We recently headed to the Kentico offices to talk about our project with Cruiseco to create the new cruising.com.au.
Before we left, we sat down with our lead developer Jason to understand the real ins and outs of the project, and why he thinks the end result is pretty cool.
Why did you create this project and what challenges did it pose?
In 2017 more than 5% of all Australians took a cruise.
The industry is growing, and competition is fierce. There is a growing gap between businesses with great digital experiences and those with outdated systems.
Cruiseco was one of the latter businesses, but wasn't going to be left behind.
They are membership-based. Their members - travel agents - stood to lose market share as customers flocked to direct online booking options.
Cruiseco needed to improve their technology infrastructure to support their members.
They decided to put in place a new marketing engine - website - member portal - intranet - and online booking engine.
Our key challenge was ensuring that all of these systems all talked to each other. We also needed to keep the real people in the business using the systems front of mind - not just their customers. New systems that create a 'wow' factor for customers create big changes for the teams managing them.
What systems did you use in the website?
holds all the Cruiseco's content for the website and intranet. It is integrated with the booking system via a custom application layer.
We did a Content Design process first to determine the ideal relationship of content types across the website and intranet. In this part of the project, I worked with the content strategist to make sure all the mapped relationships were technically feasible and plan how we would make them work.
The resulting content model is made up of 42 Content Types. It relies heavily on taxonomies and linked items to display content via the Kentico Cloud Delivery API.
Basically, all the content sits in one hub. It then appears on any number of front-end interfaces - cruising.com.au, the member portal, and member websites as well.
Why did you choose Kentico Cloud?
Kentico Cloud was chosen for a number of reasons, the key being:
It makes it easy to publish high volumes of content using repeatable layouts. Cruiseco publish in excess of 20 new cruise packages weekly so this is a big priority.
It can present the same content in different front-end designs, allowing us to create a 'white site' engine for Cruiseco. As a result, over 430 members have their own branded website, based on the Cruiseco front-end design, which drive sales back to their unique booking engines.
Kentico Cloud gave us the ability to easily build a ‘landing page builder’ with simple ‘drag and drop’ sections using linked content items. This was a specific request from Cruiseco to speed up their promotional activities.
It is easy to use. An initial Proof of Concept saw the Cruiseco team load and publish over 100 content items within 4 days, with very little training.
It's flexible. You can make it work with lots of other systems. For example a lot of content actaully lives in the booking system, but we use Kentico Cloud to control whether or not it is 'pulled' forward onto the website. This means that Cruiseco only have to upload information once and have one source of truth for things like pricing.
What are your favourite features and how long did it take you to complete?
Much of the content display is conditional. That means that things only display when the right conditions are met. So a package might only appear on a specific member website, but not on the main Cruiseco site. Or if you log into the member portal and are part of member group A, you might see different things to people in member group B.
The best thing is that the people managing the website only have to tick a few boxes to achieve this. And, we've written instructions in Kentico Cloud so that they get help where they need it.
For more tech-minded people, given the complex content model, external query caching was used to improve performance and Kentico Cloud CDN + image optimisation was also used throughout the site.
It performs really well given the highly visual nature of the site - lots of big images - and the amount of things the system is doing to determine what content to show you.
The delivery of a complete content model, website, member portal, whitesite engine (the members all have a site too!) and booking system integration was complete within 20 weeks.
What are the main outcomes of the new site?
The new site is a huge departure from the old version. It was outdated and only showed a handful of cruise packages. It also didn't work across different screen sizes.
Cruiseco now have a fully functioning marketing platform that they can rely on for promotion and bookings - and we're making it better every day.
A two day promotion not so long ago saw Cruiseco generate (and handle) 2.5x their usual daily traffic. This is a great sign that the site is scalable and performs well under pressure.
Users now have the opportunity to view and purchase packages. this will have a big impact on their members' businesses.
Over 430 travel agents also now have access to their own branded website, promoting Cruiseco’s packages and integrated with the booking system.
This means that not only have members, in effect, received a free website as part of their membership, they are also able to receive commissions on online bookings.
We all like to do stuff online now. So previously those members might have lost customers who were moving away from travel agent bookings and into direct online bookings.