Digital Transformation for Big Bus Tours: Harmonising online and offline channels
True success and sustainable growth in eCommerce relies on a lot more than simply building a new website.
While a brand new site build might improve site performance and user experience, it won’t fix underlying problems with integrations, antiquated manual processes or poor strategic thinking. The majority of brands will reach a stage where they need to take on a full digital transformation – auditing your entire tech stack, workflow and customer journey and using that insight to build a robust and forward-thinking strategy – enabling your brand to scale and reach (or exceed) your business goals.
When Big Bus Tours partnered with JH in the middle of the COVID pandemic, they already had an eCommerce website, a robust Ventrata ticketing system, and a thriving global company. But in order to take their business to the next level – and overcome roadblocks that were stopping their growth – they knew they needed to invest in their tech stack to get there. And this meant one thing – Big Bus Tours needed to undertake a digital transformation project.
The majority of the features our team have launched in the last few months for the BBT site have focussed on future-proofing the systems and integrations for future growth – increasing accuracy, delivering real-time data, and offering flexibility in pricing and tickets to increase yield and support more creative marketing campaigns.
Want to find out how you take a complex and already well-performing eCommerce site into the next stage of growth? And exactly how Big Bus Tours embarked on their digital transformation project? Read on!
Where digital transformation began for Big Bus Tours…
Big Bus Tours had used the Ventrata system for some time – built for high-volume tours and attractions, and with built-in check-in and payment features, it was integral to the smooth running of service for their customers. Before they partnered with JH, the problem was that this system wasn’t fully integrated with their Adobe Commerce website, which presented a whole host of potential problems and roadblocks – and brought digital transformation to the forefront of Big Bus Tours’ priorities.
Managing online and offline products together
A key early project we worked on was to fully integrate Ventrata with their existing site build – meaning that all variables and ticket booking, including availability and pricing, are now controlled directly in Ventrata by the BBT team. Their eCommerce site is linked with this system through a series of API calls, so now every time a ticket is booked on their site, it’s instantly pulled back into Ventrata, giving the team a real-time, accurate look at availability on any of their tours and locations. The BBT site now also displays real-time availability to customers during the booking process.
“Ventrata is an Enterprise first software – and that brings significant benefits to large global tour operators like Big Bus Tours,” says Ventrata Founder and CEO, Olly Morgan. “As a multi-channel sales platform, one of our key benefits is enabling our customers to view data in real-time, helping them make better business decisions. It’s brilliant to see Big Bus Tours and JH using the power of API connectivity (which has always been at our core) to seamlessly integrate with Adobe Commerce, enhancing the power of Ventrata and allowing them to maximise the potential of the platform.”
This ‘single source of truth’ concept, with all the data being stored in Ventrata – rather than some in Adobe Commerce – not only removes any potential issues of conflicting rules between the platforms causing glitches or incorrect pricing – but it also removes a headache for the BBT team. A key part of a successful digital transformation – and one that was integral for Big Bus Tours – is ensuring that the tech stack you already have is connected and working to it’s full potential.
The Adobe Commerce site now works seamlessly as one element of their Ventrata ticketing system, rather than a separate entity. If they need to update a price, change availability, or add a new ticket type – they just need to add this in one place, instead of duplicating information into Adobe Commerce. Empowering the BBT team to breeze through basic admin tasks with a system that enables that, means they can place full focus on business growth – brilliant campaigns, new business ideas, and service improvements.
Variable pricing options
Moving the source of pricing information solely into Ventrata unlocked another key business feature for Big Bus Tours – variable pricing. The team already knew that ticket demand was higher on the weekends, with over 50% of ticket redemptions occurring on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and wanted to offer discounts for customers who booked in the week – but despite Ventrata launching their dynamic pricing feature in 2020, without this key integration for their Adobe Commerce site, they weren’t able to offer this.
But thanks to the new API calls, not only can they offer different ticket prices on different days – they can edit prices on each individual day, hour, ticket, tour and location! Whether it’s offering discounted tickets during off-peak seasons, or adjusting to surges in demand where availability is limited – BBT now has full control of ticket prices across their site, with no conflicting rules or data causing nasty surprises. They are also able to increase yield on days and times with the most demand – and with full end-to-end tracking on ticket redemptions offered by Ventrata, can continue to fine-tune pricing and discounts to make the most of demand surges, and sell more tickets for quieter tours.
Initially, the project was focussed on just adding variable pricing – but why stop there? With so many potential options, BBT decided to extend the scope of the project – and we’ve now added the ability to pull product pricing, ticket tiers, variable pricing, and promotions, all from Ventrata onto the Adobe Commerce site.
A fully transparent booking process
Prior to the integration with Ventrata, customers had to add their chosen tickets to their basket in order to see the prices. This could mean that customers might miss out on the best deal for them – or that they’d have to select and preview every date available to see the prices for each.
But not any more! As part of the integration work, we redesigned the calendar preview to now display the prices of the customer’s selected ticket on each date, without them having to select them. Customers can now see at a glance the prices on every date in their chosen month, plan their trips faster and spot any bargains that suit them. Big Bus Tours benefits from this too – using the variable pricing, they can more easily highlight days and times with lower demand, and thus spread their ticket sales more evenly across their tours, while still increasing yield at peak times.
An improved User Experience
While much of the work we’ve pushed live on the Big Bus Tours site so far focussed on integrations and back-end improvements, we also made a slew of improvements to the front-end, too – creating a cleaner, simpler and more user-friendly interface for BBT’s customers.
On the product pages, we made lots of little tweaks to improve the overall experience, from cleaning up the styling to improving the customer journey flow. We added more ‘Book now’ touchpoints to the page so customers can easily progress through their purchase, and each ticket now shows 2 tiers of ticket types by default, with an option to expand to show more – avoiding overloading customers with information unless they need it.
Customers are also now able to clearly see the savings they’re making by booking their ticket online in advance – as well as the prices updating in real time, throughout the multi-step ticketing options, based on their selections.
Once customers have made their ticket selection, they are presented with a calendar to choose their preferred date – previously they would have been required to click on an individual date to see the pricing, but now they can view the overall pricing before interacting. After choosing the date, the customer can then choose from available hour timeslots – again, each of these have variable pricing options, pulled from the central data in Ventrata, for the customer to pick between.
While variable pricing isn’t in full use on the Big Bus Tours site yet, these UX improvements mean the site is ready for future site updates – and as soon as variable and dynamic pricing rules are set up, the site will automatically pull them through from Ventrata.
Within an active basket, customers can now see an itemised breakdown of pricing that updates in real-time – giving them full transparency on the exact prices of their selection, no matter how many tickets they are booking at once.
The checkout system also automatically applies any discounts available according to Ventrata rules, too – enabling BBT full control over pre-booking discounts. Plus, if a customer were to add a further promotional discount code and then click to remove it, we added a confirmation pop-up to double-check they really do want to remove it – saving customer headaches from accidental clicks.
With a complex multi-step checkout like on the Big Bus Tours site, it’s even more important to ensure it works correctly on mobile devices – especially for adventurous customers on the move, who might want to book their tickets from anywhere.
To improve the checkout experience for mobile customers, we made tweaks to the styling to make the layout more consistent – adding an additional block to the price preview, which brings the design in line with the rest of the basket. We also duplicated the promo code section, which previously was only at the very bottom of the page – it now also appears at the top, so customers can find it more easily.
Digital transformation means future-proofed results for Big Bus Tours
“We’ve been really impressed with the introduction of this functionality with JH’s support. Sophisticated calendar and variable price functionality has been a long-time ambition for Big Bus Tours. Since onboarding JH, they’ve really taken the time to understand our product and customers. That has been apparent in the planning and execution of this delivery – taking what can be quite a complex back office integration and making it a simple, speedy and easy journey for our passengers to get through.
This new functionality opens up lots of potential commercial opportunities that weren’t previously possible for us to achieve whilst offering maximum exposure of our product offering to our guests. Another BIG step in the right direction with plenty more exciting JH projects to come.”
– John Attwood, EVP Marketing & eCommerce at Big Bus Tours
And to top it off, we recently announced that our work with Big Bus Tours netted them a 2021 Davey Award! Not bad, eh?
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