Transforming a global travel brand into a future-proofed, digitally empowered business
increase in revenue
increase in transactions
increase in conversions
The largest operator of open-top bus tours in the world
Operating in 20 cities – across 4 continents – Big Bus Tours is the largest operator of open-top bus tours in the world. Each year they help over 4 million tourists explore and experience cities around the globe, with hundreds of buses and guides educating and entertaining their guests.
- Discovery Workshop
- Strategic Roadmap
- User Experience
- User Interface
- Customer Research
- Competitor Research
- API Integration
- A/B testing
With a business operating globally, multiple points of sale, and a custom Adobe Commerce site, Big Bus Tours were no stranger to technical innovation. But in order to take their growth to the next level – and overcome roadblocks that were hampering reaching their goals – they knew they needed to invest in the digital transformation of their business. Big Bus Tours receive around 80% of their site traffic from mobile devices, so optimising the site to account for this was paramount.
So when the COVID pandemic turned the travel industry upside down, Big Bus Tours decided to invest in technology to transform the customer experience, and went looking for a more proactive, strategic partner to help them achieve it.
Their search for a new partner led them to JH – chosen because they could not only advise and implement on their wider digital and tech strategy, but own and enhance the entire design process. We have now been working with Big Bus Tours for over 18 months.
JH presented a three-pronged strategic vision – building out a long-term eCommerce roadmap to grow Big Bus Tours’ business and improve their customer experience, while removing current roadblocks and empowering their team.
This project utilised skills from across JH’s Development, Design and Strategy teams, and each department held an onboarding session with key stakeholders to deep-dive into issues holding them back, and explore possible solutions.
Simple briefs from Big Bus Tours gave JH the opportunity and scope to explore issues in-depth and challenge preconceptions: solutions were backed with extensive research and data, giving the client peace of mind that they were pushing ever closer to their goals of delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Throughout the project life cycle, stakeholders at Big Bus Tours were available to collaborate at every phase – meaning the team could ensure every feature and improvement could be closely aligned with their business goals and KPIs.
JH also worked closely with Big Bus Tours’ other technology partners – like their ticketing system, Ventrata – to build more robust integrations using custom APIs, and empowering the internal team to cut down on manual processes.
Core Web Vitals performance
As a business heavily reliant on organic search traffic for revenue acquisition (comprising over 25% of total online revenue in 2020), Big Bus Tours knew that maintaining their hard-earned search rankings was key. With Google planning to implement Core Web Vitals as a key part of their search ranking algorithm in May 2021, weak spots in their site performance threatened to result in lost revenue of several million dollars – so one of the first projects JH worked on was to bring the site metrics in line with (and preferably exceed) Google’s benchmarks.
With only a few months until the Core Web Vitals update, the JH team got to work – a comprehensive audit of Big Bus Tours’ existing Adobe Commerce site identified multiple areas for improvement. These suggestions were added to Big Bus Tours’ original project brief to build out a wide-ranging scope – from removing unused 3rd parties, fonts and scripts, to bundling and minifying code, and implementing lazy loading.
The project was completed and deployed on schedule, before the Google ranking algorithm changed, and Big Bus Tours achieved these targets across the board:
Date and time selection
Prior to partnering with JH, tickets for Big Bus Tours’ sightseeing tours could be used on any day for up to 6 months after purchase. Switching to tickets booked for a specific time and date was a key goal for BBT – meaning they could help manage demand, adapt to changing COVID restrictions, and also increase yield on the most popular dates.
The JH team designed a new interface for customers to easily choose their preferred date and time before checking out – and alongside, the developers built a real-time API integration with the existing ticket system, Ventrata, to pull live availability instantly.
For the first time, not only do the Big Bus Tours team have instant and full visibility of availability across every tour, date, and city – but customers do, too, further empowering them to choose the tour to fit into their travel plans.
Flexible ticket pricing
Big Bus Tours’ commercial teams wanted the ability to set ticket prices that reflect demand and peaks, increasing yield across their tour dates – and while this variable pricing was a feature offered in Ventrata, the previous setup of their Adobe Commerce site didn’t allow them to implement this option.
With the new APIs already pulling through real-time availability from Ventrata, JH’s developers expanded the integration to retrieve prices too – meaning the BBT team now have a single source of truth for all their ticket prices and discounts, streamlining process and reducing capacity for errors.
After evolving the date and time picker to integrate live prices into the buying decision, and also redesigning the messaging for prices and savings throughout the site, Big Bus Tours were able to go live with variable pricing – and easily change individual prices at any time, enabling them to increase yield in line with their business growth goals.
City Landing Pages
When we first began working with Big Bus Tours, it was clear that the landing pages used to promote the various cities BBT operates were not mobile-first. The city landing pages required a redesign, but it was imperative that the pages were not simply designed to be mobile-first; they also needed to be localised, with a standardised design so they could be rolled-out to different cities with the flexibility to apply translation.
In addition, BBT’s business model is such that from City to City, there are various types of tour tickets available for purchase, due to the complexity and multitude of tour routes. The standardised design template we created, needed to have enough flexibility to account for these variances, whilst still maintaining consistency of the visual brand identity. Before we redesigned and implemented the new city landing pages, we embarked on a research project to better understand the requirements of customers. This involved analysing hot jar and heat maps, as well as undertaking extensive competitor research and value-proposition discovery with BBT, to further improve upon the communication of their brand identity.
We developed multiple wireframes that were then AB tested to determine the most effective layout for the city landing pages. The new city landing pages have contributed to a 22% increase in conversion rates!
Checkout Design & Payment Options
Big Bus Tours wanted to improve the usability of their checkout. They were keen to provide a modern experience that matches up to customer expectations. In more tangible terms, the impact of this work would be seen in the ecommerce conversion rate, customer satisfaction scores, and related support queries.
BBT shared some initial thoughts on where the issues lay and asked JH to recommend further quick wins and best practice that could be applied. JH carried out a teardown of the current checkout experience, identifying positive and negative features to generate recommendations.
All of the ideas were brought together in a “one-page concept” wireframe, which illustrates a vision that went beyond minor fixes to show a much more streamlined design that would provide a cleaner foundation to incorporate other projects from the checkout roadmap in the future.
“It’s been a very positive 18 months. We’ve achieved several significant developments that improved the website or the capabilities. As a result, we’re leaps and bounds forward. It’s always been really quite impressive that everyone is super competent. The consistency and quality permeates deep across every department. We have so much confidence in this relationship.”
Matt Connell, Lead Tech Delivery Manager at 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