Utrip is a white labeled B2B startup with more that 60 partners worldwide. The core Utrip partnerships have been DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations), which rely on Utrip's trip planning and itinerary generation technology. However, in order to scale to address the needs of more enterprise partnerships, we needed to be able to accommodate partners with multiple destinations, different inventory types and top-of-funnel trip inspiration.
From our user testing we learned photos are essential for travel inspiration. 73% of users wanted to see more photos in a more inspiring, visual experience. However, changing the UI to use larger photos had major implications for multiple teams.
The Product, Engineering and Content teams strategized how to address:
Because a single photo would be used in a variety of contexts, we figured out what an optimal original photo size & aspect ratio should be. Then we created documentation for the Content and Account Management teams to share with the partners.
To retrofit the thousands of existing images, the Content Team combed through each image and either optimizing/re-cropping the images or finding new images as necessary. While most of this was a manual process, the Engineers helped to automate some of the work by building an image optimization & cropping tool in our internal Admin CMS.
It's one thing to say "let's including personalized recommendations of desintations too!" It's another to enact it. One of the biggest blockers to launching the Discovery page was the fact that our recommendation engine, UtripIA, was optimized for in-Destination inventory (e.g. POI, restaurants, tours...etc). It was not built for top-of-funnel destination recommendations.
We worked with our engineering and content teams to find a solution. While full incorporation into UtripIA was the ideal, a recommendation solution that utilized Elasticsearch would:
Because Utrip is a small startup, we were often iterating on the internal processes along size the external product builds, to ensure that every step forward meant we could do more, faster. One consistent spot of friction in the product development process was the turn-around time for creating design specs, a Google Doc, which could be up to 40 pages long and easily became out-of-date since all spec updates had to be manually managed.
A.B.I. Always be iterating. This mindset applied to everything from UI to internal processes. For this project we switched design software (from Adobe Creative Suite to Sketch), and the design documentation process (from generating 40+ page Google Documents to streamlined Zeplin files). Within a week, we were fully on-boarded. Within a month our output had doubled.
Launching the Discovery page opened up new partnership opportunities. In addition to broadening our technology for use cases higher up in the travel lifecycle and conversion funnels, the Discovery page's use of Elasticsearch opened the door for non-destination inventory sorting. This shift allowed us to more easily include cruises in our Utrip Recommenation Engine. This opened the door for partnerships with Windstar Cruises, Uniworld and Insight Vacations.