isn’t working.  Thirdly, a default website that we know converts and performs, so even when nothing is changing, everything is working.  And you can go holiday in the best hotels at the lowest prices.

We’re passionate about helping businesses and organisations grow their business and improve their online marketing. If you’d like our help, then get in touch

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