I led my UX team in a redesign of Expedia's loyalty product that focuses on customer needs and a simplified presentation that brought Expedia an increase in new member acquisitions and customer engagement.
Expedia, and online travel agencies in general, need to acquire and retain customers to grow and survive a competitive marketplace. Our data and market trends show customers will shop often and broadly in search of deals. A big-bet solution for us is integration and promotion of our loyalty program, Expedia+, which rewards users for their purchases with benefits and points they can spend on future purchases. Re-launched in the summer of 2014 with a new name, a primetime marketing campaign, and refreshed benefits, Expedia+ sought to engage first time purchasers and convert them into loyal customers.
Expedia+ launched to relatively favorable reviews in the travel space and increased traffic numbers. However, six months later as my pod of designers came to own and work on this aspect of our company's strategy, there was a sense that the we had an underperforming product. As we neared the timing for the global rollout of the Expedia+ program and site experience, concerns were that acquisition rates had plateaued and customers weren't understanding the product due complex earning logic and a glut of benefits being conveyed.
Our pod's approach to this problem predated being asked, as designer intuition and dogfooding the product led us to strong perspectives about the relaunch execution and gaps in customer education. These opinions required validation, and so we sought data to prove our hypotheses in both research and quantitative forms.
Conveniently, our UX researchers had recently conducted a survey of existing loyalty program participants to evaluate comprehension of Expedia+. A key learning from that survey was that 80+% of our new members didn't know their status or understand their unique set of benefits (both the opportunities and limitations). Sadly, even silver (second-tier) members only had 50% awareness that they had achieved their elite state or what it meant for them.
I also took it upon myself to dive into our analytics suite to assess individual page and module performance at a more granular level. Most concerning, I learned that our initial "How it Works" page was causing from a shocking 21.55% bounce rate. This page was a centerpiece of the Expedia+ launch and featured an immersive, high-touch parallax scrolling experience interposing aspirational imagery and program details. It served as the welcome mat for and primary means for customers looking to understand the program--and it was struggling.
Our findings were combined with stakeholder interviews and conversations, and led to a Product Manager and I crafting a forward-looking map that gave an overview of where we knew we needed to invent, evolve and improve the experience within the Expedia+ microsite.
I had our multidisciplinary pod approach the initial How it Works page challenge with a hack-a-thon style ideation session, where each of us could explore and advocate for what improvements would better serve our customers. With strong ideas coming from all parties, my IA simplification was chosen by the group to lay the foundation for the redesign, with updated visuals and content coming from my team to create more focused and performant UX.
Our simplified and optimized redesign of the How It Works page resulted in a +13.3% increase in acquisitions and 74.8% reduction in abandons from that page. Annualized, these improvements account for +$1.5M in gross profit. We continue to test updated content for this page, seeking a story that is more user focused and contextually relevant depending on the ingress point. We've not won every A/B test on that front, but we're learning and evolving our approach as we go. There are many more optimizations to be tested in this space.
Our work to create new, specific Tier Pages resulted in higher conversion and engagement rates for new and established users. Long term effects of this educational experience are still pending, but signs are trending that we're driving greater repeat rates and engagement with Expedia.
I'm pleased in the validation of our instincts that, in the case of our How It Works Page, form wasn't following function. As a design team that tries to keep their eye on delightful trends, it was clear that what Expedia has produced was a modern visual showpiece, but lacked customer empathy in terms of making the details accessible and understandable.
My pod seemed to relish in the approach of a hack-a-thon style ideation session as it flexed their problem solving muscle and allowed each to approach the issue from their respective point of expertise. It resulted in a final design solution that we were eager to test and accept shared credit for the successes.
A misstep of mine in this process however was a lack of judgement on how to articulate the shortcomings of the design we replaced. Despite the fact that the original designers had moved on from the company, I lacked insights into their challenges and should have been less disparaging of their solutions and focused solely on the customer wins.