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Palm-fringed beaches. Turquoise infinity pools. Snow-covered mountains. Grand hotel foyers. It’s the stuff our holiday dreams are made of – dreams that Luxury Escapes is in the business of making come true.
Luxury Escapes was created as a spin-off of an existing business and quickly became the fastest-growing online travel agency in Australia. But by 2016 it was clear the legacy platforms of that previous business were holding it back. Customers wanted a one-stop shop but were still having to toggle between the Luxury Escapes website and flight, tour, car rental and travel insurance providers. Add to that the frustration of switching from mobile devices to a desktop to make purchases, and the inevitable result was lost sales.
Booking a trip didn't feel like the luxury promised on the trip itself, and the lack of consistency made accessing those longed-for infinity pools just too cumbersome.
And customers weren’t the only ones left frustrated. Internal users – including finance, marketing and customer service – were stymied by outdated tech stacks that undermined operations and hindered innovation.
Ensnared by old technology and old habits, Luxury Escapes needed to mount its own escape in order to start fresh and soar. Heroku would prove to be the ideal travel companion for its journey.
Luxury at first sight
As Chief Product Officer Shay Hamama explains, a holiday doesn’t just kick off when a customer checks in at their hotel. It begins the moment they start daydreaming about it and involves the entire process of browsing, researching and booking, and then anticipating it before finally departing. Luxury Escapes’ goal then, was to create an online experience that was as luxurious as the physical experience - the booking process needed to be on par with the product itself.
Luxury Escapes first had to listen to what its customers wanted: a complete and cohesive mobile experience with information relevant to their needs, an easy booking facility, and an abundance of visual information they could immerse themselves in.
This was beyond the old tech stack to deliver – the entire platform and app were rebuilt from scratch based not only on this feedback from customers, but on information gathered from vendors and internal users.
Heroku accommodated all these needs and integrated seamlessly with CRM, Service, Sales and Marketing Clouds.
Personalisation and relevancy would be key to providing superior customer experience..
“We have 50 to 60 deals running at any given time but not all of them will be relevant to every customer,” Hamama explains.
With Heroku collecting customer data and synchronising it across all platforms, demand for a tailored experience could be met - while still allowing for the element of surprise and delight that is a key point of difference for Luxury Escapes.
And delighted they were:
There was a 12% increase in the average order value as customers were more willing to upgrade based on the increased information and visuals at their fingertips.
Adapting the app for mobile interaction saw a 22% increase in the number of mobile purchases as customers felt more confident to buy through the app rather than swapping to desktop.
There was a 32% increase in the average transaction value via the mobile app, showing customers were now comfortable with higher-value spends in the app
Giving customers all the information they needed to make a decision and a purchase on the go led to a 2.9% increase in conversion rate.
New structure, better communication, standout solution
A traditionally structured team made up of front end and back end developers who liaise with development operations often results in misunderstandings and little sense of a common goal. The time spent by engineers and designers trying to communicate their needs to dev ops is time lost to innovation and problem solving. This messy, time-intensive approach was exactly what Luxury Escapes wanted to avoid in its new iteration.
“The greatest enemy to innovation is bureaucracy,” says Hamama, “and Heroku has really helped us reduce bureaucracy.” How? By allowing the company to eliminate dev ops entirely from the process and create three fully autonomous, cross-functional squads. Made up of an engineer, product manager, and user experience (UX) designer, each operates as a “vertical slice”, focusing on one user group only: customers, vendors or internal users.
With dev ops out of the picture, Heroku acting as a foundation, and each squad a complete and discrete unit, no cumbersome dependencies are created. Rather, the teams are fully empowered to take responsibility for their particular user group. The sense of accountability and the personal connection this has created between squad and user group has been transformational.
The empowered-squad structure and the Heroku platform have also increased the pace of development – not only decreasing time to market, but allowing innovation to once again flourish at Luxury Escapes. Where once a surge of work would have involved weeks of onboarding new people and getting them familiar with systems, Hamama says this can now happen in a matter of days. People who have not worked with Heroku before are able to build features and learn the deployment process in hours.
“This is unheard of,” he says. And it means response times to problems or activation of new iterations are dramatically reduced.