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Revamped Travel Site Increases Conversions

Nov 1, 2007
by Christopher Heine

With ecommerce easily being more than a decade old, one might think that the art of site design would be a little further along than it is. The two biggest problems that online shoppers encounter is a lack of product info/images and difficulty in navigation. The travel site Viator.com recently tackled those issues head on.

"Having several thousand products located in various global destinations was hard to cope with," said Suzann Moore, Marketing Manager, Viator Inc., San Francisco. "But, it was clear that we were a little in the dark when it came to our design."

Before Moore and her team retooled their website over the summer, everything on it was backwards. Areas of the site that should have displayed pictures of vacation spots were overcrowded with hotlinks and hard to read information. Meanwhile, the area where directory items usually sit, by the left hand side navigation, was being used ineffectively to hold product images. Moore knew her firm's website needed a new look, better navigation and some elements that let customers interact with the site.

6 Fix It Steps
The next thing that Moore and her team did was analyze their data. They then developed a plan of attack, involving six steps to get the site running properly:

  1. Homepage cleanup. Right away, they determined that the home page was cluttered. For instance, under the heading "Start Your Search Here," they had a list of 45 international cities. They whittled the 45 cities down to the seven most popular European destinations and put the list in the middle part of the homepage. They determined that one large, dominant photo should accompany the cities links. And, a slideshow like feature was added that let viewers flip through content about specific locations, such as the French Riviera, Prague and the Alps, without leaving the home page. "We wanted it to have a Web 2.0 look and feel," Moore said. "We were trying to get customers deeper into the experience at a faster pace."
  2. Add a travel booker. Moore felt that a major flaw was that the site did not have a travel booker. So, they scrapped the 10 links to loyalty programs that were above the fold on the left side and replaced them with a booker application. By clicking on it, users immediately went to locale based options for travel, tours and events for the time period they planned to travel. "We were making people click way too much to find what they wanted in these destinations," she said. "One of our goals was to turn that around."
  3. Where is the search box? Without question, Moore and her team had to increase visibility of the search box, which was buried below the fold. The team gave it a prime spot in the top right hand corner.
  4. Reformat product pages. Finished with the home page, they turned to internal pages. They replaced a horizontal format, which offered just two products above the fold, with a vertical directory of 18 categories and seven specific things to do. Conveniently, the travel booker appeared on the left navigation bar to let viewers act on impulse.
  5. Join the blogosphere. Putting in a travel blog was important to Moore and her team's site plans. They also installed a search tool just for the blogs that expeditiously let viewers find stories about their travel areas of interest.
  6. Include customer reviews. Lastly, they implemented customer reviews. Instead of having users post directly to the site, they elected to collect reviews via email. In the end, the "Contribute a Review" offer was plugged in the "Welcome Back" emails to people returning from their trips.
Redesign Sparks Page Views & Sales Galore
Without question, Viator's overhaul was a major success, and the results data underscores the fact that marketers can never take site design lightly. Viator.com users are viewing an average of 52 percent more pages and finding the site more user friendly.

"The customers are staying longer and spending their time more productively, which has increased our sales conversions," Moore said. "Before, it would have taken twice as many clicks for customers to find what they were looking for. That is not the way you want your viewers to spend their time at your site."

As she intimated, sales conversions are indeed up, a whopping 65 percent since the redesign. The blogs are growing more popular, producing 500 visitors daily. The site has climbed to the ninth rating among travel blogs, according to rankings by Blogburst.com.

"The blogs have produced a good deal of traffic from the search engines and originating from other blogs or message boards," Moore said. "Our blog based traffic, specifically, has tripled in the last few months."

For more information, contact:

Viator, Inc.
600 Townsend St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel.: 415-503 3956
Website: www.viator.com

Topic: Web Tech Tips

Related Articles: websites 

Article ID: 398

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