Unforgettable vacations with rental cars
Sun Country Airlines is in the business of leisure travel. Travelers love to have ancillary products and services on one itinerary. The product team along with the business set out to offer rental cars into what we referred to as the flight path (the series of pages that travelers use to book flights,) the vacation path and a rental car only option. I primarily acted as the user experience and visual designer, and UX and product researcher for the project. I used a bunch of tools along the way, Adobe XD for wire framing, Miro for brainstorming, and Axure RP for prototyping, to name a few. The final solution provided the traveler with easy, straight forward, and quick tools to add rental cars to their trip.

Video of the final design implementation to the retail website.

Sure! I need a car too.
As a thrifty leisure traveler I want the ability to add and affordable rental car that meets my needs to my vacation.
Let’s ask people!
As we went out to build the perfect experience for our travelers we started by looking at our competitors and what they offered. We targeted our top five and found a little variation between them with the main difference being some airlines offered “reservations” and some offered “purchases.” We asked people in user interviews what they expected to find and what they valued in their rental car experience. We heard things like: I need a convenient pick up and drop off spot. I want a rental car company that I’ve heard of and trust. I’ve been burned before by deals that look great but have all kinds of hidden fees tacked on. I trust the airlines and I am able to call them when I need assistance so, getting a car too makes me feel more comfortable. I want to see enough options to make a decision but, too much information makes me indecisive.
With these key take aways in mind we used to inform our designs and formed the platform for how we would bring the solution to market. We need the solution to be simple, informative, honest, and reassuring. With each of our decisions we weighed them against these research informed pillars for this new product offering.
How about this?
In eCommerce there are always many ways to present information. Rental cars are no different. We went through a number of iteration phases, and presentations to leadership and a range of business stakeholders. We settled on a layout that brought enough information to make a good decision when renting a car but also didn’t give TMI. This being an eCommerce site we also needed to incorporate advertising as well as strong call to actions and incentives to entice people into considering these valuable add-ons.
One of the big factors in making the decision to purchase a rental car is hidden fees. We decided to incorporate some plain statements that told people what they were in for. We incorporated three things to address peoples concerns: daily cost, total cost based on the duration of their stay, and a complete list of all taxes and fees in addition to what would be due immediately and what would be due at pickup. This philosophy of being up front and honest about what people could expect would reduct cost to the business in reduced call center traffic and reduced revenue based on angry customers.
I think we've got it!
As with any feature work, we had gone down the double diamond road of diverging and converging on what we thought was a great go to make candidate. We also needed to get a product out to the public so, we divided the feature into a number of phases going with our first phase including base information and the ability to rent a car. We would add other less valuable features as quick follows to the base functionality.
We had a number of technical and regulatory considerations that needed to be addressed. One big one was the question of who’s driving? On an airline itinerary there can be many people on the itinerary and we would need to know who was gong to be the primary driver as well as verify they were old enough to rent a car, states, countries, and jurisdictions vary on these rules so all of that was accounted for by defining business logic. We didn’t want to slow down or add any unneeded friction to the flight path either so we needed to be smart about how to default the driver but at the same time make it clear who was selected as the driver so that there was less room for error.
Were we right?
This feature was developed and released during the height of the pandemic so, usability testing was not going to be as simple as it had been in the past. We needed to recruit and test remotely. This posed many complications from a technical standpoint like, people using their own computers at home, unknown browsers, zoom hiccups. Not to mention the technique of watching people as they click, seeing and feeling their frustrations. All these things were barriers.
We went into the user testing with clickable high fidelity prototypes and a script of use cases we wanted the user to step through. With our questions in mind: would people know how to find the taxes and fees? Do they want to search, filter, or both? Would they respond to incentives? As they walked though the activities we listened to their thought process, feedback, and suggestions.
As a result of the testing we made some tweaks including how we had the taxes and fees labeled as well as some things that surprised us. They didn’t need in-depth information on vehicle features like, miles per gallon, we thought for sure they would want to know gas milage.
Wow, check this out!
The impact of adding rental cars to the site was felt immediately. Rental sales had a higher than expected uptake. The sales metrics from previous implementations of rental cars on the site exceeded expectations and as a result, even during a rental car shortage and a pandemic. We also saw increases in engagement and time on task from 2018 numbers.
Constraints can be.. constraining.
The rental car business is an intricate one with lots of twists and turns. The implementation of a third party API to drive our content was fraught with constraints and limitations. We leaned on subject matter experts at Avis and Budget to tell us what was possible and what their customers expect.
Well, that was fun! ...Really!
Staying focused on the user-centered principles we defined at the beginning of the project we were able to deliver a straight forward solution that was simple, informative, honest, and reassuring to the traveler as they planned their dream vacation.

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