StayCity Aparthotels, one of Europe’s leading aparthotel group that operates around 3,000 aparthotels in 12 major European cities including London, Paris, Dublin and Edinburgh, needed a superior booking engine to increase direct bookings and conversion rate.
P3 and StayCity started to work together in 2018. Our flexibility in delivering a customised booking engine and our Oracle Opera integration were the key reasons to establish this relationship.
We started our project by reviewing their current online presence. We came across a few points of friction on their booking engine that made the process of booking an apartment complicated for the user. We also identified that their conversion rate was significantly lower than industry standards. StayCity needed a new eCommerce design tailored to the process of booking of an aparthotel, ensuring that all the required information for a booker to make an informed choice was easily available.
The design and development of their new booking engine went through a 4-stage process which included reviewing their current system, proposing a new design and booking engine flow, development and finally user testing with real case users.
1- Review of their current booking engine
We firstly analysed StayCity’s current booking engine. We identified what was working and what wasn’t by conducting research with real case users. The most important thing that we noticed from the study was that when people book aparthotels they have different questions and needs compared to when they book a hotel room.
2- New design proposal
We created a new tailored design specific for users booking aparthotels rather than hotel rooms which we had discovered in the usability review had subtle differences. We presented the new version to the client explaining who welcomed the new changes. We proposed to conduct a follow-up usability study to ensure that the design was effectively addressing the problems identified in our initial report. The second round of user testing on the new design was crucial to make sure that no new friction points were being introduced in the new design.
3- Usability test
The usability test was conducted with real case users and we studied up to 10 people over a 2 day period and asked them to follow a set scenario as if they were making a real life booking.
The objective was to identify any issues that needed to be changed in the new booking engine design before the project went into development. We also wanted to ensure that the new elements incorporated in the design had the desired effect of making the experience of booking an aparthotel easier and more pleasant for the user.
4- Project went live
After the changes and the customer’s approval, we developed and launched StayCity’s new booking engine. Part of the project was to integrate a loyalty program named ‘Stay Sweet’ within their new booking engine. However, we firstly launched the booking platform without the loyalty program to check its performance against the old booking engine on a like-for-like basis. Once the client was satisfied that the new booking engine was outperforming the old one, the loyalty software module was pushed live.
StayCity new booking engine now better reflects their branding and offer a seamless shopping experience for direct customers booking aparthotels. We kept in mind their customer base, their identity and user experience strategies when designing their customised eCommerce platform. These are the 6 main features that we included in StayCity new booking engine that helped them increase direct bookings by 71%.
1. Content & Images: as we’ve noticed that the process of booking aparthotels is different than booking hotel rooms, we identified the importance of including more content about each apartment. We added information such as number of people that sleep in it, floor area, entertainment options, and facilities in the kitchen, bathroom and living room. We also included high quality images to best illustrate the features of the apartment.
2. User-friendly & Structured Page Design: we optimised the booking engine pages to be user-friendly and to deliver a better user experience. We designed easy-to-read icons about the apartment and added bullet points to make the content clearer and more concise. Whitespace was added to separate the information and to facilitate the reading for the user.
3. Free Cancellation & “Pay Nothing now”: the free cancellation and “Pay nothing now “messages were highlighted throughout the booking process to reinforce that users will pay on arrival and can cancel for free up to 24h before their check-in date. These are effective indicators that users will not be charged now and are making the right choice by booking directly at the hotel’s website.
4. Clear Action Buttons: we improved the call-to-action buttons with words that explain what will happen after the user clicks on it, for example ‘Continue to last step’. This enhances the user experience and make users confident of their actions through the booking process.
5. Customise your stay: users have a separate and dedicated page within their booking journey to customise their stay. This page has been improved with a clearer and more engaging design. Users can customise their stay by selecting breakfast per day, choose the type of bed they need based on the number of guests in their booking.
6. Simplified Payment Process: the final step of the booking process is the payment page, and it was re-designed to simplify the check-out procedure. The guest details and the credit card information are in one page on the final step. This page was designed to have a minimum number of fields that the user has to fill in order to complete their transaction. The fields have in line error handling to help reduce on submission errors.
Since the launch of StayCity new booking platform, we’ve been seeing an uplift in direct bookings and conversion rate.
In a year on year comparison, there has been an increase of:
44% in website users.
19% in conversion rate.
71% in overall direct bookings.
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