Travel Planning

Case Study 01 | Personalized activity, restaurant, & event recommendations

Context

We built Utrip to make travel planning easy, enjoyable, and personal for travelers around the globe. The purpose of this redesign was to improve Utrip’s core user experience in order to learn more about traveler preferences, deliver a consumer-grade experience to our users, and empower our B2B partners to meet their business objectives.

Along the way, we've collected 150+ million data points, influenced 10+ million travelers, and worked with global travel brands such as, Hilton, Starwood Preferred Guest, JetBlue, Holland America Line, TUI Group, NYC & Company, Visit Las Vegas, and more.

Timeline

Fall 2017

My Role

UX/UI Design
UX Research

Deliverables

Research Reports
Prototypes
Design Documentation
Final Product

Methods

Usability Studies
Affinity Diagrams
Persona Creation
Wireframing
Rapid Prototyping

Impact

The new UI/UX addressed the needs of our primary personas (e.g. wishlisting, more context around recommendations, etc.) and improved engagement.

56%

Increased avg. time on page

3x

Increased data collection

Challenge

How might we surface in-destination recommendations in an interactive, intuitive, and delightful way?

Research

We compiled an in-depth competitive analysis, conducted 12 usability studies, consulted industry experts, and used affinity diagrams to translate qualitative findings into actionable data.

No two travelers are alike

“Planners” crave control, in order to maximize their travel experience. “Wanderers” like recommendations, but prefer to go with the flow and make decisions in-destination.

Personalization can induce FOMO

The Utrip Classic experience forced users to select specific travel dates prior to seeing any recommendations, which caused travelers to fear that they might miss out on unique experiences.

User action requires system feedback

90% of travelers didn't understand the intent of the sliders in the Utrip Classic experience because nothing appeared to happen.

Travel is visual

73% of travelers wanted to see more photos in a more inspiring, visual experience.

Ideation & Prototyping

We sketched, wireframed, and mocked up all sorts of ideas to narrow product scope and build prototypes quickly. We tested our initial concepts with several partners, industry experts, and more travelers. We iterated based on those learnings, refined our prototypes, and tested again.

Personalization should be flexible

Our new design gives users much more control over their travel preferences, enabling them to indicate who they are traveling with, the purpose of their trip, and any specific interests they may have. We made the wishlist functionality much more prominent, and also allowed users to forgo specific date selection by instead selecting a season, or no dates at all.

Actions require feedback

The improved Travel Planning experience provides users with new recommendations as they change their preferences, giving them clear feedback based on their actions. The goal was to provide the user with recommendations that make sense, based on their actions.

Design & Iteration

We designed an experience that feels modern, yet comfortable; guiding, yet unconstricted. Travelers have the ability to tell Utrip what they like by moving interest sliders, selecting specific tags, favoriting activities, and more. Utrip’s algorithms use these preference data points to make personalized recommendations for every traveler, while we strive to continue to improve the experience.

Increased Engagement

Increased time on page by 56% and increased data collection by 3x (from 2016-17). Not only were users spending more time within the experience, but we were able to learn more about them than we ever had before.

Increased conversation & share of wallet

During a 6-month pilot, we demonstrated an increase of 260% over TUI Group’s revenue per user, an increase of 234% over TUI Group’s user conversion rate, and enabled their Destination Services Team to optimize their inventory mix based on Utrip’s cohort analysis.

Merchandising phrasing & flow

Initially a “Book Now” button on the front of the activity card dropped the user directly into a 3rd party booking path. However, as we A/B tested different placements, paths, and phrasing of buttons to enable users to purchase experiences / tickets, we learned that users preferred less decisive phrasing on the front of the card (“Check Prices”). Once a user has seen prices and learned more about the activity, the “Book Now” phrasing converted best.

What I Learned

The development and launch of the Travel Planning experience was a departure from Utrip's original core product. Ultimately, it was a success, but it required a lot of buy-in from several key stakeholders.

B2B & B2C challenges

Utrip is a B2B company with a B2C product, which makes for a very nuanced set of challenges. As we tested our prototypes and final design, we needed to do different types of tests with different stakeholders (partners and users). Sometimes partner and user needs are at odds with one another, in which case it is crucial to understand what the partner is actually trying to achieve with the feature request. That way we could design an experience that meets their business objectives, but does not take away from the end user experience (e.g. a “bookable only” filter for the recommendations container).

Align internal prioritization

Startups need to be scrappy, and act quickly, to survive, but the alignment of goals is crucial to success. We learned that everyone has to be on the same page in order to maintain focus, which led to a more streamlined, pragmatic approach to product roadmap prioritization. Not only are we rapidly iterating on product, but we are also rapidly iterating on internal processes, which inherently improves future product iterations.

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