The B2X Team
A year ago to the date, the B2X team formed. I had been on the project for two weeks in product development training and had yet to be assigned a desk. Angel Moledo had a plan – create a team in Tallinn to support Karl Philip Lund. I, Tanel Valja, Allan Samm, Indrek Veskimae and Karl Philip Lund came together for the first time on the 12th October – The goal was simple, “to build the best cruise booking engine in the world”.
Other than quick introductions, that was pretty much the opening line. My first reaction was “Is this guy crazy?”, but as the two day meeting went, the more realistic the idea became. For one, there aren’t that many booking engines online in the cruise industry and it is still considered a new industry for exploring the web and being online. The other was the passion, in which the idea was sold. If my personal goal was to develop, then this was the project to be involved with. The team quickly bought into the idea and our initial goal was test our systems so they were ready to be launched online.
It took exactly 6 weeks before we launched the UK consumer booking solution online, and 19 days later, Norway was active. Our agency solution was live around the time we began so other than bug reporting and feedback, the system remained live. By spring, we had launched solutions in Sweden and the US and by the summer, a consumer booking engine had been released in EUR.
We began selling our classic round trips online and slowly introduced port-to-port trips but it came apparent very quickly that port to port sailings would prove the most popular online, with over 90% of bookings being port-to-port. We recently had a pricing issue with our consumer booking engine and had to remove the option of port-to-port travel. The system was offline for a week and when it was online again, the announcement was made on Twitter and the following two days lead us to having one of our best weeks so far.
We have also seen bookings come from all areas of the planet and have now had online bookings from 63 countries worldwide, as seen in the image below.
Our job descriptions were simple – Test, test, test. Test one system, report feedback, launch and repeat. The roll out process was very rapid. Our plan was to launch a consumer booking engine in all three major markets (Continental Europe, Scandinavia and UK/US/ROW) within a 3 month period. Due to various issues and different requests from each market, we have experienced delays but we hope to launch our German consumer booking engine very soon.
A year later, and our roles have changed immensely. We are now supporting the web for most of the Hurtigruten online activities (thanks to Robert Isaksen, who has allowed us to work with this kind of freedom), which include email marketing, social media, search engine marketing/SEO and eCommerce. Our roles are varied and the team has expanded, growing from 4 to 8 (Harri Moritz, Marit Matikainen, Karolin Poder and Sandra Peek) and we are working very closely with the team who handle all your online booking requests. This team has grown from 3 back in January, to 11 and will most likely continue to grow in line with sales.
Hurtigruten had launched online booking systems way before we joined the project but with no real ownership and not much testing/development the online sales were nowhere near reaching its potential. In 2010, online sales have increased by more than 800% compared to our best year’s efforts, and we are experiencing record breaking numbers week after week.
Our targets have been broken, and even mid-year projections are expected to be nowhere near the final figure. This sets us up perfectly for the coming year, and with the success so far the team is ready to take on new tasks.
The Next Step
The targets for 2011 have now been set, as well as 2012. The team have spent 1 year together and are a very tightly knit group. We are thinking long term and look forward to the challenges of 2011 and 2012. With more challenges come more fun activities and as long as we are having fun, there is no need to leave.
In a year’s time, I will write another blog and hopefully can comment on the even better progress made, more record breaking numbers and talk about an even bigger team. We still need a lot more focus on web analytics, agentweb, trigger mails in email marketing and build on user generated content – Hopefully these tasks will come our way.
The success of the project would not have been without the involvement of many people, in fact too many to name. This is not an Oscar speech so I do not have a list of names but the people who have contributed and supported us know who they are and we are all very thankful.
Thanks to a great year!