Since the 1970s, STA Travel has helped adventurous students plan summer trips and spring break excursions. Over the years, the company’s close connection with its customers and their needs has fuelled its growth into the world’s largest student, youth and budget-travel organisation, with a global network of hundreds of branches and 20 regional websites.
When STA first ventured online, its websites did little more than extend the company’s rich selection of trip-planning resources and booking services onto the web. The sites operated independently within their geographic regions, without a global system, architecture or platform.
As a result, STA Travel had limited visibility into customer flow within its websites. The company had little sense of what customers were searching for which travel destinations they were interested in, or the parts of its websites that generated the most trip reservations. Even the countries from which people visited the sites were a mystery. The impact: STA Travel was losing one of the core ingredients of its success – its keen understanding of its customers and their needs.
In 2005, STA Travel introduced a global strategy for ecommerce technology to coordinate its regional web sites and streamline its online user experience. The company looked to Webtrends to provide the analytics insight necessary to make this new strategy successful. STA Travel deployed Webtrends Analytics, the online marketing industry’s most powerful and flexible analytics platform, to measure all aspects of the organisation’s online presence, from static content on its websites to buzz generated on other websites or blogs, including social media sites such as Facebook.
“Webtrends Analytics provides answers to the questions we must continually ask ourselves to better understand and serve our customers,” said Craig Hepburn, Global Webmaster for STA Travel. “How many people are downloading our latest podcast and then listening to it? How many people are submitting content to our site, uploading images and writing blogs? What are people saying about us on Twitter? We now have insight on all of these questions and many more.”
In addition, STA Travel now has multiple ways to monitor and report on the wealth of online data at its disposal. Marketing and web teams in each of STA Travel’s regional markets can monitor key performance indicators in real time, via performance dashboards, or they can receive reports in pdf format by email and view them on any device. If they need to drill down into the performance of specific web site features, campaigns or promotions, they can use overlays, which provide quick visual snapshots on the fly.
In addition, web managers can further analyse the customer data and combine it with information from the company’s call centers, email information and sales to gain a broader view of the company’s performance. Webtrends support for open industry standards, such as ODBC and web services, enables this data integration.
Webtrends Analytics has enabled STA Travel to run its online business in a new way. Instead of relying on the intuition of site managers or vague indicators such isolated page views, STA Travel creates marketing campaigns and adapts its websites based on how customers actually engage with the company and its brands on the web. STA Travel can follow the online journeys that its customers take as they plan and book their own global jaunts. The company can monitor where visitors tend to enter its sites, the pages that stall their progress and the educational resources they most often use before booking flights or making other reservations. The insights gained from this data have helped STA Travel identify and fix pages from which people tend to exit the site, as well as build stronger connections with web sites from which people most often arrive before booking trips.
“Webtrends gives us the ability to understand and observe the current trends on our web sites,” Hepburn said. “This helps us to develop a strategy and a process for making tactical changes online – and how to prioritise the development for these changes.”
STA Travel has been so impressed by the results that it hopes to soon be able to use analytics to gain insight into how visitors are interacting with applications on its sites and provide targeted content based on these interactions. For instance, on its Mapmyadventure page, STA Travel and Webtrends are exploring ways to pinpoint destinations where visitors are clicking within an onscreen map and then provide hotel deals or cheap flights for these destinations.