Virgin East Coast Increases Website Sales By More Than £1 Million Using Webtrends


East Coast Client Success Story

“We started off using Webtrends Optimize tentatively to see how it could improve customers’ awareness of special offers. The subsequent conversion uplift we saw from what we originally thought were simple changes was astounding.”

Conor Marron | Digital Optimisation Manager, East Coast

The Client

Virgin East Coast runs high-speed passenger services on the East Coast Main Line between London, Yorkshire the North East and Scotland. It runs 155 services per weekday, and carried 18.7 million passengers in 2011. It operates on routes totaling 936 miles, has 30 electric and 14 diesel trains, and was the first UK train route to offer wireless internet on a moving rail vehicle.

Virgin East Coast has around 2,800 employees at stations, depots and offices from Inverness to London. Its headquarters are in York.

The Challenge

Booking travel online is rapidly increasing, and so is the competition. Websites need to be easy to use and provide an informative and relevant experience to the consumer. To achieve this, brands – like Virgin East Coast – need to understand who is visiting the website and their intentions. If they can extract and use this data, it not only improves the experience for the visitor but also identifies additional sales opportunities.

Whilst Virgin East Coast takes a third of its revenue from its website, a lack of internal resources meant that the in-house team were previously focused on maintenance rather than innovation. The team recognised the opportunity to improve the site in order to maximise possible conversions, but lacked the resources or experience in house to dedicate the time to exploring this.

It was also cautious about making changes to the website without knowing if these would detrimentally affect the conversion rate. It needed a team of experts that could provide a managed service to help them through the process and implement a strategy that was appropriate to their business model, and would support the future growth of all digital channels.

The Solution

Virgin East East Coast engaged with Webtrends to use Analytics and Optimize – its A/B and multivariate (MVT) testing and targeting platform to make improvements that would drive an uplift in conversions.

Optimize provides online testing solutions that reduce abandonment and customer service issues, improve conversions and increases customer loyalty through a complete selection of test and target types, including A/B, MVT, advanced segmentation and behavioral targeting. By using data gathered from Analytics to uncover difficult-to-find customer abandonment points and optimizing the customer experience, Webtrends helps companies maximize their online presence and stand out in a competitive marketplace.

Webtrends was able to deliver an exclusive testing package based on East Coast’s unique requirements and challenges. Webtrends managed service was selected to develop a new strategy of A/B and multivariate (MVT) testing in order to improve the company’s online potential.

The Results

Virgin East Coast’s initial foray into the world of optimization took the form of a test to increase visitor engagement with their special offers. Using Analytics intelligence to guide the approach, combined with Virgin East Coast’s enthusiasm to dive straight in, Webtrends devised a strategy that used multivariate testing in order to increase the visitors’ familiarity with the special offers available to them. With the benefit of the additional measurement recommended through the managed service, Virgin East Coast saw the unexpected benefit of additional sales and revenue uplifts up to £6,000 per month on the first test alone.The team were astounded by the results and keen to test other sections of the website to see what further improvements could be made.

A primary business objective was to increase the volume of upgrades to First Class rather than increase the ticket price. The team needed to understand the behaviour of visitors to ensure the right customers were being targeted. Webtrends worked alongside Virgin East Coast to develop and implement an MVT strategy. By testing multiple iterations, the team were able to save considerable time with maximum efficiency – if Virgin East Coast had run each test separately it would have completed 256+ tests but instead, using Webtrends Optimize patented algorithm, only 16 were required, achieving the results a lot quicker. The tests were run for 14 days to ensure any anomalies in customer behaviour would be detected. The multivariate tests provided insight into areas of the First Class web pages to be re-designed, resulting in significant conversion uplift.

Following the success of the first and second tests, the team turned their attention to the booking funnel. Webtrends Analytics identified an issue in the booking process: following the visitor expressing an interest in a fare and clicking ‘buy’, in the time it took for them to progress to the next page a drop-out rate was identified. The data aggregated from Analytics was used to form the basis of the testing strategy devised by Webtrends. The pages were re-designed, shortening the booking funnel, and resulting in a positive impact on conversion uplift.

Following the success of A/B and multivariate testing, Virgin East Coast increased conversions by over £1.6 million.

East Coast is now working with Webtrends to improve its understanding of customer behaviour online with Webtrends Segments. This is providing visitor level insight into online behavioural trends, which is collected from the website and enriched with data from the CRM. Optimize then uses this data to shape the on-going testing and targeting strategy.

The Virgin East Coast board has been so impressed with the results to date that it has added a new member to the website team, enabling each individual to have an area of focus: testing and personalization, alongside analytics and reporting.

Conor Marron, Digital Optimisation Manager at Virgin East Coast, comments: “We started off using Webtrends Optimize tentatively to see how it could improve customers’ awareness of special offers. The subsequent conversion uplift we saw from what we originally thought were simple changes was astounding. The expertise of the team at Webtrends gave us the confidence and the support to try new approaches. To see an overall uplift of over £1.6 million following our testing to date is incredible. Our initial results have allowed us to better resource our digital team so we can be more focused on specific areas of the website and our digital channels.”

“We are now starting to explore behavioural patterns in our testing results, segmenting our results to align with our existing CRM segments. This will allow us to target our results to specific groups and align results and goals to our own CRM campaigns. In combination with our existing systems, we are leveraging the flexibility of Optimize to tailor our testing right down to the finest detail. This is taking our testing to places we couldn’t have anticipated back when we were doing our first test. Our main goals for the year ahead involve looking at improvements to our mobile channel, further improving our personalsiation, and seeing what we can do with real-time data. The future is looking pretty exciting thanks to Webtrends.”

“Testing can seem like a huge challenge, particularly when the internal team is small but the results can make a significant impact on the bottom line,” says Nick Sharp, Vice-President & General Manager EMEA, Webtrends. “The key is to work with a partner that can provide a managed service and work alongside the internal team to deliver the testing and targeting strategy. Online channels are increasingly important. If a brand can understand the behaviours of its customers, and do this in real-time, they can achieve significant increases to revenue.”