A complex commerce & content migration
Eurail.com offers Interrail and Eurail passes for travelling by train in up to 31 European countries with 35 rail and ferry companies. The online retailer markets Interrail passes for people living in Europe and Eurail passes for travellers from outside Europe. As the company is growing fast, Eurail.com is shaping the travel experiences of an increasingly large group of travellers in Europe. But the online retailer is not alone in the market. The travel options in Europe have rapidly expanded with low-cost airlines and international bus lines; Eurail’s main challenge is to make train travel more visible and appealing.
Digital has been at the core of Eurail.com’s business from the very start in 2006. The company built its platform on the open source platform Drupal, which allowed for a tailored e-commerce development. However, the gradual shift towards content and experience slowly started to strain the solution.
Marketers, who wanted to deliver new content and work on engagement with personalised content, found this increasingly challenging. Their needs had grown, but the Drupal system was coming to the end of its life cycle. As the e-commerce landscape continued evolving, Eurail.com decided it was time to say goodbye to Drupal after many years of good service. The online retailer needed a scalable solution that would allow for building personal experiences with rich content, rapidly deploying new functionalities straight out-of-the-box and responding to changes in the market.
After several brainstorm sessions on technology, Eurail.com chose a hybrid approach combining Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and commercetools. While AEM offers user-friendly content management on the front end, commercetools provides an API-first architecture. This brings all the flexibility and e-commerce capabilities required now and into the future. Integrating these two systems would enable Eurail.com to match its customer-centric strategy with an improved customer experience, simplify management and better connect to partners.
a solution for the future
The content migration challenge
Eurail.com and Interrail.eu were both available in six languages, with up to 1000 pages per language. This meant that the content migration called for a step-by-step approach. The first focus was to build the landing and product page for Italy as an MVP, with a complete order flow for purchasing Italy tickets.
After setting up the MVP, the project would then roll out to the other countries. But there was also the big question to address: how do you move thousands of content pages?
Even though content migration came much later in the project, it’s one of the most challenging parts for migrating a website architecture. With large quantities of content like Eurail.com had, the whole process can take considerable time. Therefore, early in the project Dept presented several options for Eurail.com to consider in terms of costs and impact. The first option was to copy the pages by hand from one system to another. With 250 pages from the first batch of migration and an average of 45 minutes spent per page, the first batch would already take one person more than a month.
A second option was to script and automate the whole process. The script would first analyse the tags and parse the HTML of the old website, and then inject this into the new Adobe Experience Manager. Within a week the developers built a proof of concept that could migrate content automatically. The content team of Eurail.com verified any differences between the old and the new system. Their feedback on discrepancies helped to further optimise the scripts. After this initial successful start, the scripts would later be deployed to move all the other content sections.
Handing over the reins
For the first MVP phase, the chosen approach was to only work with experienced people with serious AEM mileage. After this flying start, Dept and Eurail.com worked shoulder-to-shoulder. Dept provided the project coordinator/scrum master to manage the teams and align with the marketing and content departments. For Eurail.com, this was the ideal set up to learn about AEM. After Dept delivered training and technology, Eurail.com established its own self-sufficient department.
For developing the content and managing external communications, Eurail.com set up a dedicated content team. To work with AEM, the content team didn’t need any extensive training, as Adobe’s interface is user-friendly and what you see is what you get. This allows for easy content publishing and sharing through social media. One point of entry feeds all the retail channels and the marketers can now initiate and manage campaigns without the help of an IT expert. Using AEM’s SEO features fully, the whole content transition resulted in a minimal organic search dip
On track for the future
The company is already seeing lower maintenance costs and developing new APIs and connections with partners has become easy. And the development continues. Eurail.com is currently prepping the way for Adobe Campaign; step-by-step, their marketing results will improve by integrating advertising, customer analytics, marketing automation and communities, resulting in a better overall customer experience and a continuation of the set growth. By migrating its architecture, Eurail.com is on track for the future.