Monarch AirlinesIncreasing Booking Conversion Rates

Monarch Airlines is a leading scheduled airline operating from six bases in the UK to leisure destinations around the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands and to ski destinations in winter. The airline is part of the Monarch Group that also offers core activities in tour operations and aircraft engineering.

Monarch carried a record total of 7 million passengers in 2014, achieving an annual turnover of £767.5m, a 13.9% annual increase. Monarch's UK website and five foreign language websites received 12.75 million visits over the year.

Booking Process Overview

Digital Marmalade first started working with the Monarch Airlines’ digital and commercial team in 2009, initially on the Monarch Holidays and Monarch Hotels websites.  Our primary goal was, and still is, to increase conversion rates throughout the customer journey across all digital platforms. Both websites started recording large jumps in conversions in the year on year comparisons immediately following the relaunch. Despite these successes, there was an understandable reluctance to revamp the airline’s flight booking process as it was already successfully turning over £40 million per month. The risk of any failures on such a critical revenue stream was a concern.

In October 2011, Monarch took a controlled plunge and split tested a completely redesigned flight booking process to 20% of visitors to the website.  During this test phase the new designs performed considerably better in all metrics against the old website.  By January 2012 the new booking process was fully released to all site visitors. Since then the process has been continually improved and optimised, resulting in steady increases in revenue and usability scores.

Independent Research ranked the Monarch website as the best online flight operator website in the UK and in the top 10 within the travel industry, beating competitors whom, in many cases, have much bigger budgets!

Screenshot of Monarch Website Booking Process Path

Increasing Conversion Rates

In 2014, following an intense marketing initiative, Monarch’s websites were being visited by over 12.75 million unique visitors per year. With so many visitors any incremental improvements to the website would result in significant upswings in revenue.

The digital team’s focus was on optimising each and every commercial touch point across the customer’s journey; from booking flights, holidays, hotels and car hire through to pre-holiday interactions via email, during check-in, in-flight and whilst on holiday through it’s app.

The improved user experience, messaging and design helped increase both booking conversions and the up-sells of optional travel extras. Revenue throughout the year rose 14% to £767.5 million, with increases of 20% in ancillary sales.

There are obviously a lot of factors that affect booking conversion rates; competitive pricing, quality of service, and world politics to name a few, but UX and design also play a big part.

These improvements not only resulted in a significant increase in sales, but saw the site ranked the top airline for its booking process in the eTravel Benchmark Study for usability. The booking processes continue to be reviewed, measured and improved.

The travel industry is a sector Digital Marmalade specialise in. We have a wealth of experience in all aspects of travel and have consistently crafted complex booking paths into intuitive, clean, well-designed customer-focused processes.

Screenshot of Monarch Website Booking Process Path
Monarch Booking Path Mobile screen
Monarch Booking Path Mobile screen
Monarch Booking Path Mobile screen
Monarch Booking Path Mobile screen
Monarch Booking Path Mobile screen

Mobile Booking Path

By 2013, mobile traffic to the Monarch websites had become significant, so to cater for this we worked with Monarch to develop a mobile friendly web booking process, with each and every aspect designed and optimised for the small screen. In 2014, Monarch also released iPhone and Android native apps that enable users to easily search, book and manage flights whilst on the move.

As expected, this mobile centric booking process had dramatically positive effects on the conversion rates and revenue generated from customers booking on a mobile device.

Managing Bookings

Ecommerce is not just about selling goods, it’s also about providing customers with the tools for managing their online purchases. In Monarch’s case, this means allowing customers to log into their account where they can review and manage their bookings. A whole host of online tools allow them to view and manage flight dates, passenger names, online check-in, in-flight meals, car hire, hotels, seat upgrades and airport lounge reservations.

Screenshot of My Account section on Monarch website
A customer’s experience usually starts with one of our websites. Delivering superior service online means relentless evolution.
Ian Chambers, Head of retail and Online, Monarch Airlines

Holiday Research

Good website design, good content and a clear website architecture play their part in funnelling customers to the booking paths.  For an airline, prices, reliability and customer service play a big part in making a sale.  For holidays you can add anticipation and expected memories to the mix.  For hotel bookings add location, quality and value for money.

The Monarch Travel website caters for all these factors, with useful airline information, clear competitive pricing, and extensive destination and hotel guides.  A key additional benefit of quality content and logical information architecture is the positive effect it has on search engine results, with each landing page optimised for the search term with clear and relevant booking options.

The Monarch Group has recently launched a new core reservation and inventory management system for booking holidays, called ‘TravelBox’. The platform is a massive upgrade on the previous system, enabling the group to create a ‘travel marketplace’ selling both own-brand holidays and third party stock, thus providing more choice for the customer. The platform provides increased functionality to both the consumer and appointed trade agents. Digital Marmalade’s role was in the web design and user interface of the booking process, ensuring it is intuitive, easy to use and, as always, is optimised for sales conversions.

Personalisation

Visitors to the Monarch website now benefit from personalised real-time promotions, flight price grids and pre-set search parameters based on extensive data gathered from the user’s previous flight searches, site and booking activity (both complete and incomplete bookings), geo-coordinates, and referrer websites.  This data feeds into Sitecore which intelligently delivers the personalised content to the website, the Navitaire booking process and purchase confirmation page, assisting in upselling ancillaries.

Coupled with other incremental improvements throughout the website and booking process, sales conversions have increased by 5%, increasing average passenger spend on seat and ancillaries by £1.64 within 6 months of its launch. Such an increase per capita may seem small, but for airlines it contributes tens of millions to the bottom line.

5%increase in sales conversion

A Monarch customer’s purchase cycle doesn’t necessarily end at the website checkout.  There are numerous customer touch points where there are opportunities to upsell including booking confirmation emails, online check-in, and through the Monarch app.  Each of these customer interactions include personalised upsells or products and ancillaries that the customer hasn’t purchased such as car hire, insurance and seat upgrades.

Screenshot of Monarch Website Booking Process Path

Monarch Overseas

Monarch has five responsive overseas websites that target potential customers planning to visit the UK. These sites are built on Digital Marmalade’s multilingual content management system that provides Monarch’s commercial teams with the tools to build multimedia rich, search engine optimised pages that deep link into multilingual booking processes. We also produce Monarch’s overseas airport advertising and online campaigns.

Screenshots of Monarch Overseas Website

Banners & Web Ads

Display advertising is a popular method for companies to both drive traffic to their website. Digital Marmalade design Monarch's banners using Flashtalking which allows us to produce campaigns with real time dynamic pricing.

Screenshot of Monarch display advert examples
Digital Marmalade is a trusted online design partner for the Monarch Travel Group. Over the many years we've worked with them they've consistently delivered high quality work to the demanding deadlines required by the Airline and Online Travel markets. They are also always ready for a new challenge and have added considerable value to both our online design and usability.
Ian Chambers, Head of Retail and Online, Monarch Airlines

Monarch App

The Monarch Airlines App, first launched in March 2013, has been downloaded over 200,000 times. Version 1 of the app was developed to be the perfect travel companion for Monarch passengers, assisting them at each step of their journey. Version 2 introduced native flight booking and management tools with digital boarding passes coming soon!

Monarch App screenshots

Application Main Features

  • A mobile optimised flight search and booking path
  • An easy to use flight tracking section
  • Directions and traffic alerts to make the journey to the airport less stressful
  • A whole host of airport information from shops to internal airport maps
  • The ability to log in and retrieve your flight details
  • A currency converter
  • The ability to send e-postcards to friends and family

Application Planning & Prototyping

Digital Marmalade has been designing and building digital solutions for over 20 years. During this time, we have developed an in-depth understanding of user experience design across all devices, and this knowledge is applied to every user interface that we deliver.

Every step of a user journey is considered, not only on the consumer facing elements, but also the management tools that drive the applications. Interactive wireframe prototypes are developed, then collaboratively reviewed, tweaked, and signed-off by the project stakeholders.

This prototype acts as a blueprint for the designers, developers, and testers. It identifies the technical architecture, initial project timelines, cost estimates and key deliverables for all parties. This process is proven to deliver projects on time and ensures expectations are always met.

App Content Management System

Content within the app is managed through a dedicated CMS built using our Marmalade Suite. This provides Monarch with the tools to keep the app up-to-date, without the need to release new apps through the app store.

The content managed through the CMS includes the homepage promotional banners, airport information and push message rules to allow Monarch to target individual devices with personalised messages.

Monarch Content Management System

Monarch In-Flight Shopping & Enterntainment

MPlayer, Monarch's in-flight entertainment system is now being rolled out across Monarch's fleet. MPlayer allows passengers to consume music, movies, TV shows, newspapers and magazines from the comfort of their own devices through a dedicated MPlayer app.

A collaboration between AeroFi, Monarch Engineering and Monarch's digital team (which includes us), the system is truly innovative in the aviation industry. The app connects wirelessly to the onboard server and streams media to the devices. The media bundle costs just £3.99 per person.

Digital Marmalade helped wireframe a prototype of the app, and provided designs to AeroFi's app development team. MPlayer will soon be integrated directly into the Monarch app.

Monarch In-Flight App on iPad Screen

Monarch Engineering

Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) is a division of Monarch which provides aircraft maintenance and repair for Monarch Airlines and other airlines and operators worldwide. The website showcases a wide range of services offered by MAEL and details up-to-date information about training courses, company news and events. There is also an aircraft parts search which links seamlessly through to an RFQ form for quick and effective lead generation. Monarch has full control to update the site using a custom CMS built in Marmalade Suite, and the frontend is fully responsive so it looks great on any mobile device.

Screenshot of Monarch Engineering homepage
Yet again we set Digital Marmalade near impossible deadlines, but we know that they always deliver. They managed to turn the app project around from concept to launch in the apps stores in the space of six weeks. We were aware that we were playing catch-up with some airlines, whom we have surpassed with our offering in terms of functionality and usability. Already we are seeing the commercial gains, and mobile apps are becoming centric to our business strategy.
Julian Wheway, Head of Product & Innovation, Monarch Airlines

Brand Evolution

Since working with Monarch in 2009 we’ve played our part in the Monarch Brand’s evolution into an airline known for superior customer service and value.

Composition showing Monarch websit design evolution from 2008 to 2016

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