Web App Masters: Care of a Corporate Cash Cow

by March 25, 2010

At the Web App Master's Tour, Ken Kellogg discussed the challenges inherent in The Care and Feeding of a Corporate Cash Cow by sharing his experiences managing user research for the redesign of Marriott.com.

  • The truth is difficult to give when your partners don’t want to hear it even when you have the research to back it up. Sometimes users simply do not want to use products the way they were intended to be used.
  • In order to get executives to align with you, you need to present the information you have and move toward them through collaboration. They won’t move toward you unless you move toward them.
  • Marriot’s top redesign challenge: do no harm and don’t hurt the cash cow. Marriot.com was the 7th largest commerce channel on the Web in 2008 and booked 6.5 billion dollars online in 2009. 80,000 transactions per day are booked online. Marriott.com is Marriott’s fastest growing channel and most cost-effective channel.
  • 72% of people that stayed in a Marriot hotel visited Marriot.com. The biggest challenge for the company is moving people to book on their site instead of other sites and channels.
  • Why change marriot.com if the company is making money and has great brand affinity? The original Marriott site was not optimized for search engine referrals and only worked well for habituated users -many new users were confused.
  • Marriott has a company culture rooted in taking care of associates so that they take care of customers. Marriott’s core value is the overall Marriott experience.
  • The company ran multiple research cycles on their new site redesign. Because of the potential impact of getting a design wrong, Marriott tests quantitatively and qualitatively and repeatedly.
  • Since launching their new home page, conversion is up 1% and Marriott membership is up 4%.
  • But the team learned most people don’t like change. Customer service lines were lit up by their most valuable customers (elite members) protesting the new site changes. Overall satisfaction with Marriott.com dropped a bit but when up for the reservation process.
  • Marriott’s business processes are traditional and back-end systems are dated. As a result, time to market is long.
  • Projects tend to have multiple stakeholders and sponsors. The research team had to interview 106 internal stakeholders and run check-ins with them during the design process.