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Customer Stories How Alterra Mountain Company Used the Inntopia Commerce API to Bridge the Gap Between Marketing That Inspires and Commerce That Converts

winter park sunset

photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

 Nov 2, 2021

Most people know Alterra Mountain Company as a hospitality company with 15 iconic year-round North American mountain destinations, you’d be absolutely right if that’s what comes to mind. But what is true of many companies is especially true of Alterra Mountain Company: being a hospitality company in 2021 means you’re also a technology company.

Unlike other companies, however, Alterra Mountain Company has embraced this trend and given their portfolio a huge leg up in the competitive world of destination travel. While other companies are at the mercy of agencies for innovation, Alterra Mountain Company has invested in talent and expertise to do a huge portion of their innovation in house. They adopted Sitecore as their CMS and have aggressively upgraded and invested in the platform. Over the last few years they’ve consistently rolled out apps and systems and features that have given their marketing, brand, and company an edge and their guests’ an incredible experience.

Control Over the Booking Experience

Speaking of experience, a few years ago Andy Villas, VP of Digital Solutions, and Steven Hubert, Director of Digital Experiences for Alterra Mountain Company, were looking for more control over the interface their guests used to book trips to their resorts. As long-time users of Inntopia Commerce, they’d relied on Inntopia’s out-of-the-box booking engine for years with great results. Over nearly a decade they’d customized it, enhanced it, and extended it in ways that improved the experience for their guests and increased conversion.

But it was around 2019 when Andy and Steve started to have bigger ideas based on Alterra Mountain Company’s specific needs and goals. They were looking for a tighter experience – for both the guest and their internal teams – between the marketing information that inspired guests to book a trip and the process of actually booking that trip. Luckily, taking that leap didn’t require starting over. Here’s what Andy said.

“We had heard for years at the annual Inntopia user conference that there was an API available to create your own booking engine. Inntopia would do all the heavy lifting with the PMS, POS, etc. to aggregate the inventory. Then we could call APIs to get access to this real-time pool of products, details, rates, and availability.”

This was equally true of their CMS, Sitecore, according to Steve.

“We’ve been running Sitecore for about 8 years. We knew it, we’d invested in it, we understood it’s strengths. More importantly, we knew it well enough to see how we could map the two systems – Sitecore and Inntopia – to each other.”

And because everything was already working fine on the standard Inntopia Commerce interface, this gave them the time to not just build a new interface, but do it right.

The process began in earnest with a proof of concept in the fall of 2019. Along the way, they began to reimagine the user experience and design an interface to fulfill that vision. Andy pointed out that their role is largely that of supporting their peers who are closer to the front lines of Alterra Mountain Company’s business, so they involved people across the company both early and often.

“The approach of both UX and UI design has been a really thoughtful approach. It was very methodical. We went through probably 10-20 rounds and considered accessibility, marketing’s workflows, IT’s needs, and more. It was truly collaborative and the end product was much better as a result.”

The approach Andy and Steve took combined real-time pricing and static details from Inntopia Commerce with marketing details that could be managed from Sitecore. By mapping these two data sources together, they were able to put both into the same pages.

By March of 2019, the first phase – live lodging availability search directly on resort websites – was ready to go. Just as the rollout began, however, Covid-19 arrived and, with it, closures of all of their destinations’ mountains, activities and many other businesses.

But while early year-over-year performance was all but impossible to measure because of the pandemic, Steve saw the benefits of this effort right away.

“Sitecore is sort of like a series of boxes. So when we needed to highlight new Covid-related policies, we could do that extremely quickly and right in the places where people were shopping for lodging. Our resorts could change any message on any page to exactly what they needed from the CMS and have it show up alongside both the marketing messages and the booking buttons and actions.”

A Seamless Experience

The result is a single interface for both marketing and booking details which makes the booking process seamless for their guests.

Lodging
For example, the lodging search results pictured below for Winter Park are a combination of marketing assets – photos, names, etc. – controlled by the CMS. The actual properties shown, however, are based on live availability.

screenshot of winter park lodging search results

This is even more true when you look at a specific property.

For example, the higher level details, promo blocks, and marketing language shown at the top of this page are pulled from the CMS so they can be used in other areas of the site.

screenshot of winter park lodging details page

But scroll down and you’ll see room-level photos, offers, policies, and prices that are being pulled directly from the Inntopia Commerce API.

screenshot of winter park lodging search results

With the extra control Alterra Mountain Company destinations have around how the results are shown, they can also highlight higher-end units more prominently or apply other filters based on their needs and goals.

Single-Page Booking
Outside of lodging, that control, thought, and focus on the guest experience created opportunities for a simpler booking process with other products they feature on the site.

Stratton’s summer mountain bike products are a perfect example. From a single marketing page you can see reasons to buy tickets and add tickets to your cart. You can learn the value of a lesson and add lessons to your cart. You can watch videos about their rental fleet and add a rental to your cart.

screenshot of stratton bike park page

Instead of a mountain biking website that sells the visitor on each of these things and a separate interface to find and book each of them, the integration they’ve built between Sitecore and the Inntopia API allows them to simplify the transition between inspiration and action to a matter of pixels instead of pages.

Upsell
Another simple win was making it easier for guests to find and buy complimentary products. For example, if you add lodging to your cart at Deer Valley Resort and your dates fall during the ski season, you’ll see an “Add lift tickets to your trip?” prompt before you begin checkout that makes it easy to add passes for everyone in your party without leaving the page.

screenshot of deer valley resort checkout upsell page

Results, Lessons & Next Steps

Eventually, things reopened, bookings increased, and Andy was able to start testing the performance.

“Based on our A/B tests so far, we’ve seen a double digit increase in conversion and a big increase in revenue per transaction.”

Though Andy was quick to point out this was no overnight success.

“We were doing some really unique things with the API and making a lot of calls and not everything worked the way we hoped, but the Inntopia team was always willing to talk through it with us, get answers if they didn’t have them, and support our efforts. Instead of getting concerned because we were using the API in such a unique way, they were always willing to help us build what we’d envisioned.”

Andy, Steve, and their teams haven’t stopped there. Before the end of the year, visitors to Alterra Mountain Company destination websites will be able to shop for even more product types in more ways without leaving the page they’re on and without losing the inspiration of the marketing content they’re browsing.

Steve wrapped things up well when he said.

“The fact that we could do this at all is huge. Inntopia Commerce’s out-of-the-box interface is a good solution, but if you have a strong sense of brand, using API is definitely the way forward.”

Interested in building your own booking experience using our API? Reach out to our team. Want to see this functionality in action? Visit any of the Alterra Mountain Company destination websites, including those below.

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