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Key functionality on front page drives online sales

10 March, 2011

This blog post describes how small changes to a website can have great and immediate impact on online sales.

Learning and taking action quickly?

Two years ago I read a Forrester report called “Small web site investments that pay off” (comment on this post and I’ll send you a link to the full report). The report summarized what web professionals around the world consider to be low-cost web activities that have a strong positive impact on the bottom line.

During the last two years, the Hurtigruten web team has been working through different parts of the list.  We still have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction!

Our latest achievement is to put key functionality directly on the front page(#5). We will cover the other points of the report in future blog posts.

To identify what key functionality is on your website, you need to investigate why people visit your website.

Why do people visit the Hurtigruten websites?

When customers arrive at a Hurtigruten website, they have something in mind.

Some customers have been exposed to a TV campaign and go to our websites to read more about one of our special offers. Since the ships themselves are quite important to our travellers, customers are also interested in which ship departs on a specific date. Some people arrive at the home page just to find the Hurtigruten telephone number (+47 810 03 030) or to find a local travel agency. Others are merely exploring which destinations Hurtigruten offers.

Norwegian website

In the Norwegian market, many customers use Hurtigruten as a means of public transportation (see a good example of a public transportation website ). Other customers are traveling home for the weekend and are merely looking to book a trip. For these customers, schedules/delays/cancellation information is very important. Traffic status therefor has (as of March 2011) prominent placement on the front page of the Norwegian website.

International websites

In our international markets, customers arrive on our websites to plan a trip that may only happen once in a lifetime.  They may already have a print catalog or they might have performed a Google search for Norway cruises or some other search terms. Other visitors arrive trying to figure out when they can see the Northern lights! Another group of customers have already booked a trip and arrive looking for practical travel information.

That’s a quick summary (not exhaustive) of why people visit the Hurtigruten websites. These words (Special offers, Book a trip, contact information, Find travel agency, Traffic status, Plan a trip, Practical travel information) provide clues to what  “key functionality” should be on the front page.

What do you mean by putting key functionality directly on the front page?

Our ability to quickly address our customer’s different objective determines the success of our websites. Here´s what the Forrester report states as a cost effective way to increase online sales:
Instead of making users click a link to get to your main site functionality, let them begin key processes — such as logging into an account, booking a voyage, or generating a price quote — immediately. For example, an airline was convinced that linking to its flight search application from the home page was effective. But when the company conducted an A/B test comparing the link with putting search fields right on the home page, it saw a 45% increase in conversion rate with the new design.

Before the change

Before the change, we did not have a booking search box (to/from, date, search)  on the front page.

After the change

Since we know that starting a booking is a prerequisite for completing a booking (!), our goal is to maximize the number of people that enter our booking engines. By giving visitors the ability to start their booking directly on the front page, we increase the likelihood of more completed bookings. This can be measured by looking at total number of visits to our booking engine.

Key functionality is the "Book your travel" where you can select to/from and date and click "Find price and book"

Results of putting key functionality on the front page

We launched the search box functionality on the front page of our Norwegian home page and some of our international websites on February 16th, 2011.
The immediate impact of putting the search functionality on the front page was a record sales day for Hurtigruten’s websites.
In addition the number of initiated bookings (traffic to our booking engine), increased by 100%.
The search box on the front page had a strong direct impact on Hurtigruten online sales activities. Here are some points:
  • Record sales day in B2C
  • Record booking day in B2C
  • Record web visits into our booking engine (16th February)
  • Record day for our ROW(rest of the world) market, which outsold our Norwegian market
  • B2C visits increase by 68% compared to previous weeks
  • Port-to-Port bookings online increased from 38% to 51% compared with our reservation center
Impact of key functionality on the front page at Hurtigruten

The blue arrow indicates when the functionality was launched

Forrester’s report gave us insight into what we might expect (increase in conversion rate by 45%) but we did not expect such a valuable functionality. Having pushed for this to be developed and launched for over a year now, it is great to see the results of what we truly believed in.

Other discussion topics:

  • Why didn’t we do this earlier?
  • What would our total online sales be today if this had been done a year ago?
  • Are there other factors that may have affected the results?
  • An increase in traffic on our booking engines, exposes more customers to our system limitations. How will this affect the customer experience?
  • An increase in traffic to our booking engines, enables us to identify and fix problems quicker (speed, error messages, usability issues, modify search, etc).

The rest of the list from Forrester Research:

Here’s is the complete list of low-cost activities that have a strong impact on the bottom line:

1. Focus on the end of the funnel to boost conversion rates.
2. Optimize site copy, titles, and labels to improve natural search results.
3. Add location cues to encourage users to stay on the site.
4. Eliminate unused content to improve user experience and save money.
5. Prevent “No results” site keyword searches to help users find products.
6. Prioritize home page content to increase cross-sell opportunities.
7. Put key functionality on the home page to reduce steps for users.
8. Tweak the location and appearance of key buttons to boost click-through rates.
Comment below if you’d like to read the entire report.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 August, 2013 21:05

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