Haven, part of the Bourne Leisure group, is the largest holiday park in the UK by size of caravan park. It is also the largest provider of UK staycations. It operates around 40 sites all around the coast of Great Britain. The business is a combination of caravan sales, sublets, visitor bookings and on-site experience management during guests’ stays.
Today, some 80 per cent of Haven’s business is channelled and managed via the company’s website, so it is essential that this performs quickly and reliably. The pages connect customers and prospects with the information and services they want, and are key to optimising sales conversion.
After the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the travel business began to reopen cautiously yet restrictions still existed on most international travel, bookings for domestic staycations soared sharply. To effectively service and convert all of this demand, Haven needed to rethink its web platform. When Steve Cresswell joined as Head of Engineering for Haven.com, the legacy systems in place – some more than two decades old – were struggling to handle the volumes of enquiries and bookings.
“Our web site had always been quite slow, which had a knock-on effect from an SEO perspective, and also in terms of the user experience – especially if customers were browsing from a mobile, which a lot do,” Steve explains. “But now we needed to transform the performance and modernise the experience quickly.”
As well as increasing the site’s capacity and speed, Haven needed to enhance the search experience, and do more to test and optimise the layout and features of its web pages, to maximise sales.
London-based bespoke development company One Beyond (formerly DCSL Guidesmiths) was well known to both Steve personally, and to Haven as a business. The team was already retained by the company, to augment its own internal product teams across a range of initiatives.
At Haven, product development is organised into Tribes (e.g. sales vs ownership) and Squads (aligned to particular products, e.g. ‘land and discover’ brochureware, or ‘choose your holiday home’ accomodation selection), and One Beyond was engaged at multiple levels. Indeed One Beyond’s CTO, Peter Zentai, was responsible for establishing a new microservices platform with initial ‘blueprints’ for Caravan Sales. This set of templates now serves as a model for upcoming new services.
“They were already contributing heavily to our technical infrastructure,” Steve says, of the decision to invite One Beyond to help overhaul its web platform. “They’re broad in their capability – they don’t like to be pigeon-holed as they can turn their hands to anything. They’re always on the front foot, too. When Haven had to react quickly to our parks and activities shutting down during COVID, for example, they absolutely delivered. They were very responsive to what we needed. They’re problem solvers who like to add value, and that’s why we keep going back to them.”
They’re broad in their capability – they don’t like to be pigeon-holed as they can turn their hands to anything. They’re always on the front foot, too.
First, One Beyond helped Haven migrate away from its cumbersome old content management system to a modern, externally hosted one. It then applied the latest tools and techniques to reduce Haven.com’s page weight and accelerate overall site performance, while optimising search options and responsiveness using a new Elastic Inventory Search platform.
Since the web platform and site overhaul, Haven has seen its response times reduce by a factor of up to 50, while system reliability has been completely transformed – from regular critical outages to none at all.
“One Beyond have done a really impressive job,” Steve says. “As well as addressing significant performance issues, they’ve introduced features that were not previously possible. These range from the ability for customers to search easily alternative dates and location, by dog-friendly accommodation, etc; and to query real-time availability; and price finder, and so on.
“With One Beyond’s help, all of these improvements have contributed to a dramatic revenue increase – in the range of several million pounds per year,” he adds. “The fact that potential customers can see the lowest prices at a glance before conducting a caravan search has had a big impact on conversions.”
When you write software, things can inevitably go wrong at some point, but One Beyond are always ahead of that. They’re absolutely great. They’re proactive first responders who use their initiative and are always willing to do what it takes to keep everything running smoothly, including solving or supporting live outages. We couldn’t be more pleased.
On top of that, One Beyond has created an A/B testing framework, providing the ability to adjust and compare the relative impact of page layouts, which has further contributed to sales, Steve adds.
“These optimisations have given us a huge amount of control – the power to experiment and fine-tune our products. For example, providing the cost per person proved confusing and saw a small drop in conversions, so we turned off that feature after two days in favour of the total cost per party.”
Other specific interventions have transformed on-site experiences, for example linked to the Table Ordering System, which is now much more stable and reliable.
The busy Christmas period is always a good test of Haven.com’s mettle, and the web site continues to deliver stable, high performance – ensuring that the company doesn’t miss out on any potential business.
One Beyond stands out for its proactive response to potential service issues, too, Steve concludes. “When you write software, things can inevitably go wrong at some point, but One Beyond are always ahead of that. They’re absolutely great. They’re proactive first responders who use their initiative and are always willing to do what it takes to keep everything running smoothly, including solving or supporting live outages. We couldn’t be more pleased.”