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Helping The Tourism Industry Recover With a User-Centric Ecommerce Solution

About the Client

VisitBritain are the national tourism agency for the UK, tasked with inspiring visitors to explore Britain and supporting the tourism industry for when those visitors arrive.

They’re a non-departmental public body funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). They also have an official commercial arm who act independently: VisitBritain Shop.

The VisitBritain Shop offers information and booking opportunities for some of the nation’s best attractions and transport offers. It is the shopfront for Britain, representing the country’s customer service to visitors before they even arrive.

VisitBritain reinvest any profit from the online shop to support the core marketing activities of the tourism authority as a whole. As such, the VisitBritain Shop supplements government funding to underpin VisitBritain’s work.

Collectively, the organisation plays a unique role in contributing to the development of Britain’s tourism offering, raising Britain’s profile worldwide and developing Britain’s visitor economy.

Business Challenge

When VisitBritain Shop came to us, their existing website had large elements of the website built using flash technology. This is a deprecated technology and the site needed developing on a modern content management system.

The VisitBritain Shop team needed a new, powerful website to support VisitBritain in leading the return of tourism following the pandemic. With upcoming national events like the Queen’s Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games, VisitBritain hoped to encourage more visitors to Britain than ever before - and they needed a website that could keep up with growing demand.

A Unique Hybrid Technical Solution

We invested time to understand the business and website requirements in great detail before we proposed a solution. We knew that the VisitBritain Shop team wanted a technical solution that could balance advanced ecommerce functionality with flexible promotional pages for international campaigns.

The solution: a hybrid Magento 2 and Drupal platform. By combining our expertise in these two open-source platforms we defined a solution that could delight both customers and editors alike.

Magento 2 offers effortless ecommerce functionality for selling and distributing tickets to tourist attractions and experiences. Meanwhile, Drupal offers a front end with a high level of flexibility for presenting priority campaigns.

Content admins at VisitBritain Shop can manage products and track detailed reporting statistics within Magento 2. They can also enhance those product pages to inspire more tourists to Britain, using the Drupal admin. We combined the two systems using instant Magento 2 APIs, so you’d never notice the gap in between!

 

Integration with a National Ticket Inventory Portal

The main purpose of the VisitBritain Shop is to promote and sell visitor tickets to attraction tickets and advance-purchase travel cards. Offering “everything you need for your trip to Britain”, their inventory is vast! As such, they rely on an interconnected portal to keep up to date with availability levels nationwide.

We integrated the VisitBritain Shop website with the Tourism Exchange Great Britain (TXGB) booking channel management software.

TXGB aggregates visitor attraction tickets from hundreds of suppliers across the country. Using several custom APIs, the VisitBritain Shop website consumes ticketing inventory from TXGB and presents customers with relevant product pages and live-updates to their purchase options.

We designed the site’s integration to allow customers to collate tickets from numerous outlets, all in one place. Users can simply add tickets to their basket and make their payment via the intuitive checkout. The site then confirms the order with TXGB instantly, and creates an e-ticket for the customer’s trip, tour or transport.

Future-proof Connections with Suppliers

Whilst building the site, we kept one eye on the future throughout. We developed an overarching framework so the VisitBritain Shop team can integrate new suppliers’ systems in the future with ease.

Having seen the benefit of the TXGB connection, we prepared the online shop site to work with other ticketing providers. This structure future-proofs the site and allows the team to expand their network, to benefit from existing technical solutions, and to offer a broader range of experiences to visitors.

Research and Design with the User in Mind

Before we rebuilt the legacy ecommerce site, we took time to confirm that the site would actually work for our target users.

Our team of UX designers conducted a detailed heuristic analysis of the existing VisitBritain Shop and several competitors. Having identified potential pain points, we recreated the information architecture, to simplify content management and to help prospective visitors to find (and purchase) relevant tickets.

We confirmed our new site structure by conducting tree testing and card sorting activities with target users. With such a varied international user base, we wanted to make sure that the site made sense for as many people as possible.

Translating our user research into tangible outputs, we created wireframe designs for all of the priority page types. Our UX team overhauled the category and product pages, as well as the basket and checkout, to transform a multi-point purchase journey into a simple, easy-to-use experience.

Scaling Up for The National Lottery Days Out Campaign

Equipped with the power of a flexible Drupal CMS, VisitBritain Shop were able to join forces with Camelot to create a huge marketing campaign: The National Lottery Days Out.

The campaign offered a free £25 voucher for the VisitBritain Shop website with every National Lottery Lotto ticket. As you can expect, it was very popular!

We designed and built the campaign landing page to host this unique campaign on the ecommerce website. To make it easy for users to claim their vouchers and engage with the campaign, we added:

- A form for customers to enter their unique lottery ticket number
- Validation for each numerical string entered
- An instant generator for single-use voucher codes

We also integrated the page with a marketing automation process, to email customers with a reminder to use their vouchers before it expired.

During the campaign, the visitor numbers to the site increased significantly. We increased the AWS hosting architecture and stress-tested the website to ensure that the online shop could handle the high volume of concurrent visits. At the peak of the campaign, the website was receiving 67,000 visits per day - customers eager to take advantage of a discounted day out!

Quality Assurance Testing

All of our projects undergo rigorous testing throughout the software development process. In order to deliver the utmost quality for clients and their respective users, our in-house QA team ensure that all end products perform accurately and reliably under normal and abnormal conditions. Testing is followed by continual monitoring of software performance, to prevent reoccurrence of any issues and to ensure efficient ongoing operation.

As such, we were able to confidently deliver a well-designed, scalable and technically stable result.

Results

We launched the new VisitBritain Shop website in September 2021. By the end of January ‘22, the website hosted 93,000 successful transactions with an impressive average conversion rate of 7%.

The website has had over 7 million page views, each representing visitors who are keen to learn more about what Britain has to offer. We’ve seen impressive improvements in user engagement, with users consuming an average of five pages of content per visit. The new fast-paced, simplified, user-centric site caters for all customer needs and encourages potential visitors to convert!

Beyond working on the VisitBritain Shop, we also embarked on a vast digital transformation project with the central digital team at VisitBritain. With a digital estate of 12 websites and a global network of translated versions, VisitBritain needed to collate and condense their content for users - and to match the newly modernised online shop!