Digital Transformation as a Prerequisite for Success in Tourism
The tourism industry was turned upside-down over the past few years. Besides the obvious impact of a covid pandemic, equally important and ever-present is the impact of technology on consumer behavior.
Technology in particular was the key enabler of rapid acceleration of innovation within the tourism industry, challenging its protagonists more than ever to quickly respond to market shifts in travel expectations and behaviors. How to leverage technology in daily operations to adapt service levels and communication strategies to meet the new demands and changing expectations of their guests?
Such was the challenge and top priority of Maistra when they approached C3. 18 hotels, 11 resorts, and 6 campsites, in destinations such as Rovinj, Vrsar, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb, make Maistra the leading hospitality company in this part of Europe, which requires constant development and the search for better solutions. Maistra’s management is aware that most strategic decisions need to be supported by technology, so the company has decided to upgrade its website to be future-ready.
„We worked together as a team with C3 Group to completely re-create our Maistra website which would combine the latest technologies and a smooth user experience for our guests. At the end of this very complex project, we are happy to say that we went beyond and managed to accomplish all key objectives set at the beginning with our partner agency,“ explained Vanja Medaković, Web manager at Maistra Hospitality Group.
“Modern architectural design of a complex website, a simple user experience, and an attractive design are the key building blocks for success”, said Primož Inkret, CEO at C3 Slovenia. “Offering tailored content and personalized itineraries based on interest, location, and loyalty data is the new MVP for every digital travel hub. Efficient applications will allow users to create a variety of travel plans, personalize their experiences, and feel safe”, added Ana Plišić, partner at C3 Croatia.
Creative and tech leaders of C3 Croatia and C3 Ljubljana, exclusively for ICT Business discovered where the challenges were and how they solved them.
Above-the-line challenges presented, mostly from a tech perspective, were more than plenty. A monolithic multilingual website on two separate domains had to be merged, while the main services had to be split into several smaller ones to ensure maximum speed, scalability, manageability, and reliability. The user interface had to be upgraded, with a focus on a booking process tailored especially to mobile devices, and the loyalty program had to be integrated, while user journeys had to be enriched.
On top of that, scoring maximum points on SEO, accessibility, and loading speed tests was a must. Additional challenges were to develop a complex website with more than 100 UI layouts and complex functionalities in the shortest possible time while allowing the client to seamlessly input content during development.
However, Below the line challenges C3 detected, mostly related to consumer behavior, were a bit more complex. In the era of the connected consumer, travelers can compare and evaluate different offers on the same travel location within seconds. Local travel has risen to the forefront as it remains easier, safer, and often more sustainable. The abundance of digital content available to the connected consumer has increased their appetite to consume travel content and get creative with their travel plans. Workation and digital nomads entering the mainstream, people combining work and pleasure more than ever and consequently blurring the strict line between Business and Leisure… and the list just goes on and on.
Therefore, the long-term outlook and goal with this project was to future-proof Maistra digital portfolio operations and enable them to become a true Visitor Gateway to Croatia! How to transform such a huge website into the main sales channel for the client, but at the same time transparent for the user and manageable for the administrator? “Pairing a very complex tech delivery with a such diverse set of applied consumer expectations and trends seriously transcends the typical “hi there, we need a new website” request. But that’s basically what we do every day – solve complex business problems through technology”, explained Dejan Orešković, CTO at C3 Croatia.
In order to achieve that, their effort and delivery were focused on 3 main project pillars:
- Complete revamp of Maistra digital customer experience;
- The state-of-the-art technology platform, infrastructure, and integrations overhaul;
- Implementation of research-based know-how and best practices in digital hospitality enablement and smart tourism.
Combining these 3 tailor-made project itineraries into unified project scope, C3 was able to meet the given business goals of Maistra:
- Increase direct sales conversions by redefining User Interface, reinventing the “Booking Bar” and booking process, implementing a smart-search engine and mobile-first approach;
- Increase brand awareness by implementing fresh and dazzling design, new accessibly options and new website-content architecture;
- Enable content personalization and personalized experience at every customer touchpoint by combining tech-agnostic solutions with given Loyalty infrastructure to fully enable content hyper-relevance based on every guest preference.
During the discovery phase, C3 worked with the client to define the objectives of the project and how to achieve them. Analyzing the current website and mapping company business processes helped them understand the problems and facilitated the choice of technology and solutions. They have examined the documentation of the services already in use and defined all possible user journeys. The main focus was on how to increase conversions and ensure the website is fast and secure.
Based on the documentation prepared in the discovery phase, they have created wireframes and flowcharts and wrote scenarios for testing (UAT). When designing the user experience, they followed the “mobile first” principle. For functionalities that could not be done on mobile devices or would be too complex, C3 looked for alternative solutions overall.
They have also organized the information structure in a way that makes it easy for the client to create and edit the content while guiding the user to the desired destination. Another challenge was to merge the maistracamping.com and maistra.com domains, which unified the booking process for different types of accommodation.
The most difficult part was designing the user interface for more than 100 templates. The client wanted a new, fresh design with a “wow” effect, and at the same time to achieve perfect scores on website response and load times, not compromising development time. C3 developed a design system that allowed them to have an overview of the components, their use and behavior, and variations throughout the site. The aim was to use a manageably large number of different elements and to control the development of new ones. This saved a lot of time later in the development process.
They paid special attention to accessibility (adaptation for the visually impaired), which is a key factor in achieving a great page ranking result. C3 also wanted to make the site attractive and engaging through micro-interactions. Large typography, headlines, and carefully selected photos have set the tone of the page, supporting the carefully selected and tailored content.
PROGRAMMING AND IMPLEMENTATION
To avoid a single point of failure, they have divided the system into two parts: the user-exposed frontend and the backend with no contact with users. For the frontend, they used Jamstack and static pages to minimize security vulnerability while ensuring the fastest possible way of working. The dynamic parts were solved with Vue.js and the implementation of external services via APIs.
Using Netlify technology allowed C3 to develop quickly without complex DevOps operations. Setting up all the necessary environments and automated deployment significantly reduced the time needed for the entire development. The use of Netlify CMS (Git-based) is the key to the fast and dynamic development of CMS functionality, which saved us a lot of time. Overall, choosing the right tech stack and development tools was one of the key success factors in this project.
“We used 3 key ingredients for this project: MACH stack, Microservices, and NoOps approach. Our goal was to have small, dedicated services that are manageable and fast, with the NoOps approach we were able to have multiple environments with an automated deployment process which saved a lot of time. Most important was to select a stack that allow us to build an ultra-fast and secure website. Netlify definitely played an important role, simplifying our process and providing perfect CDN for static pages. And the best thing was to move whole project management from JIRA to GIT issues, we never thought managing complex tech project is possible without Jira, but we did it”, said Urban Pfeifer, CEO of C3 Tech Hub.