Thomas Cook: Boosting Online Sales with Performance Monitoring
Leading Travel Services Website Proves the Value of APM
June 27, 2013
Andrew Dean
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It’s a fact that online businesses lose out on revenue when customers abandon their transactions due to website performance problems. We learned this lesson first hand at Thomas Cook Online, but we also learned that with a performance monitoring solution that scrutinizes customer experience, we could not only improve the performance of our website but also recapture lost business.

Founded in 1841, Thomas Cook is the world’s best-known name in travel. The company has more than 1,900 employees, 1,500 retail outlets and travel-related services including Thomas Cook Online, which consists of several websites serving the travel needs of various countries. Our UK website is the largest, accounting for more than 40 percent of Thomas Cook’s total UK business. The website had become so popular that it was averaging 1 million hits per day, with almost 3 million during peak travel season.

While the high volume of traffic represented the potential for significant bookings, it also generated performance issues that slowed the speed of the website and created a less-than-stellar experience for customers, who began abandoning their transactions.

Our existing monitoring system was unable to identify and resolve performance issues fast enough, as error messages appeared on the log at the end of each day and weren’t identified until the next day, which was too late. On top of that, we had limited visibility into the user’s experience to help us understand why they had left the site.

Since the speed of a website is directly related to the conversion rate, we knew our monitoring systems needed an overhaul if we were going to improve the performance of our online travel agency site and increase web-based travel bookings. We needed clear visibility into all aspects of our customers’ experience on the site so we could see the problems they experienced as they happened, and resolve them quickly to keep the website at peak performance.

We chose a monitoring system with the ability to scrutinize applications, databases and infrastructure for insight into the user experience, as well as the way the system responds to every customer mouse click. We saw that if we had a problem with a particular web page, the solution could pinpoint the exact application server so we could resolve the problem quickly.

Now, with a clear view of the entire infrastructure and automatic real-time alerts, our IT team can see and address problems before they impact customers booking travel on the site. This proactive monitoring means we’ve been able to keep the website operating at peak performance, giving users a consistently positive website experience.

As a result, travel bookings have increased by 30 percent and average transactional value is up. During peak times, we can take up to 180 bookings per hour, which equates to more than $420,000, based on the average selling price of a booking.

While our website hits, bookings and transactional value all have increased, we also have experienced significant reductions in time and issues since deploying performance/customer experience monitoring. The time it takes for problem resolution has been reduced by 97 percent ─ from 48 hours down to two hours ─ and the volume of online customer service calls has been cut in half.

Our experience offers several takeaways for other online retailers who are interested in using performance monitoring to boost sales.

First, it’s important to understand your customer’s entire experience on the website, not just their actions. There could be hundreds of reasons why customers abandon their online shopping carts, but a monitoring solution that records and replays every step of every customer’s visit to your site, including what they put into their shopping cart, will tell you why they behaved as they did.

It’s also critical to have a clear view of the entire enterprise to ensure the performance and availability of revenue-generating applications, and to remember that it’s not just about getting good performance from your website, but rather, maintaining peak performance. We maintain peak performance and have increased sales with a monitoring solution that alerts our IT team to emerging issues in real time, so problems can be addressed quickly, before they affect customers.

Finally, it’s possible to boost sales by using customer experience monitoring to recapture lost business. At Thomas Cook Online, we recovered more than $180,000 in lost business in three months as our monitoring solution automatically sent shopping details of customers who had dropped off the website to retention teams, who then were able to follow up with emails to those potential customers and facilitate new bookings.

So, the bottom line is that it’s just not necessary to lose customers and revenue due to a poorly performing website. A solution that monitors the customer experience and the way the system responds to your customers’ activity on the website will help you keep your customers not just shopping, but coming back again.

ABOUT Andrew Dean

Andrew Dean is the Service Delivery Manager (EU) for the Thomas Cook Group, specifically in the ECE (Ecommerce Centre of Excellence). He has been with the company for 10 years. Dean holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Interactive Media from the University of Sunderland.

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