For Big Bus Tours, Magento Was Just the Ticket

A total digital transformation.

Big Bus Tours is the largest operator of premium, open-top sightseeing tours in the world. Founded in 1971 as a family business, the company provides “hop on, hop off” bus tours in 19 cities across four continents. In 2015, they were acquired by Exponent Private Equity, and embarked upon a journey of total digital transformation. Their goal? To centralize their global operations into one omnichannel experience, and expand from the bus ticket industry into the lucrative attractions market, offering experiences like Madame Tussauds and the Empire State Building. But their legacy .Net platform was holding them back. “We were losing sales,” says Andy Furlong, Executive VP of Marketing and eCommerce at Big Bus Tours, “we needed a totally new eCommerce solution.”

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For a business with no physical products or fulfillment needs, the Big Bus Tours operation was complicated: On any given bus there can be customers from 60 different countries, demanding multiple currencies and languages. They needed a new webstore that was content rich, yet lightning fast, even for mobile customers in a foreign city. “One of the key things for us was to become future-proof,” says Furlong, “and mobile was absolutely central.”

Magento and Born created a simple, powerful store.

Big Bus Tours chose Born Group to create their eCommerce vision. “Big Bus Tours needed to launch across 18 global sites, mobile first and fully-responsive, with huge amounts of content,” says Claudia Summers, of Born Group. “They also needed a platform that could handle B2C and B2B on an international scale.” The answer was simple, they would design and develop a fully responsive site on Magento Commerce (on premise). Furlong agreed: “Magento Commerce has a powerful, simple UX that really works for us.”

Paulo Roseghini, the Project Manager at Born Group, says: “We simply customized Magento templates. Magento Commerce is a mature platform, it allows more control on the whole code system, it was easy to upgrade.” Big Bus Tours decided to keep extensions to a minimum, keeping the site light on its feet. They did use Intilery to provide a single customer view tool, optimization, and A/B testing. “It was easy to layer in, with all the flexibility that Magento Commerce delivers,” added Furlong.

For Big Bus Tours, the Magento template gave the company the power to adapt, fast. Now, when they acquire existing bus tour companies and their routes, they can create a new store view, populate the content, and go-live in hours rather than weeks. But the main selling point was the cost, says Furlong. “For a business of our scale, Magento was the perfect solution.”

A digital revolution with phenomenal results.

The project took eight months to complete, and Big Bus Tours went live with a ‘big bang’ in December 2016. “We unplugged and re-plugged,” explains Andy Furlong, “but we lost nothing in terms of SEO. The launch was tense, but remarkably smooth.” As an eCommerce veteran with countless digital launches under his belt, Furlong had prepared his board for ‘some months of pain,’ yet the most disruption the company noticed was a ten percent dip in bookings that only lasted a couple of days. “We didn’t drop a single place on SEO. We’ve actually now built a 20 percent improvement in SEO year-on-year. Everyone was walking on water!” says Furlong. “By the end of launch week it was back to normal, then the growth curve started climbing.”

The results were breath-taking. Big Bus Tours enjoyed their best Easter period on record with a staggering 65 percent increase year-on-year. Conversion rates soared 50 percent, and mobile conversion simply exploded, with mobile revenue up by 70 percent. The old Big Bus Tours site was averaging £40,000 per day in November 2016, but that figure climbed to £100,000 in May 2017, exceeding their forecasts. “Now we can optimize, and constantly look to improve conversion, and that’s massive for us,” says Furlong, “Previously, eCommerce was a road block. Now, if a competitor in New York launches a new route and new promotion, within a day we can react to it.”

The new platform made Big Bus Tours future-proof and ready to dominate new markets and add new cities, like Sydney and Darwin in Australia. Their plans now include Uber-style bus tracking and a video-rich attraction hub. Thanks to Magento, Big Bus Tours is well on its way to realizing its ambitious vision, to become more than just a bus company.

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