We helped snowcompare.com to launch a ski transfer travel comparison engine, working with them from initial concept through to the identity of the brand and the development of a powerful web platform that allows users to access affordable travel to ski resorts throughout Europe.
Who are Snowcompare?
In 2016, when we first started working on this venture, Snowcompare was a startup with a vision of a comparison website for ski holiday transfers. Now, they provide a highly-rated service throughout Europe, including France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
Their aim is to make booking a transfer easy and affordable for their customers, opening up snowsports to a wider audience and removing cost barriers.
COVID-19 Update: Due to travel restrictions and resort closures, Snowcompare suffered greatly during the pandemic. Despite the challenges they’ve faced, they remain positive and look forward to the next season with hope.
Snowcompare aims to take the pain, and expense, out of booking airport to resort ski transfers.
As well as making it easy for customers to book transfers, Snowcompare wants to give their suppliers ultimate flexibility when creating a journey, providing a supplier control panel to allow them to manage their services, availability and even their seasonal pricing.
We worked with them to identify the requirements of the system, produce a strong brand identity and commence phase one of a long-term, extendable comparison engine for the snow industry.
As a new venture without prior digital assets, Snowcompare needed to be designed and built from the ground up. We were invited to develop a brand for the company alongside architecting and developing a custom comparison engine with additional booking and payment functionality.
The key takeaways from the brief were:
- Suppliers to be able to access and amend their availability and pricing autonomously.
- Secure online payment gateway with currency conversion for international customers.
- Pricing options to reflect the seasonality of the ski industry and peak-season premiums.
- Considerations to be made throughout the build to expand functionality in future development phases.
To meet these requirements, we outlined three deliverables for the initial phase of the project:
- a branding exercise to establish the identity of Snowcompare and set the tone for web design;
- a custom WordPress template to provide advanced content management functionality for the client; and
- an advanced, fully custom PHP application, sitting alongside WordPress and sharing UI components to allow suppliers to easily manage their data (routes, pricing, orders etc).
As this was an entirely new website targeting the general public, it required a strong brand to accompany it. We worked with the client to create a vibrant logo and branding, which would be able to stand on its own across mixed media.
We then documented this to provide the client with a tangible brand guidelines document; a formal record of the identity of the company to distinguish a unique brand image and ensure the website, logo, colour schemes and fonts were all consistent.
Prior to commencing the design process, we sought to understand the client and their goals. Through a research-based approach and following many conversations with stakeholders, we produced initial concepts for feedback which were then refined and developed further.
We knew from the beginning that, like similar comparison engines, the website domain needed to feature heavily so that it was memorable. For this reason we explored text logos with the addition of a logomark that could stand alone where needed.
The final result is a clean and smartly designed logo which shows a snowflake to reflect the brand name and incorporates a mouse cursor to reflect the online nature of the business.
The aesthetic of the site relies strongly on the brand we developed with the client, alongside real snow industry imagery to evoke a sense of adventure and get users excited about their next trip.
We knew that we wanted the booking process to be not only slick but also extremely easy to use. With that goal in mind, we made the comparison functionality apparent as soon as a user hits the homepage.
We took a mobile-first approach for this responsive web design based on the assumption that leisure consumers are most likely to access sites via a smartphone.
This project presented challenges in terms of how to enable suppliers (transfer companies, many of whom are small independents), to enter their availability and pricing. Without reliable supplier data the site would be ineffective so we had to make it as simple as possible for them to use.
We also had the challenge of wrapping this data up in an intuitive UI that customers would be able to navigate to a purchase, incorporating comparison features they would likely expect from such a site – including reviews and other trust factors.
Key Feature Summary
A booking system was developed to allow users to book transfers online and even on their mobile whilst they’re on the go.
We implemented comparison functionality which gives users the opportunity to compare the cheapest prices across all suppliers. We made this extremely flexible so additional services such as flights, accomodation and travel insurance can be added in the future.
We developed a custom availability calendar for suppliers to use and block out the days that their services are not available. Suppliers can easily block out multiple dates by simply selecting and dragging their mouse over a period of days.
SUPPLIER SEASONAL PRICING
A seasonal pricing option was crucial for helping suppliers select the correct pricing depending on the time of year. We wanted to make sure that, when creating a journey, suppliers were not limited by the tools we gave them.
A custom review system was developed into the site to allow users to post feedback on their transfers. It was important to allow the users to leave reviews, not only to help future users pick their transfers but also to allow suppliers to gain an insight into how they are doing and tweak their services where necessary.
We also added a currency conversion, from GBP (£) to EURO (€), to allow users from anywhere in the continent to accurately receive the correct pricing and pay online. This was crucial as the system had to cater to a broad audience, who may be more familiar with one currency or the other.
“We’re always really happy with the work that Ballyhoo do for us – their expertise and experience are a great help on projects, and their ability to create beautiful and functional websites means we can get on with running the business.”
For suppliers using the system, we put a lot of thought into all the tools they’d need to make versatile journeys. The two main tools we included were an integrated pricing spreadsheet, to give flexibility on pricing based on the number of passengers, and an availability calendar to allow suppliers to select and show their availability easily.
To make pricing easy to set for suppliers, we built our very own spreadsheet-like system which allows users to click and drag pricing to other cells or double click a specific cell to set a price manually. Suppliers are familiar with managing their pricing structure with applications such as Microsoft Excel so this should be a comfortable experience for them.
The payment system we decided to use for Snowcompare was Stripe. At the time of developing snowcompare.com, Stripe was still establishing itself as a major player in the payment gateway game but we recognised huge potential in using it for this platform.
Now, as a recognised and trusted brand, Stripe continues to allow a lot of flexibility in comparison to alternative providers such as Paypal or Sagepay. We’ve always advocated that Stripe is a lot more reliable and flexible than its competitors and the choice has paid off as users continue to confidently make their purchases on this site nearly 5 years down the line.
We integrated a feed directly from the Feefo online feedback engine to display genuine customer reviews directly on the Snowcompare website. As a trust factor, reviews from happy customers are integral to the success of a site such as this to bolster confidence and give insight into how you treat your customers.
At the time of writing, Snowcompare.com holds Feefo’s 2021 Platinum Trusted Service Award for consistently delivering excellence.
To enable richly formatted system emails, we integrated with Campaign Monitor. This gave us the flexibility to send branded email notifications like booking confirmations, as well as see data on how these emails are received and interacted with.
Following the success of the initial launch, we’ve completed development to introduce shared transfer comparison functionality. Users can now choose the best deal for their circumstances whether they are travelling alone or with a larger group which makes private transfer a more affordable (and convenient) option.
Snowcompare aren’t planning to stop there either, they want to give users the opportunity to compare other services such as flights, accommodation, equipment hire and travel insurance to ensure they can get the very best deal all in one place.
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