Dissecting user engagement of Rome2rio’s transport images

Published September 29, 2014

In July we launched our Transport Images feature which displays insightful photographs of trains, buses and ferries on Rome2rio. Not sure if that ferry between Kuala Besut and Perhentian Besar is a leaky boat or a sophisticated catamaran? Do you reeeaaally want to spend 22 hours on that bus from Buenos Aires to Bariloche? Transit images provide information and re-assurance when venturing somewhere new with operators you’ve never heard of before.

Frankly, we weren’t sure how popular this feature would be, but it hasn’t taken long for users to show their approval: over three quarters of a million images are being viewed each week, after only two months on the site.

We love analyzing data and discovering how users are interacting with our site, and we were naturally thrilled to observe this level of popularity, with hover rates on the images ranging from 20 – 40%. Still, we wanted to drill deeper and learn which images our users were engaging with most often, as that analysis will help focus our efforts building the collection. Do users prefer internal or external photographs of the transport? Are bus photos more useful than train or ferry photos? How about ticket machines and station images?

We extracted the results from Google Analytics and manually classified images into different categories. Here’s the results:

Transit images clicks
Category, hover rate (calculated as percentage of times a category image is displayed), and samples

It turns out users are more engaged with images of buses and ferries (29 – 31%) than with trains (22%). This is perhaps not surprising – buses and ferries vary greatly in comfort and quality and the market is more fragmented with many smaller operators.

Surprisingly, users are engaging most with images related to rideshare offerings from BlaBlaCar and Carpooling.com. We presume this is because long-distance rideshare is still a relatively new concept and users are keen to learn more about the type of experience they’ll have.

We were surprised to discover no significant difference in engagement between interior and exterior photographs. This was consistent across all modes of transport.

Finally, images of ticket machines and train stations are also popular; it’s clear that many people worry about finding the station and learning more about where they’ll collect their ticket, and appreciate the extra degree of confidence these images provide.

We will use this data to prioritize our continued development of the image collection. We also rely heavily upon route popularity to prioritize our efforts, by sourcing images for popular routes first. Andrew Hickey and our global content team have made excellent progress since the feature was first launch and we are currently displaying 785,000 images per week:

Weekly transit image displays May 25 – Sep 13, 2014

We expect this will grow to around 1,500,000 weekly displayed images by the end of the year as coverage improves further.

Written by
Co-founder & CEO
Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information. We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at rome2rio.com