FirstGroup: Digital Transformation across leading UK transport group brands

FirstGroup has embraced the benefits of technology that can be used across multi-brands, investing in a CMS platform and website architecture that has been replicated across many of its train operating companies in the UK.  

ORM built the new marketing website on Sitecore, a leading CMS platform.  This created a flexible and scalable framework that shares a common code base and components, allowing for individual train operating company websites to be unique and tailored towards their specific audiences.  

By implementing the same framework across multiple brands in FirstGroup, the train operating companies have made savings of over 40%, versus a new build that starts from scratch.  This not only makes costs savings for the group, but also demonstrates efficiencies, and gives them a 50% increase in speed to market.

To begin with, ORM began working with Great Western Railway (GWR) in 2015, as they assessed a need to help understand the gaps in its digital presence.  Four years later, and ORM is now the digital partner to multiple brands within the transport group, working to excel their products and offerings through digital innovations.

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Great Western Railway

GWR engaged ORM to help the train operating company with its strategy, looking at the customer journeys and data to develop greater insight for the website.  Whilst they had a website and the capability for customers to book tickets online, in reality, the customer experience was non-existent and the technology infrastructure was disjointed.  We then went on to help GWR build a new website and booking flow that is personalised to different customer types, in their accounts.

You can read the full case study on GWR here.

TransPennine Express

After completing the initial phases of work for GWR, another brand in the train group, TransPennine Express (TPE), also sought a digital partner to re-develop its website.  ORM was able to bring rail expertise, extensive knowledge of Sitecore and understanding of complex back-end rail systems, to enable the train operating company to make cost and efficiency savings.  By using the framework of the website and booking flow built for GWR.com, TPE could capitalise on this foundation and, with just a few updates to the front-end, produce a new website for its own customer base, released in August 2017.

Along with continuous optimisation to improve functionality on the new website, further projects for TransPennine Express include: a personalisation programme, again using the framework from GWR; the ability to give customers more choice to pay with additional payment methods, such as PayPal and Google Wallet; and a seat selector functionality in the booking flow that makes use of data and gives the customer more control at the time of booking – due for release in spring 2019.

Southwestern Railway

In spring 2017, we were approached by a third train operating company in FirstGroup – Southwestern Railway (at the time, known as South West Trains).  The business came to ORM with a vision to re-brand its digital offering and re-design its marketing website ready for the launch of the new franchise – all in just eight weeks.

The fast turnaround project involved digital branding, visual designs, UX and the implementation of a new marketing website.  As with TPE, Southwestern Railway also made use of the website framework first built for GWR. This not only sped up development, allowing the train operating company to meet its deadline, but also meant the website could be given its own identity that was designed towards Southwestern’s new brand.

About First Group

FirstGroup plc is a multi-national transport group, operating transport services in the UK, Ireland and North America. It is one of the most experienced rail operators in the UK, carrying more than 260m passengers across the three franchises it owns.  

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