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Be Our Guest: How IHG® & Brooks Bell are Delivering a Better Booking Experience

It was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said: “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” But that was way back in the 4th century B.C. For today’s travelers, their journey begins with many clicks, searches and a lot of time spent comparing prices, referencing maps and reading reviews.

Traveling—and all the logistical decisions that come with it—requires meticulous research and planning. And with the majority of travel planning now happening in the digital space, travel and hospitality brands are seeing the benefit of using experimentation to optimize their online booking experiences. Ultimately, this was one of the driving forces behind InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG®)  decision to engage with Brooks Bell.  

IHG is a hospitality company headquartered in Denham, United Kingdom. Their portfolio of hotels includes InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton® Hotels & Restaurants, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn®, and Holiday Inn Express®— brands that are known and loved by millions of consumers around the world.

The IHG homepage search feature serves as the primary entry point to the company’s booking funnel. Testing this feature made sense, as it’s located on one of the most trafficked pages on the site, and supported IHG’s goal of driving more hotel bookings.

“Our research suggested that we had a considerable opportunity to improve business performance by optimizing the search tool. Our aim was to leverage Brooks Bell’s expertise in testing and optimization to eliminate friction and decision anxiety for users upon arrival to the IHG homepage.”

– Garrod Gibb, Director of Digital Analytics and Site Optimization at IHG

What we did

End-to-End Testing
Short-Term Staffing
Strategy & Operations Consulting

Tools we used

Adobe Target & Analytics
ClickTale

 

The Challenge

Increase hotel bookings among visitors to the IHG homepage.

Our Process

Through analyzing IHG’s quantitative data and conducting additional qualitative UX research, we found the number of tabs and options available distracted visitors from their core purpose of researching hotels. From this research, a hypothesis emerged: IHG needed to simplify. By eliminating points of friction within the homepage booking module, IHG would then increase booking conversions.

The Experiment

The homepage test took approximately two weeks to plan and design, with an additional ten days for development and QA. The experiment ran for two weeks, testing two different challengers against IHG’s control experience.

The Control

IHG Case Study Control

IHG’s homepage search module is made up of a combination of tabs and fields. Using the tabs along the top, users could find a hotel or manage an existing reservation. Under the “find a hotel” option, after inputting values into the destination, check-in date and check out date fields, the module expands to reveal six additional fields, as well as a link to an advanced search page.

Challenger 1IHG Case Study Challenger

We eliminated the tabs, the auto-expand functionality for secondary fields and the ability to do an advanced search.  The manage reservation task was moved to the “utilities” section of the header.

The idea behind this challenger was that by eliminating the distraction of the tabs, the auto-expand functionality for secondary fields and the advanced search, IHG users will search more often, leading to an increase in bookings.

Challenger 2
IHG Case Study Challenger 2

We kept the auto-expand functionality for secondary fields but eliminated the tabs and the advanced search option.

For this challenger, by keeping the auto-expand functionality, IHG allows users to see additional fields that they can apply to their search. This will cause users to search more often and more intentionally, leading to an increase in bookings.

The Results

Challenger 2 was the clear winner, posting a significant increase in bookings among unique visitors. More importantly, however, this test was the first of many wins we’ve celebrated since launching our relationship with IHG.

Additional services Brooks Bell has provided include:

Short-term development staffing for testing to overcome bandwidth constraints.

– Recommendations for staffing and testing team structure.

– Creation of a custom model and process for ranking test ideas and requests that come through the queue. This was built based on mostly quantitative and analytical factors to mitigate decision-making concerns from upper management.

– Custom templates for documentation and QA.

Analytics & storytelling training to onboard new team members.