Capital One Travel: Redefining the travel experience
The team behind Capital One Travel worked together to create a travel platform that customers want to use.
October 4, 2023 7 min read
Capital One Travel shows the importance of customer-centric UX/UI
Travel is a big part of our customers’ lives. With Capital One Travel, we looked at the traditional travel experience and wanted to create a better one. To achieve this, we started with the customer journey and put the customer at the center of our focus while developing the product. This user-first approach to UX/UI helped us land a place on Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in 2023. This tremendous achievement shows what can happen when you prioritize a customer-centric UX/UI.
Capital One Travel is a travel portal that makes it easy for Capital One cardholders to book travel and where they can earn or redeem rewards on trips. We designed the UI/UX to solve customers’ pain points with traditional booking platforms and used quality tech to add new, useful features, including price prediction, price alerts and price drop protection.
The success of Capital One Travel is a reflection of our team's motivation, effort and drive. We worked together to achieve a unified vision using leading tech and partnerships to deliver something new and innovative in the travel space. This article provides a deeper look at Capital One Travel, highlighting some of the challenges, opportunities and technologies that our team faced during its journey from an innovative idea to an award-winning experience.
Using extensive customer research to guide development
At times when there’s a lot of uncertainty around travel plans, flexibility, certainty and ease of use is a luxury. To create this kind of experience, we knew that we needed to really understand our customers and build a product specifically for them.
Research helped us chart a path forward for our priorities throughout development. Before building the product, we researched our customers in-depth to learn as much about our audience as possible. We collected customer feedback from every channel, looked at customer surveys and listened to conversations happening on social media. We used this information to define the customer journey and found things we hadn’t originally considered, such as the differences between how business and non-business travelers operate in transit.
Travelers have high expectations for travel platforms, and it was important to build a product that solved our customers’ needs. Some examples of both basic and complex needs include:
Customers booking a flight from a third party expect the vendor to show up-to-date information
They want to lower the cost of their flight purchase whenever possible and they want to save money if prices change
If an unexpected emergency happens before a flight, customers want a way to cancel their flights right away
Identifying customer needs like these helped our team immensely. We saw first-hand how travel isn’t about solving a one-time need to book a flight. Rather, travel is a totality of experiences. Understanding the small moments travelers encounter before, during and after transit helped us identify the different use cases we wanted to solve.
Our focus on getting “the basics” of user experience right
Since a high percentage of customers are less inclined to return to a site after a poor user experience, delivering a polished UX/UI that got “the basics” right was crucial. With this in mind, we focused on these core UX/UI principles and components:
Streamlining navigation and incorporating user-friendly design components (for example, breadcrumbs that show the user their progress and containers they can easily exit out of) to support all of the possible user and task flows
Optimizing for mobile and creating a native experience that feels natural and similar to other platforms our customers use
Making the value proposition of the product clear throughout the entire user journey and using concise language to describe features such as price predictions and price alerts
Incorporating user-friendly design principles such as a consistent interface between screens and limiting the potential for user errors with selection controls, including dropdown lists and toggle switches
By focusing on these basics, we could unite our efforts to build out the product’s core capabilities and add features that mattered most to customers. In doing so, we created a product that stands out in a crowded market with certain features other credit card companies don’t have.
Creating travel platform features: Price freezing and price matching
Cardmembers can already enjoy the benefits of Capital One Rewards, but Capital One Travel is designed for travelers and brings these benefits together in one place — a travel portal that customers want to use. The product extends beyond Capital One Rewards and uses proprietary technologies and partnerships to power the platform and service offerings, providing a suite of self-service tools for users and in-person benefits like Capital One Lounge access.
The complete list of features and tools we built for Capital One Travel includes:
Search for and book flights, hotels and lodging
Redeem cardmember rewards and transfer rewards or miles to travel partners
Price predictions that show when users can expect price changes over time
Price alerts that send an email to notify customers when to buy a ticket
Ways to manage lounge access and personalize the experience with the help of our lounge inventory management software
Price freeze so that users can “freeze” the price of a flight until they’re ready to purchase
Manage flights and scheduling
Our best price guarantee and cancel for any reason coverage
All of the features have this in common: They prioritize flexibility, certainty and ease of use. Tools such as price freeze and cancellation of your flight for any reason offer customers a more flexible approach to booking travel. The algorithms used to predict future flight prices and manage lounge access are complex but are translated into an accessible UI that makes it easy for customers to research, purchase and save on flights.
We use visual indicators such as color, font weights and graphics to emphasize an element’s significance. This guides users’ attention to what’s most important. As an example, our price prediction tool shows a forecast of the price all the way up to departure with yellow and red icons to signify price hikes. The most important information is bolded and any information that isn’t essential for the user is accessible via an info icon that brings up a non-intrusive container with more details.
This user-centric approach to design and development helped ensure that features like these would elevate the core experience rather than distract from it.
What we did to get this product built right
Getting the basics right was no easy task, and we faced plenty of opportunities to come together and implement smart solutions throughout development.
The first one emerged at the start. We were tasked with creating a new business category that was built on top of an existing one — Capital One Rewards. That meant every decision was made very carefully so as to not disrupt the existing platform.
Successfully integrating within Capital One’s ecosystem of internal and external partners also required close collaboration between teams. Leveraging partnerships at this scale was a new experience for many and required our team to navigate new organizational hierarchies to complete tasks. Communication was constant and meetings were held regularly to unite stakeholders and ensure every group was moving in the same direction throughout development.
Because of our clear vision and frequent collaboration, we came together as one holistic team to create Capital One Travel. Even in an organization as large as Capital One, we didn’t work in silos. The result is a polished platform that serves as a showcase of all of our hard work and best-in-class technology. This is something we recommend developers in any organization practice.
A closer look at the data pipeline and architecture pattern
Working with so much data required our team to use an architecture pattern designed for scale. In building the data pipeline architecture, the team created a federated model, a pattern in enterprise architecture that enables interoperability and information sharing between independent systems, applications and lines of business. This design empowered team members to retrieve data from any source to create the desired user experience.
A common travel data pipeline is central to the model and fosters collaboration between team members and facilitates information sharing. It reduces engineering set-up time by allowing them to execute shared functions like validation, detokenization, storing and broadcasting data.
The pipeline also leverages Capital One enterprise technologies to reduce time to market for new experiences. One of the technologies used allows engineers to refine and customize a view of the data. Another provides out-of-the-box storage and CRUD APIs that are available for anyone to use. With this strong foundation, the team continues to integrate new technologies into the data pipeline, using it to expand the portal’s capabilities and create new customer experiences.
Running with Capital One’s serverless microservice strategy
Given the many benefits of the cloud, we chose to use serverless technologies for all implementations of the architecture. We partnered with AWS because of the company’s offerings for data management, such as its services that help manage Kafka streams, AWS Lambda functions and Amazon Dynamo DBs.
The simplicity and accessibility of serverless technology enabled us to build and deploy at an incredible pace. Because serverless eliminates the need to provision and manage infrastructure, our engineers could focus on meaningful tasks that would improve the product. It also automatically scales with demand, proving to be vital in an industry like travel where customer behavior changes based on a variety of external factors.
Providing Capital One developers with serverless microservices that are easy to build, maintain and scale is one of the many motivations behind the company’s serverless-first strategy that continues to create premium customer experiences.
The future of travel: Personalized experiences that delight and innovate
We’ve made a huge impact with Capital One Travel so far, but we aren’t finished. We built a best-in-class travel offering, and our team is excited to continue moving the company’s tech journey into travel even further.
By creating innovative technology, Capital One Travel helps customers enjoy the most amazing experiences. Learn more about Capital One Travel and search for open positions to advance your career in technology today.
Capital One Travel bookings include services such as price freeze, change a flight after you book, price prediction, price watch, price drop protection, and price match guarantee. Additional fees may apply. The availability of these services varies by account and they may not be available on all bookings. Terms apply. See travel.capitalone.com/terms-of-service/ for details.