Booking a cruise typically involves a lot of decisions, which is why many people still use a travel agent to plan this kind of vacation, to talk them through their options when it comes to operators, ships, itineraries, cabin configurations, excursions and so on.
That said, direct online bookings are of increasing importance to cruise line operators, particularly as they battle it out to attract a younger demographic. The growth of online revenue streams, along with the potential for complexity associated with cruise bookings, makes it vital for operators to keep a very close eye on the digital customer experience.
At the recent Dynatrace Perform Summit in Barcelona, Carlos Gutierrez-Menoyo, manager of e-commerce operations at Royal Caribbean International, described how the brand uses Dynatrace’s Digital Experience Management offering to take a three-pronged approach to tackling user experience on its e-commerce sites. In short, they’re using synthetic monitoring, real-user monitoring (RUM), and more recently, Dynatrace’s new Session Replay tool.
Synthetic monitoring is where Dynatrace has its roots, and involves deploying scripts to simulate the path an end user might take through a website and record performance data from each run. It’s a form of active monitoring, in that it requires deployment and manually generates traffic to collect specific data and is most often used to establish a baseline performance before an application goes live on a production website.
Real-user monitoring (RUM), by contrast, captures and analyses real transactions, by real users, in real locations. It’s a form of passive monitoring that relies on services that continually track responsiveness, functionality and availability.
Combined, synthetic and real-user monitoring give Gutierrez-Menoyo and his team an unprecedented level of visibility into website performance and a greater degree of confidence in the experience they’re providing.
AI-driven anomaly detection
In particular, Gutierrez-Menoyo says he’s a fan of Dynatrace’s AI-driven anomaly detection approach, which enables his team to sidestep the traditional, reactive approach of responding to problems based on static thresholds, and instead rely on built-in predictive analytics and machine learning capabilities to auto-identify anomalies based on the technology’s knowledge of the website’s topology, behaviour and baseline performance profile. As he puts it:
It would be very easy for me to set an alert for a problem that I know could happen - but the issues that we can imagine happening are not what we’re looking for. It’s the stuff we don’t think of, the deviations from what’s normal that really matter to us, and Dynatrace does a good job of establishing a baseline. And any deviations from that baseline, be it spikes in traffic, drops in traffic, spike in some kind of background errors, or even things that are harder to detect, so slowdowns, degradations of some kind - this is what we see in Dynatrace.
In recent months, Royal Caribbean has added to the mix Dynatrace’s Session Replay tool, officially launched in January this year as the newest element of its Digital Experience Management product.
This allows Royal Caribbean to play back unique web and/or mobile sessions in a ‘movie-like’ experience, in which they ‘see’ an end-to-end record of a customer journey directly from that user’s perspective. In a sense, then, they experience that journey for themselves, first-hand. And, if it’s a journey that ran into trouble, issues identified with Session Replay can be tracked through the entire cloud stack to the precise root cause. As Gutierrez-Menoyo puts it:
So we can look at a customer booking a cruise: were there any problems, did they hesitate, were there areas they struggled? Do we understand the flow and can we see any problems with it? These could be with small details: date formats, UK versus US, international zip code formats and so on. There could be bigger problems: a page not loading, a button not working. We are seeing how users are interacting, using Session Replay, and that has allowed us to tackle issues faster and improve overall flow.
The replay obviously obfuscates personal information of the customer - we don’t need to see that. We only need to see the flow, how users are interacting. When it comes to analytics, every company has their business team and they can see retention and drop-outs, but then you have to speculate as to the reasons why these things happen. There’s often a lot of assumptions involved. Session Replay helps us bridge the gap. It doesn’t help me get into your mind, but it gives me a way to see what you’re going through.
What’s particularly valuable, he adds, is the integration between Session Replay and the other tools in Digital Experience Management for anomaly detection. Having that information in one place, he explains, enables he and his team to make correlations between system performance and user behaviour in a way that they haven’t been able to achieve in the past:
We use a lot of technology to support customers booking a cruise, preparing for that vacation, while they’re on the cruise and afterwards - but for the customer, it can’t be about the technology. It has to be about the experience and us making sure that experience is enjoyable for them.