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All aboard the CRO train

Northern Trains is the largest rail company in the North of England, carrying one million customers daily to 540 destinations across the UK.

With a range of USPs, from no booking fees and paperless tickets, to allowing users to book tickets for all UK trains - Northern has built a vast customer base and a solid platform for future growth.

Northern Case Study 1

The Brief

The rail industry has faced a series of challenges in recent times - from the global pandemic to the cost of living crisis and train strikes - all of which have impacted opportunities and demand for rail travel.

As a result, Northern experienced a decline in its online conversion rates, with consumer behaviour and habits changing around travel.

So, they appointed Enjoy to help optimise conversion rates across their website, making their users’ digital journeys as quick and as convenient as possible.

The journey started with discovery

We have a saying at Enjoy: “There are no prizes for guessing, so we put data-driven insight at the start and heart of everything.” And this project was no exception.

As with all new clients, we kick started this project with an immersion workshop. With caffeine and good vibes in full-flow, this was our opportunity to learn, listen, digest, probe, and understand their business through the lens of multiple stakeholders. Their ambitions, challenges, priorities, objectives, past wins, learnings, and marketplace.

Following the immersion phase, we then moved into our discovery phase. This is where we ‘look under the bonnet’ of a business, to observe and identify key insight, trends, and areas of potential focus. This process helps us join the dots between the outputs of the immersion session, and the reality of what the data tells us.

Then, we conducted a digital deep dive, exploring key traffic channels, device share, browser preferences, user journeys and more to understand what’s working, what’s not and quantify opportunities. Backed by this insight, we hosted an internal UX review, bringing our experts together to produce a list of hypotheses we could feed into our experimentation plan.

To gather further insight, we conducted user-testing, arranging Zoom interviews with 6 different participants, reflective of Northern’s key audience personas within the Northern catchment area. The purpose was to get a clearer and more accurate understanding of:

  • How and why they purchase train tickets online
  • What this process looks like
  • How they navigate the Northern site
  • How Northern compares to other ticket providers
  • What steps could Northern take to improve their digital experience for users, and drive conversions across their website?

This process gave us more insight, while validating many of the hypotheses generated from our initial UX review.

Northern Case Study 2

Validating the creative

With our experimentation plan mapped-out, it was time for our creative team to get to work. They brought our ideas to life; visualising new on-page components for Northern’s digital experience based on insights.

With fresh designs in-hand, we coupled these with the existing visuals and fed them into our user-testing hub. Here, we presented both the control and test variants to an online panel and asked them to pick their design preferences, providing feedback. This process allowed us to validate our designs swiftly and at scale, ensuring that we were firmly on the right track.

When the preference testing was done and dusted, it was now a case of prioritising which tests we should run first.

The ICE Methodology

The ICE methodology is a crucial element of our tried and tested CRO process at Enjoy. We use it to prioritise our efforts; ranking each hypothesis we want to test based on importance, confidence and ease. Before each potential experiment, we use this methodology to answer the following questions:

  • How much total improvement can this experiment offer towards the project objectives?
  • How much evidence do we have to support that this will yield a positive result?
  • How complicated or challenging will it be to implement this improvement?

We then assign a score between one and ten for each of these questions, for each test, do the maths, and run experiments for those with the highest scores, first, to maximise our efforts.

Putting our ideas to the test

With our designs at the ready and our priority plan in place, our development team began building the on-page components.

Confident of the success of our experiments, backed by insight and validated by users, A/B testing allowed us to observe how variants perform in a real-world environment and provide statistically reliable results. At Enjoy, we treat A/B testing as an on-going process as it allows us to refine, monitor and learn from everything we do, while continually maximising performance.

And that’s exactly what we do for Northern. Here’s just a handful of the tests we’ve run across their website:

The booking form

We knew Northern’s booking form was the key conversion point across its website, and we had a number of ideas to optimise it, honing in on the structure, styling and positioning. Tweaks to the form positioning generated particularly impressive results, especially across mobile devices, driving a 50% increase in form starts and a 45% increase in completions.


As we’ve mentioned, Northern Trains have a long list of USP’s, but we knew they could do more to promote these and in turn, positively influence the user purchase path. Our hypothesis was supported by user-testing, with many participants remaining unaware of Northern’s key USPs, such as no booking fees, even after visiting the site. Our test page incorporated a USP panel, placed prominently on the homepage. This experiment led to a 10.4% increase in booking form completions

Persistent call-to-action (CTA)

During our digital analysis, we noted that the scroll depth across key pages was high, but there was no persistent CTA in place to capture demand. Our test design incorporated one, and the experiment showed that users were more likely to convert as a result. 

The results

Although our journey with Northern has only just begun, we’ve already achieved some incredible results:

  • 14% increase in revenue through the Northern website
  • 56% experiment success rate (versus an industry average 25-30%)
  • 17.7% average KPI increase

And this is just the beginning. As we continue to ride the Northern CRO train, refining and learning from everything we do, the results will only improve. Full steam ahead!

"It’s been a pleasure working with Enjoy on our CRO journey. They’ve spent time getting to know our market and customers and created tests that have helped increase our conversions and improve our customers’ journeys. They build their tests based on data and user-tested evidence, which have given fruitful results for the Northern website. We're really enjoying the partnership and looking forward to where the journey will take us."

Sam I’Anson, Senior Digital Marketing Manager

CRO that helps your business grow

Enjoy is an award-winning digital experience and performance agency. And it’s  our mission to transform and grow brands digitally, ethically and sustainably, and to forever challenge expectations about what digital can deliver.

At Enjoy, we understand that optimisation is key to getting the best from your marketing. That’s why we crunch the data every channel, platform and initiative, to help you deliver transformational results. Sound good?

Find out more about our Conversion Rate Optimisation services and get in touch today!

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