Even an established company with a good market reputation can’t build its success on previous achievements alone. Technology evolves, user expectations grow, and new realities force businesses to improve in response. Because if you aren’t ready to change, your competitors get a chance to get ahead.
The view of things outlined above is familiar to one of our clients, the Boa Lingua company, which has been successfully providing educational travel booking services in the Swiss market since 1989. In our interview, Annett Raue, CDO of Boa Lingua, discusses the company’s booking platform modernization — the reasons behind it, its key areas, and how it affected the business.
What is Boa Lingua?
“Boa Lingua,” says Annett, “is the largest platform for language travel in Switzerland. We help students to find language schools and courses, as well as host families or residences, and even leisure activities in more than 200 destinations around the globe.”
“Since 1989, Boa Lingua has been inviting others to explore the world. When you travel with us, you not only learn a language. You gain access to cultures and places and are enriched by the knowledge of the locals you meet along your way. Today, boalingua.ch is the largest, most trusted, and vibrant online marketplace for language travel in Switzerland. Our customers gain knowledge and understanding before they go abroad, whether they want to learn for their professional career, for education, or for their everyday lives.”
This approach differs from regular language classes in that it allows learners to immerse themselves in a new environment and get to know the everyday life of another country.
A language trip abroad allows special access to spots and people. You go behind the scenes to get a close-up view of how people live, on their values and traditions, and how they collaborate and communicate. You learn everything you need for a job abroad or an international study program, no matter where in the world.
Annett Raue, CDO of Boa Lingua
At the same time, Boa Lingua doesn’t just help language learners choose a school. The platform also helps them find accommodation, transfers, individual lessons, and additional activities. All these must be consistent with each other on dates and costs.
To help users plan their offline travels, Boa Lingua aims to offer convenient online tools that contribute greatly to the overall experience of a language trip.
Why Bother with Product Modernization in the First Place?
As we mentioned above, the market is constantly forcing businesses to change whether they want to or not. There are several reasons for this.
First, the popularity of online services is on the rise. They offer users more and more benefits and force changes in traditional approaches to business. In particular, users no longer need to visit the company’s office to select and book a tour when they can carry out everything on their computer or smartphone. And as more companies compete online, users’ expectations grow.
The global situation is also adding pressure: after the pandemic hit, the market shrank, especially in industries related to travel. Just check out that rollercoaster ride of a graph below. (Take a deep breath!)
That industry’s precipitous tumble in 2019-2020 was harsher than the one it endured during the Global Financial Crisis (2009). This means that cost optimization issues and customer orientation came to the fore again. And pervasive digitization has accelerated even more.
Points of Growth
In the case of Boa Lingua, a customized business application took the user experience and process efficiency to the next level. This includes the ‘external’ part – that is, the customer experience on the website – and the ‘internal’ one, which makes life easier for the company’s employees and contributes to operational optimization.
Making the Product’s UI/UX More Attractive to Customers
As for Boa Lingua’s service, Annett highlights the following:
“Our website provides an advanced filtering system and real-time prices for thousands of dynamic packaged services. You find over 2000 customer ratings and the best snapshots from our customers – everything you need to make the right choice before venturing out into the world.”
To win over users, such products have to provide a smooth and convenient choosing process. That means developers must ensure that the website has high usability, clearly displays all the necessary information, and works responsively.
There’s always room for improvement on that front. To delve into the topic, one might check out some of the tips in our article 10 Things to Remember When Designing your App’s UX.
Developing a Сustomized Business Application
During its long history, Boa Lingua accumulated disparate solutions created by different people at different times. The lack of flexibility and high maintenance costs were the bottlenecks to be removed from the new business application.
“We were looking for a development partner to build a bespoke solution from scratch. The goal was to replace an existing, outdated software landscape.
The new customized system needed to replicate the functionality of several older systems while leveraging newer technologies and a tailor-made setup to improve the user experience and increase the efficiency of all processes along the customer journey.”
In a first step, a customized e-commerce system was developed to provide service descriptions, prices, and availability for various output media or sales channels. This will be followed by a customized CRM and APIs to various 3rd party systems, such as the accounting system. Annett’s words confirm it:
”The new customer experience was only the first milestone. In a second step, we will rethink and set up back-office processes to work more efficiently and better serve customer expectations.”
Who Was Involved and Why?
First of all, it’s important to ensure that the business and engineers can speak the same language. The fact that Boa Lingua treated this point with great attention brought all the participants closer to obtaining the expected results.
“A key role is played by our internal “Digital Business Development” team, which Boa Lingua has established over the last 3 years,” Annett says. She draws an analogy with the interface providing interaction of business departments and external software development partners. Then she continues: “Our project managers bridge operational expertise with technical know-how. They are responsible “end-to-end” for our custom system, from requirements management to software specification and successful handover.”
About external software developers, of course, the team to be involved must possess technical expertise for the implementation of various features at the proper level. But it’s much more important to find those who have a partner mindset and can assess the very need for one or another feature. After all, a strong project is about estimation, requirement gathering, and prioritization. And to provide these activities, the team needs to have the expertise, as well as the readiness to dive deeply into the specifics of the client’s business.
“As CDO, I know the challenges and what makes development projects successful. The goal is to ensure quality, but also to be close to the business,” Ms. Raue continues noting that project managers brought in by Boa Lingua empower software developers to think in terms of products, not projects. “This allows developers to advise on the use of the best technologies and smart solutions. By working together as a team, we achieve exceptional results.”
Thus, a balanced combination of technical and domain expertise is the basis for choosing the product development direction. That’s at least because it promotes better mutual understanding and collaboration of all project participants.
What Has Been Done?
At the start of the product transformation, we held the pre-development phase. It helped identify business needs, discover what brings people to Boa Lingua and how to optimize its operation.
In the following stages, we’ve completely redesigned the product architecture. If you’re interested in more technical details, subscribe to us not to miss the article on how we did it.
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Less than two years of intensive cooperation led us to release an MVP that’s highly tailored to Boa Lingua’s business specifics:
Master Data Management (MDM): An MDM module enables agents to manage all aspects of any master record, including hierarchy, structure, validation, and enrichment with attributes, descriptions, translations, or other related data.
Product Information Management (PIM): A customized PIM module enables both the aggregation of travel-related product data and the execution of complex travel e-commerce processes. The customized booking engine enables dynamic packaging of travel-related products with real-time and personalized pricing while publishing dynamic content across channels.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A CRM module allows the management of customer profiles and enables operational automation of time-consuming and error-prone processes based on activities. Triggers fuel sales and marketing automation and personalization with tailored messages and services at the right time in the customer journey.
Content Management System (CMS): A leading open-source CMS has been implemented and customized to manage multi-lingual and mobile-friendly website content.
API-driven architecture: the application has an API-first architecture, where all functions are accessible through common interfaces that provide everything needed for real-time communication with other systems, such as the accounting application, review management, digital asset management, or Google Maps.
Regarding the extent to which the results lived up to expectations, Annett Raue says:
“The aim was to take our user experience to a completely new level – to provide the best way to navigate the world of language travel. Our new website is easy to use, beautifully designed, and built with usability at its core. A powerful booking engine, our custom shopping experience with personalized quotes, and the advanced filtering system are game-changing features we’ve designed and implemented.”
Pushing the Boundaries
Like companies in any other industry, education travel operators are facing endless challenges. But sometimes, such challenges give you reasons to conquer new heights.
Future customers expect an interactive platform that provides answers to all their questions about language travel. They are looking for inspiration, expert advice, and real customer feedback. Future applications must be child’s play to use and able to create dynamic shopping carts in real time.
Annett Raue, CDO of Boa Lingua
Software modernization is what allows businesses to catch up with the market trends and highlight their products in the market in the digital age. Let the Boa Lingua case inspire those thinking about improving their products to find the optimal solution for software modernization.