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IRC 2014 THE CONFERENCE P&O Ferries to launch first crosschannel website next week

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P&O Ferries is to launch its first crosschannel website next week, its chief information officer Chris Cook told Internet Retailing Conference 2014.

The ferry company, which carries nine million passengers and two million freight units every year, is replacing a seven-year-old website supported by 30-year-old legacy systems, that handle pricing, inventory and port information.

The new site will initially go live in the company’s German market next week before later launching in the UK.

Cook told IRC 2014: “We learned from retail best practice, although we’re a travel company. We looked at what retailers were doing, and learned from their strategic best practice to build a seamless crosschannel customer experience.”

He told the conference that P&O, owned by Dubai World, needed to use the new website to differentiate itself from competitors including airlines and the Eurostar train service. The site will launch alongside a mobile site, while online bookings can also be seen from the contact centre. Next year it also will also start to sell travel essentials such as vehicle breakdown and insurance services, as well as access to on-board wifi through the website. Eventually, the hybris platform will also replace some of the legacy systems, while a new port management system will be built to replace others.

Sharing his advice for other retailers or service providers embarking on the same journey, Cook said it was important not to underestimate the work required to integrate legacy systems and testing. “We can book people, children, cats, dogs, cabins and different combinations of routes through the website,” said Cook. “Those can change on the return journey if there’s a passenger fewer or if the dog isn’t coming back. The combination of different test scenarios was enormous and we probably did underestimate it.”

Simplification, he said, was also always important, “and we could probably do more of it.”

P&O worked with multichannel consultants Transform to shape its multichannel strategy. The platform was built on the hybris platform by developers from Portaltech Reply, using payments functionality from The Logic Group.

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