Virgin Holidays

A new destination experience driven by compelling content

Innovation, designs sprints, facilitation

Virgin Holidays is a well known travel brand with an established Caribbean offering, but by early 2019 they had lost ground to the competition in this key market. A sustained uplift in sales was needed, and change would start by revisiting the destination's online presence.

  • Brief: Facilitate an innovation sprint focused on the online destination experience. Lay the groundwork for better content discovery and content + design collaboration
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Role: Design strategy, sprint planning & facilitation, digital product design
  • Type: Freelance
  • Agency: Clearleft
  • Collaborators: Heather Atchison, Content & Brand Strategist

Regaining lost ground in the Caribbean

Although known for their Caribbean expertise, Virgin Holiday’s online destination pages were underperforming and lacked the brand’s unique appeal. Their TV, print and in-store experiences leveraged a playful and informative brand. This wasn't translating to the online destination experience.

Virgin's inspiring TV, print, and destination experience was not translating online

Virgin needed to improve online conversion - how could digital move the needle and regain market share? Working for renowned UX agency Clearleft, I co-led a three week innovation sprint to start turning the tide for Virgin in the Caribbean.

Aligning team and customer outcomes

Facilitating the sprint with senior content and brand strategist Heather Atchison, we would lead a team of 8-10 Virgin employees through a fast-paced design thinking process. This sprint would act as a catalyst for improving other destination pages in future - the first step in a broader content maturity programme.

"By helping the team self-manage and lead sprint activities we would leave the team better placed to execute similar workstreams in the future."

Establishing a shared understanding of short and long term goals (and revisiting them regularly) helped maintain the team's focus. Meeting the aims of the sprint would leave Virgin Holidays in a stronger position to build towards ambitious strategic goals.

Virgin have a wealth of expertise in-house. Leading a multi-disciplined team, we harnessed their expert knowledge to reinvent the destination experience through structured workshops, research, testing and playback to the wider business.

By helping the team self-manage and lead sprint activities we would leave the sprint team better placed to execute similar workstreams in the future.

Brand experience as competitive advantage

Virgin Holidays don’t sell exclusively online. A key part of their value proposition is the in-store experience and expert call centre advice. Alongside a unique brand voice and extensive Caribbean experience, Virgin were well placed to stand out from the competition online.

This strong value proposition was not being effectively communicated online. There was an opportunity to better communicate Virgin's unique selling points (USPs) through fresh content and design. An early collaborative effort would result in a content compass, our shared vision for better destination experience content.

The team held interviews with destination reps to understand the unique Virgin island experience. Visits to a Virgin Holidays store helped the team understand how destinations are sold - with the human touch - by Caribbean experts. Interviews with call centre staff demonstrated how destination advice is given to new and repeat Virgin Holidays customers.

"A shared vision and a solid grounding in research enabled the team to go into creative mode with confidence."

Armed with a new knowledge about the Virgin experience, the team could explore solutions with a confident understanding of the opportunity. Competitor analysis would help create benchmarks for quality and provide inspiration ahead of the ideation phase.

Researching the in-store, call centre, and brand experience

Facilitating divergent thinking

A shared vision and a solid grounding in research enabled the team to go into creative mode with confidence. Diverging in their exploration of how to harness better content, the team explored and reviewed ideas through structured exercises.

Not only did these sessions throw up interesting and novel solutions to explore further, they demonstrated that thoughtful ideas can come from anywhere in the business when the right techniques are employed. Leaving the Virgin Holidays team with the confidence to pursue future ideas in this way was a key outcome of the engagement.

Exploring and reviewing ideas collaboratively

Bringing the vision to life

High fidelity prototypes would be needed to accurately test our new design and content. Customer response to brand application and quality of execution were important areas to measure, so rough wireframes would not cut the mustard.

"Early customer feedback would help de-risk further investment"

The team's prototype showcased three key areas: the unique character of each island, Virgin's expertise at the destination, and the benefits of travelling at various times of the year. Video would play an important role in communicating island character, selling these dream destinations with soaring beach views and guided local tours.

Prototypes of the new destination experience ready for testing

Virgin's design team worked closely with developers to bring the experience to life for testing with customers. Early customer feedback would help de-risk further investment. Insights from these sessions would provide valuable feedback early in the process, allowing the team to iterate with confidence before the end of the sprint.

Observing tests, collating findings, and analysing research with the sprint team

Selling the concept to the wider business

A fundamental step in this engagement would be presentation of the concept, process, and recommended next steps to the wider senior stakeholder team. Many of the team were new to presenting their work in this way, so myself and Heather would help coach the team in this area.

Building a business case for further investment, the success of the sprint would unlock further budget and business buy-in to take the initiative forwards.

Planning the playback, and the launched Antigua destination experience

Positive outcomes and next steps

Having achieved the sprint goals, we would leave Virgin Holidays with tangiable next steps to take this work forward. Virgin Holidays would launch their new destination concepts by May 2019.

A test strategy and analytics would allow the team to closely monitor and compare performance of the new concept. Having launched with a re-imagined Antigua destination page, the team have subsequently rolled out a similar experience for Barbados and future launches are in the product roadmap.

Clearleft would also extend their content strategy engagement to continue improving the content creation processes. You can read about the next phase of this work through their own case study.

(Masthead photo copyright of Virgin Holidays)

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