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2012 in review

30 December, 2012

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

10 lessons I’ve learned at Hurtigruten

23 August, 2012

September, 2012 marks my third year at Hurtigruten, the longest tenure in my career. However, I will be leaving the company on 31st August to seek new ventures. Hurtigruten is an international brand with a multi-cultural workforce. Ive learned a lot, and this blog post will highlight the most important lessons I’ve learned.

1. Be Prepared

In October 2010 I was asked to present to our most important partners progress made at our reservation centre. Although I am not responsible for the operations at the reservation centre, it was a chance for me to meet our partners and present in front of more than 30 people, including management. I didn’t prepare and tried to read each point slide for slide. It was embarassing and I failed. From that point on, I always made sure that with each presentation I was fully prepared.

2. Know your data

Being E-commerce Manager, I’m expected to know the current online sales status. By reporting daily to myself on the previous days/ weeks sales, I was always up to date on how well we are performing online. Reporting to myself lead to my weekly report being distributed to senior management and the weekly report is now sent to more than 45 people each Monday. I became the online sales expert.

3. Stay consistent with meetings

When working internationally, people are always busy at different times of the day. Karl Philip Lund introduced bi-weekly global web meetings and for more than two years they became a priority for those working in the global web team. In these meetings, we shared updates and communicated with each other – Both important when we only meet in person once per year.  Having consistency ensures it becomes prioritied and communication flows a lot easier.

4. Work hard – Always

There is no substitute for hard work and getting thing’s done. I’m fortunate as I enjoy my work but I made sure that I never became complacement. If someone wanted a job doing, I made myself available. Very few people actually do what they say they will, so it’s easy t become successful by doing what you say. Working hard helped me get to where I am today. I will continue working hard.

5. Respond to emails

A job description rarely includes „answering internal emails“, yet some of my colleagues at Hurtigruten receive more than 100 emails per day. This is roughly 40-50% of the work week reading and answering emails. My inbox is always at 0. I respond to emails immediately and add the task to my to-do list (to get done the same day). This could be due to my background as a customer service agent and response times but I try to answer emails within an 30 minutes, unless traveling. This improves communication and the sender knows they can reply on you. You don’t want to be the person „that never responds to emails“.

6. Candor

Being honest in work almost sounds like a given, yet it is surprising the amount of people who do things because they are told and do a poor job instead of being honest and being candid. A prime example is that I was not comfortable working with API. By being upfront, the role was give to a colleague who was interested in API. I am much more interested in online marketing and direct online sales. This is where I excel.

7. Let your team do what they want

I don’t mean let them run wild and abuse the freedom, but there are always 101 things to get done in anytime of department. By letting your team drive activities they are interested in, results will come. A good example if a former team member being interested in video editing. The end result was videos on the Hurtigruten websites, which when tested against pages that didn’t have video, we saw a 127% increase in initiated bookings. Another example is email marketing, which was lead by a former team member Nicole Simon implementing Silverpop, which is now being used two years later. Let them run full speed ahead and you will see great results.

8. Never stop learning

Each morning, I read the latest news and blog posts on online marketing and conversion rate optimization. I read monthly white papers on social media marketing, success stories written on SEOmoz and attend webinars from SeeWhy. You can succeed, your business can succeed, the stories and „how to“ guides are out there. I enjoy learning new things and try new tools. Learning is fun.

9. Implement like hell

Jack Welch’s quote „pick a general direction and implement like hell“ is now infamous at Hurtigruten. It has been the backbone of the online success and I will carry it on wherever I go. When people hear Implement like hell, it can appear stupid or silly. It’s works – and Hurtigruten online sales is proof of this.

10. Share success stories

Another famous quote Jack Welch has made is to share success stories and celebrate. When something good happens such as a record web visits day or a new high for open rates in email marketing, celebrate it and share the success. It boosts morale and is good for the team and company. Don’t be afraid to take credit for the success either. If you did something that you are proud of, celebrate it.

It’s been an amazing three years and a lot of fun learning and experiencing new things. I’ll continue blogging on a new blog platform, Thanks for being part of the Hurtigruten’s success and hope that you continue to implement like hell!

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Booking engine update July 2012

6 July, 2012

On Wednesday,  4th July Hurtigruten released a new version of our agency booking solution (B2B) and consumer booking solution (B2C). The focus for the release is to improve the booking engines to match the new web design and usability and the launch of arrival and departure packages.

Fixes set for the release (B2X version 3.4) include:

  • Launch of  arrival/ departure packages for 2013 sailings
  • Google Analytics E-commerce tracking for
  • Advanced functionality to search by ship, ship type and length of voyage
  • Deckspace capacity display (Hubro) on web for last minute bookings
  • Booking box enhancements (new web design) to include tours
  • 46 bug fixes including 2013 tours, navigation and pricing

The first booking engine release of the year went live in March 2012. Since then we have had an aggressive roll out plan and implemented the following functionality:

  • Norway and Explorer 2013 sailings
  • Improved booking box on front page
  • Arrival/ Departure packages 2013
  • Google Analytics E-Commerce tracking
  • New booking engine design
  • 1893 Ambassador discount
  • Shore excursions 2013

We now enter a development freeze due to the summer vacation period. When development resumes in late August, we will continue our focus in getting all products for sale online with port-to-port return trips, meal and upgrade handling and the option to add/ modify excursions to existing bookings.

What do you think of the new improvements that have been made? Post your comments below.

Cruise company increases online sales from $3million to $100million

2 July, 2012

In 2011, Hurtigruten improved the online user experience by introducing key functionality (booking box) on the home page. Since then, continuous improvements have been made and documented, such as the results of what happened when we move the functionality above the fold and how the improvements increased sales online.

Since launching the booking box, we have continued to increase online sales and improve the user experience. The blog post will review the impact to online sales of each improvement.

February Week 2, 2011

On February 15th, 2011 Hurtigruten launched key functionality on the home page. The booking box was implemented below the fold but the results were immediate as initiated bookings increased by more than 173%. Online bookings increased by 28%.

Increased initiated bookings

Initiated bookings

June Week 1, 2011

On June 1st, Hurtigruten moved the placement of the booking box to above the fold. The reason for this was that during usability tests that were ran in March, 2011 only 2 of the 10 testers found the booking box on the home page. The results were immediate as online bookings increased by 4%.

March Week 2, 2012

On March 5th, Hurtigruten implemented a new booking box after extensive research into 2011 sales data. The new booking box included both passenger selection and cabin requirments, thus giving the user a more exact price earlier in the booking process. The results were immediate and online bookings increased by 42%.

June Week 3, 2012

On June 18th, Hurtigruten launched a new version on the website in Norway. The improvements were based on the results of the usabiity tests in March 2011. With a new web design and improved booking box, online bookings increased by 15%.

Booking box design improvements since Feb 2011
[Left booking box on both above and below the fold]

Booking box

In September 2012, further improvements will be implemented as we introduce tours (currently live on the German site) and a five day calendar view on the search results. These improvements are in line with feedback from usability tests we have performed.

Mock-up of new booking box

New booking box

The current booking box is targeted towards Hurtigruten’s Norwegian market.  However, during the last 12 months, more than half of the total web traffic has been from countries outside of Norway. Most international customers do not know where Kirkenes or Bergen is, and most travellers do not know their specific travel date. This information is critical in the decision making process. Thefore, an international booking box will be created for non-Nordic web visitors. We expect this improvement to increase conversion rate.

Prototype of International booking box


Gerry McGovern once said „I can’t think of a successful website I’ve dealt with hasn’t had a continuous improvement management model“. In 16 months, Hurtigruten have continued to improve key functionality and online sales have increased tenfold. We will continue with our improvements.

All the sales information in this blog post have been presented in publicly available reports.

Do you have any success stories on continuous improvement? Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve the booking box further? Suggestions are welcome in the comments box below.

New website launch for

26 June, 2012

In 2011, Hurtigruten ran a full scale usability test with Spotless Interactive in the UK, Germany and Norway. The findings were presented in April 2011 and during the past 12 months we have been working hard on implementing the web improvements. On Thursday, 18th June the new design went live in Norway and today we will launch the first of our English websites with The focus for the new website is to deliver a greater user experience.

Here is an overview of the improvements:

  • New front page design with map, video and links to the most popular web pages
  • Improved booking box on the front page and all voyage pages
  • Tabbed navigation menu for products, schedules and experiences
  • Brochure and Newsletter sign-up on the front page
  • New sections with Seasons and Experiences
  • Richer content for Norwegian and Explorer voyages

One of the biggest changes made to the Hurtigruten web is that all Hurtigruten websites will now have the same layout and structure. Websites in Germany, France and the UK will be launched during the summer.

The new design is part of a three-phase improvement package based on the usability test results. The next release is scheduled for the fall with focus on presenting richer product content.

A more detailed blog post on the process of changing the URL structure, redirecting old content to new content and of the website launch and impact on traffic will follow shortly.

What do you think of the new website? Feel free to submit feedback and suggestions in the comments box below.

Booking engine update June 2012

22 June, 2012

On Thursday 21st June, we released a new version of our agent booking solution (B2B) and our consumer booking solution (B2C). The focus for the release was to improve the online experience for our travel partners by making it easy to book as well the launch of our European Explorer packages.

Fixes set for the release (B2X version 3.3) include:

  • Launch of European Explorer cruises 2013/14
  • 1893 Amabassador discount and integration
  • Last minute booking webform for bookings within three days of sailing
  • Optimized booking solution for mobile and tablet users
  • Special request & notes fields added for additional requests
  • Preferred contact method can be selected between phone, email or mail
  • Print ticket functionality for 2013 sailings available in B2B
  • Big fix to payment issues in ‘Opera’ browser
  • And a total of 63 bug fixes for inclusive tours, find booking functionality and cabin selections
The next release is scheduled for the end of June (less than one week away) and new features are to include arrival/ departure packages, advanced Google Analytics tracking and a modify booking functionality for B2B users.

How do you feel we are progressing with our development? Is there anything that we should prioritize and implement before the summer?
 Share your suggestions in the comments below

Three ways to translate your website content and go global

19 June, 2012

Translating your website has never been easier; whether you need your entire website translated or just a simple sentence there are now thousands of companies waiting to do business with you. The translation industry is a multi-billion dollar business and while 70% of Internet users do not speak English, limiting your language selection means limiting your online sales. This blog post will review three ways to translate your website using human translation.

1. Inhouse translation

A number of companies I’ve worked with manage translation inhouse where both sales and marketing teams share the workload and support website and email translation. Although this is the cheapest alternative, maintaining consistency is highly difficult as several copy writers are involved and with a combination of various writing styles, this could result in a lackluster final product.

Tip: Have dedicated translators to provide translation support for each language to keep content consistent.

2. Outsourcing to a translation agency

If your marketing director allocates budget for translation, outsourcing  translation is a great way to relieve the workload of your internally staff. However, depending on the number of languages you support, outsourcing can be costly and you will always need to internally proof-read and sign off before you publish the content.

Tip: Keep a glossary of key terms that be used repeatidly  for maximum translation accuracy.

3. Translation API

Translation API might be a new concept but it has all the benefits of inhouse translation and outsourcing. By integrating with your CMS (Content management system), translation API can help launch products globally automatically and without the increased costs of translation agencies.

TIP: Make sure you sign-off content before it goes live to ensure 100% translation context accuracy.

Where does your web traffic come from?

In 2011, more than 170 countries visited the Hurtigruten websites taking the total web traffic to more than five million visits. Map below taken from Google Analytics

Google Analytics

The map provides further insight as to where web traffic comes from. In fact, in 2011 only a small number of countries did not visit the Hurtigruten global web at least once. These contries include North Korea, Mauritania, Chad, South Sudan, Somalia and Papau New Guinea.

Hurtigruten now has more than 21 websites in 15 languages. The majority of traffic came from our bigger markets; Norway, Sweden, Germany, UK and the US but as travel and tourism in Scandinavia continues to grow, the number of foreigners longing to visit will increase and being able to support their preferred language will be a huge competitive advantage.

The curent state of translation and localization

In 2001, a report by META Group ranked the US, Finland, Iceland and Canada amongst the highest e-commerce potential. More than a decade later, and e-commerce has radically changed. The fastest growing market online is now Asia and e-commerce spending is expected to reach more than $8 billion in 2016, up from $1 billion in 2012. Chart taken from Internet World Stats

Internet users

Further data on the potential future of localizing your websites:

  • There are 2.3 billion internet users online
  • 36% of the Chinese population are online
  • Only 8% on Indians are online
  • Arabic speakers online increased 2500% since 2001
  • As of 2012, only 14% of Internet users live in the US
  • More than 75% of the total population will be online by the end of the year
  • 83% of internet researchers will make at least one purchase online in 2012

Chart courtesy from Mary Meeker and KPCB


This data is also evident for web traffic to Hurtigruten and visits from emerging markets continues to increase. For example, web traffic from India increased by 51% between 2010/11 and is expected to increase by more than 69% in 2012 and Chinese web traffic grew by 28% between 2010 /2011 and is expected to increase by more than 12% this year.

Going global provides a better user experience

There are challenges related to being a international brand such as legalities, organizational and operational. The web is global and e-commerce spending is only going to increase. Supporting buyers in their native languages to make them feel safe and secure will provide a better user experience and if you have an e-commerce store that is currently only availabile in English or your native language, expanding will directly increase your online sales.