In a recent Idealog column, David MacGregor wrote: "User experience (UX) is a central thought for marketing today. Products are just stuff. There is no shortage of replacements for yours." When you consider that more than a third of Air New Zealand’s revenue is generated by its global websites, and nearly half the people visiting go straight to the booking search tool, UX is an especially important aspect of the increasingly digital-centric travel industry. Those figures look likely to increase, so Air New Zealand has heeded the words of the digital soothsayers and made www.airnz.co.nz more customer friendly with the most significant changes to the site's usability in six years.
The redesign, which was completed by its in-house interactive and graphic design team and was around one year in the making, went live yesterday and manager of global online sales Kim Walbridge says it was well overdue.
The changes will make it easier to find special offers and deals on everything from flights to campervan rentals and its global sites will be similarly refreshed in a phased programme over the coming six weeks. While user experience can be a differentiating factor for many brands, he admits customers are often willing to put up with a lesser online experience if they can save money on their flights, as evidenced by the continuing popularity of Jetstar, but he says the new website is indicative of Air New Zealand's desire to be seen as more of a premium offering that has its customers' interests at the centre.
“Our websites are a critical sales channel so a huge amount of thought has gone into making the planning and booking experience as seamless as possible,” Walbridge says.
45 percent of visitors to the site go straight to the booking engine, so it is still the most prominent feature on the home page, which has navigation tabs to related products and promotes the best retail deal of the day.
“We’ve done some cool stuff, such as providing a two-month calendar helper that makes it a lot easier to select the correct travel dates and much harder to enter wrong information.”
All of the tools designed to help people seek out the best deals are clustered into a ‘Finding our Lowest Fares’ page, including a new low fare alert service. This allows customers to enter a preferred origin and destination, specify the price they’re willing to pay, and receive an email alert whenever the fare price drops below their nominated threshold.
Walbridge says this initiative was especially designed to appeal to those customers who only wanted to hear about specials on select routes.
So far, he says the response has been 99 percent positive, which, as the moaning about 'New Facebook' shows, is quite an achievement for such a big overhaul. There are, as expected a couple of glitches, and some changes required to the MyAirNZ portal, but he says they're easily remedied.
“Our ‘When’s a Good Deal’ function has also proven really popular with customers who have a certain destination in mind, but want to know when it’s cheapest to fly there. Type in your preferred destination and you’ll be shown a range of options for up to six months, from the cheapest weekend to the cheapest week to travel.”
The website refresh also makes it easier for customers to book non-flight related products such as accommodation, travel insurance, rental cars, taxi transfers and campervans, which is an increasingly important revenue stream for airlines in this very competitive market. Special deals for all types of travel related products are now grouped by destination so they’re easy to see on the one page. Click on Australia and you’ll see everything from accommodation and car deals to flight deals across the Tasman.
There’s also a ‘How Can We Help You’ search function on each page that customers can use to quickly locate information, an enhanced FAQ section and a travel alert bar that can be used to advise passengers immediately of travel-related issues such as expected weather disrupts.