Booking.com — a UX case study

The power of research.

Booking.com

The company

‘’With a mission to empower people to experience the world’’, Booking.com

The company Booking.com is a travel fare aggregator website and travel search engine, with more than 1,550,000 room nights reserved on the platform, each day. The platform connects business and leisure travelers with the world’s largest selection of accommodation, including everything from apartments, vacation homes, and family-run B&Bs to 5-star luxury resorts, tree houses and even igloos.

‘’At Booking.com, we believe that all great properties deserve to be discovered. That’s why we make it quick and easy for accommodation providers all around the world to market their properties, reach new customers and grow their business via our platform.’’

Market and competitors

Booking.com holds leading position in the global OTA market. It does not only provide a great range of accommodation offers for anyone, but also it allows you to book just about every travel reservation possible, including business apartments, flights, trains, buses, rental cars and airport taxis.

I started my study case process by researching the market to get more data about their competitors. Some of the research results are show as following:

From www.owler.com

Although Booking.com is an OTA, it’s also facing a big competition from the business model peer-to-peer like Airbnb. That’s why I divided competitors in two main categories:

  1. P2P business model, where customers book accommodation directly from property owners.
  2. OTA business model, where customers book accommodation directly from hospitality business.
Competitors categories
From www.owler.com

After collecting results of my research about competitors and the market, I decided to make a SWOT analysis based on market findings. This part helped me to better identify the organization strategic factors such as strengths,weaknesses,opportunities and threats.

SWOT analisys:

Strengths:

  1. Highly-rated mobile app.
  2. Marketing strategy — strong advertising.
  3. Cost advantages.
  4. Loyalty program for business travelers launched in 2016.
  5. Booking “Genius” reward program (at least 5 bookings).
  6. Social media to engage with the customers on the inspirational level.
  7. Building strong brand awareness.

Weakness:

  1. Not user friendly UI.
  2. Information chaos — too much unnecessary information on the site which makes the more important harder to be discovered.
  3. Users frustrations with the urgency-provoking red texts and being pushed to make their bookings — users leave the website without booking.
  4. Strong competitors.
  5. Lack of offline marketing activities, which results in less attention from an old generation with fewer skills in using the internet.

Opportunities:

  1. New services that help Booking.com to better meet their customers needs. New services can expand Booking.com’s business and diversify their customer base.
  2. New markets allow Booking.com to expand their business and diversify their portfolio of products and services.
  3. Growing number of people booking their accommodation using online platforms.

Threats:

  1. International competitors are numerous and difficult to combat, because they can have many competitive advantages.
  2. Intense completion can lower Booking.com’s profits, because competitors can entice consumers away with superior products.
  3. Competitors and hotels great looking websites show that a large majority of consumers would prefer to book directly with the property given the same terms and conditions — it’s important to have a stunning website that conveys to potential clients a positive feel for the hotel.

The importance of UX

Booking.com is well known for it’s UX research and testing solutions, f.ex. with A/B testing. As a UX/UI Design Academy student, for my first study case, I found it interesting to go through Booking.com available resources, showing the importance of UX research for the better understanding of the customer/user, and the possible outcomes.
What I liked the most in their research approach is their belief that we can improve user experience through small steps and a lot of testing, testing, and more testing.

‘’We do a lot of user research to try to figure out what we should do, what hypothesis we could form to start testing. Then we run the tests, then (…)we interpret the results. There is a lot of qualitative data available to figure out if we are actually improving the experience for our customers (…)’’

The goal is to create awesome ideas and change people lives. To do it, we need to set the right mindset, as a researcher or a designer, and remember that the power of developing good ideas is in asking simple questions. The video below is my favorite. Yimeng Ding talks about the importance of formulating the right questions for the best UX research results and what defines a good question.

“Your questions quality determines your insights quality.”
Youtube video

Customers drive our product

I started my UX research by focusing on the customer. I was wondering who is a typical Booking.com customer and how is his/her experience with the website or mobile app?

My first step was conducting semi-structured interviews. I decided to have two main questions:

  1. Do you use Booking.com? ( add. question: why yes/not)
  2. How is your experience with the website/mobile app? This question was supported by browsing through Booking.com’s landing page on desktop while observing their behaviors and asking additional questions.

Both of them were followed by many “WHY’s” and additional questions, according to the interviewees answers.

Examples:

This helped me to better understand users perception and picture the customers/users, their main motivations and hesitations to using, or not the platform. I’ve made a user journey map with empathy map and identified 4 user groups/personas with different needs and different goals.

Personas

I got many hints from the interviews, that helped me to get better insight of the users hesitations and define the pain points.

Some of the answers:

The main pain point of the platform is the existing noisy interface with too much information at the same time. More than 70% users mentioned that website could be simplified and avoid the existing chaos.

Another pain point is also connected to given information — users admit that they leave the website sometimes because of the pressing/pushing information (users called them “red information” or “alarms”). Sometimes they get frustrated because they can’t really see which is the best offer.

To conclude, the research results led me to form a final problem statement:

Problem statement

I found the problem as a great opportunity to test new ideas and improve the user experience by simplifying the UI later on. In the next post I will explain my Design Case, so click here if you want to know how was my (re)design process.

Thank you for reading.