The Los Angeles–San Diego–San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor Agency assumed management responsibility for the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service in July 2015, following the execution of an interagency transfer agreement with the state of California.
“The Pacific Surfliner is a critical vehicle for connecting diverse and unique communities to iconic attractions and popular destinations across Southern California,” said Emilia Doerr, Marketing and Communications Manager at the LOSSAN Agency. “When we assumed management of the service, we knew we needed to make our website reflect that. We needed an experience-driven site that would help us compete with the prevalent car culture in California and ultimately inspire more people to travel by train. ”
Built on the Ektron CMS, the existing Pacific Surfliner website was functional but not experience-driven. When Ektron merged with Episerver (now Optimizely) that same year, the Pacific Surfliner team elected not to transition to the Episerver platform and to instead move forward with its own rigorous technology assessment. Any platform they selected would need to help the agency grow online sales, improve customer service, as well as provide technological flexibility to grow with the constantly evolving world of digital marketing.
“It’s very hard to successfully meet different customer needs in one place, but this site got the balance just right. Fulfilling Pacific Surfliner’s reputation as being one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, as well as a reliable travel option for thousands of business people each year.”
“We spent over a year evaluating various content management vendors and partners who could help us balance user experience with the functional transit features our customers would need,” said Emilia. “And in the end, we came back to Optimizely.”
Emilia cites Optimizely’s strategic roadmap, behavioral targeting capabilities, scalability, and cloud model as key considerations for their selection.
“Technically-speaking, the Optimizely platform checked all of our boxes, but it was their excellent partner success program that made us confident in our decision to move forward,” Emilia said.
After a competitive procurement process, Nansen was selected as the LOSSAN Agency’s implementation partner, and as an Optimizely Silver Partner the Nansen team is highly specialized in Optimizely solutions, From day one, Nansen set out to create a website that presents a highly engaging and personally relevant experience.
While the website now delivers timely, accurate, and relevant information to users, including service alerts and announcements, its main purpose is to drive traffic through to Amtrak’s points of sale for ticketing. The site’s booking widget pulls data from Amtrak about stations, promotions, and schedules and displays that information to the user through an embedded application on the Pacific Surfliner site. Once a visitor makes a selection, they are directed to Amtrak’s website to complete their purchase.
The customer data captured in the booking widget enables the LOSSAN Agency to better understand their customers and how they’re interacting with the tool. The LOSSAN Agency can now create personalized content for passengers based on their website interactions. The redesigned PacificSurfliner.com enables the LOSSAN Agency to provide targeted and impactful website experiences based on actual customer insights and research.
Meaningful calls-to-action (CTAs) are dispersed throughout the Pacific Surfliner website at key points along the visitor journey, enabling customers to more easily find what they’re seeking. A scrolling, stylized route map inspires visitors to learn more about the many destinations served by the Pacific Surfliner, while the booking widget has been optimized to help make selecting preferred travel options more intuitive. Improvements have been made to the way promotional codes are managed and offered to the user, in some scenarios automatically adding them to specified passenger types for a more seamless booking experience.
“The user experience, design, and information architecture of the site strike a beautiful balance between making bookings as simple and straightforward as possible and highlighting the idea that the Pacific Surfliner, with its onboard amenities and iconic views, is a destination in and of itself,” said Joe Grause, Chief Client Officer and Co-Owner at Nansen.
“Partnering with Nansen made it possible for us to create a digital solution that increases customer engagement while promoting online bookings,” Emilia said. “Now our website is no longer a pass-through for bookings on Amtrak.com, but an interactive, online destination in itself to help users plan and book trips by train in Southern California”
The LOSSAN Agency credits the new website for driving increases in customer engagement, including a 40-50% increase in referral sales in fourth quarter 2019 compared to the same period the previous year.
The new Pacific Surfliner website was also honored with the 2019 ‘Most Innovative Digital Solution’ Web Award at Episerver Ascend.
“It’s very difficult to successfully meet each customer’s various needs in one place but this site got the balance just right,” said Chad Wolf, Chief Customer and Sales Officer at Optimizely. “The Pacific Surfliner website emulates the organization’s reputation as being one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, as well as a reliable travel option for millions of passengers each year. The site is a testament to delivering a customer-centric experience online by helping a visitor accomplish his or her unique goals.”