Six Atomic—User Experience Consultancy
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Case Study—Agoda PointsMAX

Reviving a Losing Product with a Redefined Purpose

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The Challenge

PointsMAX allows users to earn miles towards their chosen airline loyalty program when they book a hotel on Agoda for a higher rate. It generates revenue from the margin between the low price and the high price.

PointsMAX was considered a losing product for many months. Agoda as a whole experienced a small, consistent overall decrease in the number of bookings since PointsMAX was released. The PointsMAX program itself had very low user acquisition and retention rates. Only 2% of Agoda users were using PointsMAX even after 1 year of release, and the majority were not repeated PointsMAX users. Moreover, PointsMAX was not profitable because the profit margin was heavily discounted as a tactic to increase user acquisition.

Our initiative was the final opportunity to rescue and revive the product around before it was to be shut down. The goal was to design product strategies and a valuable user experience that could return profitability, stop the decrease in overall bookings, raise the user acquisition rate to 10%, and increase user retention to 50% within 6 months.

Project Scope

  • Digital Business Strategy
  • UX Research & Design
  • Branding & Visual Design
 

 

STAGE 01—

Diagnose

Root Cause Analysis

To accurately identify and prioritize problems to solve, we performed these detailed analysis and research:

  • Comprehensive product analysis of all existing PointsMAX user experiences and features, both internally within Agoda’s primary digital products (desktop web, mobile web and apps) and externally (e.g. learning about PointsMAX from partners, or calling customer support to inquire about the rewards)
  • Competitive audit of loyalty programs from competing Online Travel Agencies and other reward programs (e.g. Rocketmiles, Orbitz, MyPoints)
  • Internal stakeholder interviews with all Agoda teams involved in PointsMAX
  • User research including focus groups and usability testing on existing the PointsMAX product.
 

Problem Insights

With insights from the analysis, we identified 3 core issues:

Issue 1: “PointsMAX” had no brand

  • PointsMAX had no brand. The visual design, terminology, and copywriting were inconsistent across Agoda platforms (desktop web, mobile web and apps).
  • Users did not understand what PointsMAX was or how it worked.
  • Users did not understand what values PointsMAX could provide them.

Negative impact: Low user acquisition rate.

 

Issue 2: Disjointed user experience

  • Users got stuck or lost in various places within the PointsMAX flow, e.g. users did not know where to proceed to earn miles after selecting a preferred airline because the airline selection menu and PointsMAX hotel booking section were isolated.
  • The experience of using PointsMAX did not meet users’ expectations, e.g. the rewarded miles could take up to 8 weeks to be added after the hotel stay, and users could only earn miles if the hotel guest name matched the name on the airline membership exactly (this was only stated in a lengthy terms & conditions page).

Negative impact: Low user retention and lack of brand loyalty.

 

Issue 3: The PointsMAX team lacked clear goals or strategy

  • Features were added without a unified purpose.
  • The main approach was grabbing attention — large banners, popup windows, notifications that said “Click here,” and even some false claims on the benefits.

Negative impact: Inconsistent and intrusive visual design and user experience across all platforms.

 

 

STAGE 02—

Distill

User-Centered Approach

PointsMAX was created from the CEO’s personal vision to offer benefits to business travelers who would not mind spending more money for airline points and miles because their company reimbursed the charges. This vision never been questioned nor tested.

User Persona

To address this, we formulated a hypothesis on who the users were before conducting user research. We worked with Agoda's Senior UX Designers to create user profiles based on data from previous focus groups and common users of other loyalty programs. “Lily — The Loyal User” was hypothesized to be the majority of current PointsMAX users. If true, the product was not accommodating the correct type of users and must be revised.

 
 

User Survey

We outlined a survey for existing PointsMAX users to confirm the hypothesis and collaborated with a UX researcher to clarify questions and prevent ambiguity. Then, we coordinated with the email marketing team to filter the target group’s emails from the pool of Agoda users (PointsMAX members who booked only once v.s. multiple times) and planned the survey release.

The goals of this survey were to:

  1. Understand PointsMAX user groups and their booking behaviors
  2. Gain insight on how to convert regular Agoda users who are not points fanatics to PointsMAX loyalists
    • Awareness: Where did users learn about PointsMAX?
    • Engagement: What got them interested?
    • Retention: What made them keep using PointsMAX?
    • Perceived Value: What do users think they gain from using PointsMAX?
  3. Acquire user feedback on the current PointsMAX features
 
 
 

 

STAGE 03—

Design

The Solutions

Solving Issue 1: Defining a purposeful brand with real values

We collaborated with Agoda's Lead Visual Designer and Lead Copywriter to create a clear and consistent brand for PointsMAX through:

  • Defining the brand positioning and unique value propositions
  • Consistent copywriting: Defining the brand voice, creating a convincing tagline, clarifying value propositions, and simplifying the learning curve of using PointsMAX through concise language.
  • Consistent visual design: Designing consistent visual elements to ensure that PointsMAX was discoverable and recognizable throughout Agoda.

We captured key points to create a preliminary brand guide that the team could efficiently utilize and optimize through future A/B testing.

Brand strategy document for PointsMAX

Early concepts for PointsMAX visual design to be further developed by the internal team

 
 

Solving Issue 2: designing meaningful user experiences

To optimize user experience, we redesigned the entire customer journey to truly provide values and create delights. We first created an ideal customer journey diagram with corresponding business goals to ensure that our design satisfied both user needs and business needs. We then created wireframes to showcase the ideal user journey with consistent user experience throughout Agoda’s products (desktop web, mobile web and apps).

 

Redesign example: PointsMAX loyalty program selection menu

This menu was the most prominent entry point for PointsMAX as it was displayed on the main menu bar throughout the website. However, qualitative user testing showed that the 5 of 5 users showed no interest in clicking on “PointsMAX” on their own, and 4 of 5 had difficulties finding it when asked to find a points loyalty program. 5 of 5 users in the user lab misunderstood PointsMAX features and benefits after opening the menu.

Loyalty program selection menu—before

Loyalty program selection menu—after

 

The redesign focused on the ideal customer journey by helping users learn about PointsMAX in a logical, linear order:

  • Helping users understand the “what” by displaying “Earn miles with PointsMAX” on the menu bar because “PointsMAX” alone was an unfamiliar term that was meaningless to new users.
  • Helping users understand the “why” by including a value proposition: “Get closer to the rewards you’ve been waiting for when you book on Agoda.”
  • Helping users understand the “how” by showing a concise, 3-step how-to section outlining how PointsMAX works.
  • The next logical step after users understand the three things above is to select an airline program to start using PointsMAX. The selection menu was conveniently placed directly below.
  • The suggested loyalty programs backend algorithm was optimized to show more relevant options to users based on their previous behaviors on Agoda and their location.

 

Solving issue 3: Developing a Six Month Product roadmap

Agoda highly values incremental implementation and A/B testing to ensure that real users were satisfied with each new feature added, and that it increased the ultimate business metric: the number of hotel bookings (resulting in increased revenue).

Using the improved user experience as a goal, we broke down our product north star into distinct design features suitable for A/B testing. We then worked with Agoda's Senior Product Owner to prioritize and create user stories in the product backlog for sprints for the next 6 months, and delegate them to the visual design and scrum teams.

 
 
 

 

STAGE 04—

Deliver & Develop

Impact

Measurable improvement from usability testing of the redesign:

  • Users clicked on “PointsMAX” menu more often.
  • Users accurately understood PointsMAX’s function, features, and benefits.
  • The redesign significantly reduced the time for users to discover and sign up for PointsMAX.
 

 

What the Client Said

I’d like to put it out there that the work you’ve done on PointsMAX has been outstanding, thanks a lot for all this effort.
— Simon Mizzi, Senior Product Owner at Agoda
Taime is FAST. Fast to learn trends and new workflows and fast to produce usable design deliverables. She understands the role of design within the business context and effectively communicates customer needs and tradeoffs with Product Owners and Developers. She always has a positive attitude and will roll up her sleeves and do whatever is necessary to get the job done while maintaining her cool in ambiguous situations. If you are looking for UX Design help at any stage of product development I highly recommend working with Taime Koe and Six Atomic.
— Dynin Khem, Head of Design at Agoda
 

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