InterContinental Hotels Group Checks in With E-Commerce Software
The company looks outward to incorporate personalization and content management into the e-commerce aspect of its business.
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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) understands the importance of the online channel. In fact the company, which comprises more than 3,500 hotels in nearly 100 countries and includes some of the most recognizable brands in the hospitality industry (Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, for example), even developed its own proprietary system in 1998. "Back when the investment was made in the proprietary software there weren't gold standard [e-commerce] applications," says Del Ross, vice president of global e-commerce at InterContinental Hotels Group. As more consumers visited the hotel group's site, however, its proprietary system had run its course. The system's main problem was its lack of flexibility--it required a multidepartmental development initiative to make simple end-user-experience changes. For instance, to alter content on the Web site, changes had to be made in the company's mainframe reservation system, a process that, according to Ross, made it incredibly complicated and difficult to do so. "It was very limited in what it could do," he says. To make matters worse, the system wasn't scalable enough to keep up with the company's burgeoning e-commerce portion of its business. "It just wasn't going to be able to sustain the increased traffic to the site," Ross says. IHG engaged in a four-month RFP process to find a solution that would align with its business requirements. It decided on tools from ATG, including ATG Adaptive Scenario Engine, which included ATG, Personalization Server, and ATG Scenario Server. The ATG implementation, which included integrating ATG with 11 other software application components such as custom code, took about nine months. IHG called on ATG and its content management vendor, Day Software, for professional services. The project of accelerating IHG's e-commerce business, coined Project Genesis, Ross says, began as the company's intention to add more personalization and content management to its e-commerce offering, but developed into an opportunity to redesign its entire e-commerce infrastructure. "It was a complete overhaul of every component that made up our e-commerce systems," he says. In fact, the implementation of ATG personalization and scenario server technology alone has delivered more than $200 million in incremental annual transaction revenue through improved conversion rates. Additionally, "IHG's Web sites are faster, more reliable, and more feature-rich than ever before," Ross says, resulting in accelerated customer adoption and significant revenue growth for the channel. Other enhancements including enabled or enhanced design, process flow, and navigation have contributed more than $100 million in annual revenues. IHG's loyalty program, Priority Club Rewards, has also experienced a jolt. "Since implementation we have enrolled millions of new members through our e-commerce channel and improved the overall consumer value proposition of Priority Club Rewards membership dramatically through the introduction of member-only benefits like personalization, current reservations management, and other features," Ross says. The project also incorporated multilingual self-service functionality for the company's international customer base. "ATG is the run time workhouse of our systems, and all of the application logic, all of the business rules, are managed with ATG code. But the content itself is managed within our content management system that is accessed by the ATG software," Ross says. "It wouldn't have been possible without both pieces, the content management and ATG to be able to access the content." The Payoff Since moving from a proprietary system to commercial software, IHG has seen:
  • the implementation translate into more than $200 million in incremental annual transaction revenue;
  • international traffic grow from less than 10 percent in 2001 to more than 40 percent in 2004; and
  • the number of significant site changes increase from about 300 per year to about 11,000 in 2004.
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