Arriva has relaunched its UK bus website with a new look that aims to make it easier and simpler for customers to find the information they need

 

 

The internet is a growing means of not only providing transport users with information, but also sales activity and this summer Arriva has relaunched its UK bus website with a new look that aims to streamline these processes.

The result is the product of two years of activity between the group and its website partner, Warwickshire-based Freestyle Interactive. So why did the group make the decision to switch to a new site?

“We had grown visitors to the site so substantially that the old platform could no longer cope,” explains David Shadbolt, senior marketing manager – websites, at the group’s UK bus division. “We couldn’t guarantee an excellent customer experience on the site and our objectives had also changed. It wasn’t just about the provision of information any more – it was also about developing the site as a sales channel.”

Indeed average monthly visits to the site hit 0.5 million in 2011 and have grown to 1.5 million in 2014, with annual visits topping 17.0 million. The new site is as a result of a close collaboration between Shadbolt and his team and Freestyle Interactive’s developers. It aims to meet the growing expectations of the customer base from the group’s web offering.

The new site used the EPiServer platform which Shadbolt describes as very flexible and one that Freestyle have used in the past. “There are a number of types and formats of page that we can just build as it’s already part of the Content Management System (CMS),” he adds. “Our content editors can just drag and drop what they want to use.”

This simplicity of execution and use means that the group’s regional marketing teams, two or three of which from each area have received training on working with the site and its CMS, can populate the new site quickly and easily. As Shadbolt notes, this means that the group can benefit from their local insight and knowledge that is invaluable when compared to working centrally.

The new site entered a ‘soft launch’ period in August, but the new site has had a long gestation period. Shadbolt reveals that the group commenced preliminary work on the site two years ago, with a brief interruption for eight months while the group got to grips with its bus app (PT087).

The main aim was to make the site easier to use by minimising the number of clicks and to make access to information easy and intuitive. Significant use of Freestyle’s user experience expert also allowed the group to gain insight into how some of these objectives could be achieved.

An initial ‘scope and define’ process looked at 3.8 million page views from the previous site and this exercise identified where visitors entered the site and their movements around the site. This helped to determine some of the key drivers of traffic to site and the information that was being sought. “But these analytics didn’t necessarily tell you why people are doing what they are doing,” explains Dan Edwards from Freestyle Interactive. “We can make some fairly solid assumptions but its useful to ask questions too sometimes.”

This led to a customer questionnaire. Edwards reveals that feedback from this process was, by its very nature, low and the views were quite diverging. “It did give us a good snapshot,” he adds. “We found out that 45% of visitors were looking for information on a specific service, so on the homepage we added a widget that allows the visitor to search for a specific service. We tried to make it as obvious about what you need to do and to provide access to the content as quickly as possible.”

Work was also undertaken internally within the group’s marketing and communication teams. Shadbolt explains: “We had a number of sessions at Freestyle’s offices where we pulled in people from across the company to help shape what they wanted from the site. They had views on subject matter, site navigation and priorities for the site. It was
a pretty wide poll to make sure that we were catering for everybody’s needs.”

As Edwards mentioned, information about timetables and routes was a key priority and these processes have been streamlined. Every Arriva route in the country is receiving a tailored route map that uses a Google Maps overlay. This allows the prospective bus users to zoom into the route and, if necessary, take a look using Google Streetview. There is also functionality that allows timetables to be downloaded as PDFs allowing customers, as Edwards notes, “to print them out and stick them on the fridge”.

Behind this process there are some complex bits of computer coding. There are thousands of Arriva bus journeys across the UK and many feature complex variations. To get around the problems of processing all of this data the group now uses TransXChange protocols for route and timetable information. When a service timetable or route now changes it’s a simple case of somebody within each Arriva company dropping the TransXChange file into a folder. This data is then processed by HaCon, the German company that powers the Arriva Bus App, with the data then automatically transmitted to Freestyle Interactive which in turn automatically updates the respective service information page on the website.

A major role for the site is e-commerce and it will become an increasingly important sales channel in the future. The e-commerce functionality for the site is hosted on the same platform and offers the user a seamless experience.

“E-commerce continues to grow steadily,” says Shadbolt who reveals that in the first month alone, the site achieved a 65% jump in visits to the ticket sales area. Much of this is thanks to modules that can be placed around the site in order to try and make it as easy as possible for customers to buy ticketing products. “That means we have a much more effective driver of traffic to the ticket sales area,” he adds.

Of course, development of a website never ends and a key project for 2015 will be introducing specific ticket information for each Arriva route in the UK. “Individual fares information is probably the biggest thing that we’re asked for but we don’t provide,” says Shadbolt. “It’s huge, but that’s our task for 2015. At the moment we’ve got the prices for the daily and period tickets, but we want to develop it so that you can put in the starting and end points of your journey and then be presented with not only the times, but also your choice of fares and ticket deals, with the opportunity to purchase there and then.”

The next year will also see the local content elements of the site increased and the immense flexibility of the CMS will make it much easier to develop really engaging and effective content to support national and regional marketing campaigns. “We  also have a lot of social media activity, so we can link back and forth and get even more traffic,” he adds. “It gives us so much more flexibility and different ways of communicating with different target audiences via the channel that’s most appropriate to them.”

Shadbolt describes how it’s important that every part of the site works as hard as it possibly can. “It’s vital to get it right so that people can find quickly what they’re looking for,” he adds.

 

Key features

  • Simple and intuitive bus route search facility after research discovered 45% of website users were searching for timetables.
  • Integrated with Arriva Bus App back office to allow simple updates to timetable information.
  • The site is built to enhance e-commerce activity with visits to the sales area increasing by 65%.
  • 2015 will see detailed fares information for every Arriva bus service in the county.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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