preference test ba and va

Web test: British Airways vs. Virgin Atlantic who has the best first class product page?

preference test result case studyDesigning a compelling product page is a critical part of converting visitors to buy. In this web test I looked at how well product pages for first class flights from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic compared.

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What triggered this web page comparison?
I was checking for first class flights from London to Johannesburg. (I will be presenting a 2 day masterclass in Johannesburg and a 1 day Power Up Workshop in Cape Town in June) For this 10 hour flight, Virgin Atlantic’s UpperClass price was £ 3.000. For a British Airways First Class flight, the price is double at £6.000.

That is a huge price difference!

So I was thinking, am I comparing Apples and Apples? Next I did what most people would do. I navigated to the respective product pages to learn more about each offering.

Before I tell you about the experience and show you the result of the preference test we ran, let me remind you of what is important when you design a product page
First and foremost the good ‘ol AIDA is still very much at play. Your page has to draw people in (Attention), make people want to read more (Interest), be presented in a way that stirs an emotion and makes people desire to buy (Desire) and essentially make the visitor want to buy (Action).

The ultimate goal of any product page is to convince people to buy. To do that you must stir an emotion. Remember that people buy on emotions and then rationalize their purchase after the fact. Not the other way around.

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Test result: British Airways vs. Virgin Atlantic
My own first impression of the two pages you see below was;

British Airways product page: “I don’t believe it! Tell me I am on the wrong page. Why don’t they show me how large the seating area is. Why don’t they show me images that will stir my emotion?”

Virgin Atlantic product page: “That looks great – I want to experience that. But there is a lot of information and where can I see the actual seat”

Now, I am not everybody in the target audience. And when you design product pages, you have to think about “most people”. What would most people prefer? How are most people convinced? That is hard to know without testing. (You can learn what a preference test is here)

So we ran a preference test – the result is here:
preference test result case study

How did we run the preference test?
We Tweeted, Facebook’ed and Linkedin the message over a one week period of time. A little over 1.000 people visited the test. And around 100 people participated in the preference test. If you would like us to run a preference test for you, please get in touch with Michael Leander at leander@michaelleander.com

As you can see, an overwhelming majority preferred the product page from Virgin Atlantic.
At first I was surprised to see that 15% preferred the page from British Airways. But after reading the comments, I thought some of them made a lot of sense.

Here are some of the comments made by people whom preferred the product page from British Airways;

  • Other one was too busy – lots of snippets of content pics like a hyperactive magazine. This one is more zen more relaxing more like how I want my flight to feel.
  • The other had too much information on one page
  • It’s more comfortable, more luxury and more safety. The British brands say more than American ones
  • Simple, classy. If I can afford first class, I don’t really need to be shown what it’s like.
  • It’s easy to read. The other is too frantic. The pictures seem fake.
  • Blue color?Trustable. serenity

And here are some of the comments made about the product page from Virgin Atlantic

  • Common words mentioned by the audience were: appealingX7, colorX7, informX6, looksX3, classX3, coloursX3
  • Lots of images and line item descriptions. The other one just looked boring.
  • Less text heavy. Good chunking of content. Visual’s break the monotony of reading too much text. Gives a clear snapshot of what to expect. Disadvantage: Page is long and user has to scroll too much.
  • More inviting, plays on comfort for the long haul, less businesslike, luxurious ambience
  • Nicer, sexy, short and good text
  • Pictures, nice design, easy to read
  • Because it looked relaxing and warm.
  • It’s very visual.First impression. The woman. The purple background.
  • More colourful
  • It has French in the copy – more international
  • Easier to grasp

A preference test gives indication only – the real test is this
Although 85% of the audience said they preferred the product page from Virgin, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this page would sell more tickets. There are many other factors to weigh in. My recommendation is always to run – as a very minimum – an A/B split test in a live environment. After all, you should measure by how much business you get from your online activities.

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> Go see if Markedu is offering a webseminar about this topic







  • http://www.uk-airport-lounges.co.uk Daron D

    You don’t say which one you booked ! I’m guessing Virgin, given the price difference, but were you really comparing apples with apples? Returning to the original reason for the visit to the websites, would a fairer comparison be BA’s Buiness Class with Virgin’s Upper Class?

    • http://www.michaelleander.com Michael Leander

      Thanks for your comment, Daron. I cannot speak for others. For me BA has two problems here; first they did not present their offering in a compelling way – far from it. And 85% of the preference test respondents agree with that. Secondly, the price difference is just too steep. As a business traveler, I am not likely to spend more than 10-15 minutes to make a decision on any flight. And that just isn’t enough time enough to know if I am comparing apples to apples. Unless, of course, there would be a super comparison engine available, which, come to think of it, would be a great idea.