How can a brand increase customer conversions via the all-important mobile channel – without requiring any changes to its underlying technology? This is the challenge that Elsewhen recently had to overcome for our client Secret Escapes in the travel sector – but it’s a problem faced across many industries when businesses rely on complex legacy systems.
Where digital disruption takes flight
Travel and hospitality was among the earliest industries to be disrupted by digital transformation – witness the almost complete demise of the traditional high street travel agent.
Despite COVID-19’s recent impact on the industry, digital travel sales were estimated at $115 billion (£84 billion) in 2021, with nearly half of these transactions occurring on mobile devices. (Source: eMarketer) Revenues are expected to recover and soar to $949 billion (£698 billion) by 2026. (Source: Statista).
Online travel giants like Expedia, Skyscanner and Booking.com have become the default way for travellers to book hotels and flights. Digitally-enabled platforms like Airbnb have transformed the hospitality and accommodation sector by enabling anyone with a spare room and a smartphone to become a hotel-keeper.
Digital experience is key to travel sales
Today, only travel and hospitality brands that offer exceptional digital customer experiences can hope to win travellers’ custom and loyalty. Customers expect a seamless and stress-free user journey across all digital channels – but especially on mobile devices, as today’s preferred method of researching, browsing and buying.
Personalisation of services and offers is increasingly expected as the norm – with providers competing to develop a winning combination of curated travel ideas and algorithm-driven recommendations, based on data about your travel history and preferences.
The digital user experience is especially important in the travel sector. Holidays are among consumers biggest annual spend and the emotional highlights of their year – so they expect the online research and booking experience to reflect the excitement and anticipation of travel – and the luxury lifestyle aspects.
Facing today’s challenges of customer conversion
Our client, luxury travel brand Secret Escapes, offers exclusive rates and offers for its customers on hand-picked hotels and holidays. Customers sign up as members to receive personalised email newsletters with the latest travel offers selected for them. They can then click through to the Secret Escapes website or app to access a digital catalogue of curated hotels and holidays.
While the Secret Escapes email newsletter was generating high click-through rates, they were experiencing poor conversion rates on mobile channels. Customers were attracted by the offers but failing to buy.
Their existing mobile app’s performance had become a priority issue. With 72.9% of all e-commerce shopping now being done via mobile devices (source: Statista, 2021), it is vital to ensure the mobile user experience meets unforgiving consumer expectations.
Ensuring a luxury mobile experience for travel customers
Secret Escapes asked Elsewhen to bring its mobile user experience (UX) up to a best-in-class standard – delivering the ‘wow factor’ that customers expect. We needed to transform the mobile touchpoint into a powerful customer conversion engine, ensuring a luxury brand experience – but without requiring changes to the existing business-critical systems that host their fast-changing catalogue of thousands of destinations, partners and offers.
Another key issue to solve was around the resilience of these systems at times of high user traffic. When Secret Escapes sent out its email newsletter, this would cause a sudden spike in user activity. This in turn placed high demand on the application programming interface (API) of their core system, often taking the website and app temporarily offline – an unacceptable situation.
Enabling positive change without negative impacts
Elsewhen designed and developed a new native app to deliver the best mobile user experience for Secret Escapes customers. At the same time, we knew this would have to work seamlessly with legacy architecture.
Our team worked directly with the Secret Escapes CMO and CTO, to enable quick decisions, provide full quality assurance (QA) and ensure that our work would ‘plug-and-play’ seamlessly within their existing product landscape.
Using GraphQL middleware (developed to power giant digital platforms like Facebook), we enabled API queries to be managed more efficiently, overcoming resilience issues and supporting the requirements of a cutting-edge native app.
The new mobile app and API functionalities were created in an accelerated Agile process to ensure they could launch in time for the Christmas and New Year season – a key period for travel purchases.
The new conversion engine in action
The brand’s new app delivered major improvements for Secret Escapes across a range of metrics. Click-throughs from listings pages to purchasing were increased by 24.4%, while successfully completed purchases increased by 210%.
While the legacy mobile app had been rated only 1 star on the Apple App Store, our new native app has achieved a user approval rating of 4.8 out of 5 (as of January 2022).
Elsewhen’s work has established itself as a major strength for the business, and is continuing to help Secret Escapes scale their offering internationally for future growth.
As Secret Escapes commented:
“We saw customer LTV (lifetime value) post-download of the new app is 25-35% higher than pre-download. That improvement goes straight to our bottom line!”
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Elsewhen is a digital product consultancy based in London, UK. As an agency partner to leading global brands, our services include digital transformation, digital strategy and digital product design consulting.