Why: The Holiday Packages section on MMT had a large number of options, often similar, that were causing ‘choice paralysis.’ The section also did not reflect how users actually planned holidays.
How: The section was redesigned as a more immersive experience. Curated itineraries for each destination allow users to quickly start their journeys. Tips from human experts are woven into the experience.
In 2018, after the MakeMyTrip-Goibibo-RedBus merger, the leadership at the travel group decided to cut back on deep discounting and rethink the product ground-up.
The search for a new approach led to the idea of ‘Putting My Back in MakeMyTrip.’ While it seems evident now, three years ago personalisation was not as commonplace as it is today – in fact users would have to start a fresh search every time they came to the app.
This was an inflection point at MMT – where the product shifted its centre of focus to the user journey, serving up content and offers that were relevant for a particular context. It also served as a rallying cry to unite engineering, design, product and marketing teams.
Today, MMT is the undisputed market leader with 40 million monthly active users (pre-pandemic was closer to 55 million users). In the midst of a near-grinding halt in travel, MMT used the time to relaunch their Holiday Packages.
Transactional vs Immersive
Holiday Packages offer lush destination imagery and a richer UI compared to other sections of the MMT product. However, it is the insights behind the interface that are interesting.
“The same user comes to MMT with different objectives,” says Jay Dutta, Senior Vice President, Design, Go-MMT group. “They can come to book a quick flight, in which case we just want to help them accomplish their objective in the quickest possible time. Or they can come to book a hotel or plan a holiday, which are very different journeys. The product and design need to allow for both, even though one journey is transactional and the other demands a more expressive treatment.”
MMT is amongst the few Online Travel Aggregators (OTA) to offer a holiday planning section.
Over the years the number of holiday package options on the platform had proliferated, creating the dreaded ‘paradox of choice.’ Often there would only be small differences between two packages. Users would stop scrolling and retreat to the safety of a phone call with an MMT Travel Expert.
The Planning Process
Traditionally holiday packages are booked offline, because they involve sizable expenditure and multiple variables. The MMT team had to take this behaviour into account, when they redesigned the section.
Says Partha Siddhartha, Design Lead, MMT, “Holiday planning is an iterative, complex, shared and experiential process. People rely heavily on the recommendations of travel agents, experts and people they know. The frequency of holiday travel. (e.g. possibly a once-in-a-life time honeymoon getaway) makes it important to get the planning and holiday experience right.”
The three broad vectors along which most people plan holidays are:
- Who is going?
- What kind of holiday do you have in mind? (Honeymoon vs family vacation)
- What’s the budget?
Data also shows that every destination has certain types of vacations associated with it. Andamans and Maldives are popular for honeymoons and romantic getaways, while visitors to Ladkah are more interested in long sight-seeing drives. Then there are those who would rather explore the unexplored.
Holiday planning is also an iterative process. Sometimes, a travel plan and quote is modified over 20 times by an MMT Travel Expert!
Based on these insights, MMT has curated the most popular holidays categories for each destination. This provides a quick and intuitive start to the user’s journey and guides them through the different itinerary options that are available in that category. “Often users themselves don’t know what they’re looking for – this helps them to distill their choices”, says Aakash Kumar who over his nine year stint at MMT, has seen several attempts to redesign the holidays digital experience.
Humanising the Experience
MMT’s human Travel Experts have emerged front and centre of the digital experience in this new reimagination.
Roshni Chinubhai, Senior Designer, MMT, who worked on the project says “We brought in elements of the guided experience that a travel expert provides. When users plan their journey, they are asked questions so we can understand the context of the holiday. Across their planning journey, the user is given travel suggestions, tips and insights curated from Travel Experts. These range from package recommendations to advice around ‘what to pack’ and ‘activities to add to your day.’”
MMT decided to launch the Holiday Packages section on desktop first, based on the insight that planning holidays is rarely a solo effort and there will typically be multiple people looking at the screen together.
Planning a holiday is not like a simple ecommerce transaction. Users will do some degree of research and come back to the site several times before they transact. “When a user comes to MMT, very often they have not yet made a choice about which hotel or which flight they are going to choose. The most important thing we can do as an aggregator is to inspire confidence in them.” says Dutta.
One of the decisions made was to abandon cards that can be compared vertically and instead use a series of cards bunched horizontally within a category (most popular, affordable luxury, quick getaways, for first time visitor, etc). “It’s easier to compare horizontally when you have several data points,” says Dutta, “Think spreadsheets meets Netflix.”
This can mean sacrificing a neat-looking UI for a more cluttered interface, but one where the user feels they have all the information in front of them with no small print.
The Holiday Rush
As the pandemic-induced gloom lifts and the holiday season approaches, MMT is hoping this new section will tempt users to start browsing and planning. Jasmeet Singh, Senior Vice President, MMT is optimistic. “We’ve been working to revamp the online experience for holiday customers over the last few months, as we prepare for a post Covid world and travellers re-discover holidays all over again. We will continue to learn from the initial data and iterate and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to provide an online / online assisted experience that allows for seamless holiday planning.”