London, UK - 10 May 2010: Rail Europe, the UK’s leading specialist for European rail travel, today launches a new website designed by digital agency Design UK. The aim of the new site is to attract traffic through improved search engine optimisation (SEO), to improve visitor experience once at the site and ultimately increase conversion rates. Following a year-long project which included analysis of the old Rail Europe site, reworking of the site’s Information Architecture (IA) and subsequent redesign by Design UK, the site now offers a wealth of new features aimed at making European rail travel easier.

Features of the new site include a faster checkout system, interactive maps and a four-tab pane navigation pane to simplify the customer journey from browse to buy. The site’s content also helps people choose destinations and journeys with travel guide sections – ‘Featured destinations’, ‘Ways to travel’ and ‘Featured trains’. There is also a news section which includes up-to-date travel news which could affect journeys.

Another key development is the improved booking process. “Booking a one leg journey from London to Paris is relatively simple,” commented Stuart Alldis, Head of e-Commerce at Rail Europe. “But when you add another leg to that journey, from Paris to Nice for example, things get much more complex, with hundreds of fare combinations from multiple carriers. We’ve worked closely with Design UK to ensure that the whole booking process is as easy as possible for our customers. Firstly, we’ve worked hard to improve the behind the scenes booking process that the customer doesn’t see, but also to simplify the booking form and the way the results are presented.”

Design UK also worked to improve Rail Europe’s SEO so that it is listed at the top of all rail or destination related searches. The search campaign ensures the company appears for search terms related to European travel and weekend breaks. This helps drive people to the site, the challenge then is keeping them there. As such, the first step in the project was to create an IA that would help Rail Europe fulfil its ultimate goal of increased conversion. The design of the previous site meant that the wealth of content available was being lost and the complexity of the booking system was frustrating potential customers. To address this, Design UK created a more streamlined home-page that would make it easier to find information and book tickets.

Leigh Whitney, MD at Design UK explained: “When we started working with Rail Europe, the top priority was to compete with the growing army of budget airlines which were enticing customers. Rail Europe wanted to increase its market share across Europe, and position rail travel as a viable, greener, alternative to air travel. To do this, we developed an IA that would direct visitors to information about the trains and their destinations, this helps people plan their trips and purchase their tickets. We created an engaging site that details all the information clearly, making the customer journey as simple as possible. For example, if a visitor is looking at the guide to Paris, the search engine auto-fills so their ticket is just a couple of clicks away. It’s that kind of journey we aim to create for every site we design because it’s that ease-of-use that draws in visitors and turns them into customers.”

The redesigned http://www.raileurope.co.uk underwent a soft launch in mid-March with the aim of identifying and remedying any issues in advance of the formal launch. An unexpected test of the site, and a boost in the battle against budget airlines, came in the shape of the Icelandic volcanic eruption when the site received its highest number of visitors ever as flights across the world were cancelled.

“We were extremely pleased with the website’s performance over a period when we received an unprecedented 6 times the number of visitors we would usually expect,” added Alldis.

The site will continue to be developed, with new destinations scheduled to be added over the summer, and a section on ski trains currently being developed in time for the 2010/11 season.

ENDS

For further information on Design UK, please contact:
Lorna Hughes, Spark Communications
+44 (0)20 7436 0420
lorna@sparkcomms.co.uk

For further press information on Rail Europe, please contact:
Amanda Monroe, Rail Europe
01732 526729
amonroe@raileurope.co.uk

Notes to Editors:
• Rail Europe Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of SNCF, the French National Railways.

Published on: 11:14AM on 14th May 2010