Awarded to Softwire Technology Limited

Start date: Wednesday 1 September 2021
Value: £5,000,000
Company size: SME
LNER - London North Eastern Railway

Website Support and Development including provision of SEO and content administration services.

35 Incomplete applications

31 SME, 4 large

16 Completed applications

12 SME, 4 large

Important dates

Published
Thursday 21 January 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 28 January 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 4 February 2021 at 11:59pm GMT

Overview

Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Summary of the work
The delivery, maintenance and improvement of a market-leading rail online customer experience, both through existing roadmap items as well as exploring, scoping and developing future initiatives.
Latest start date
Thursday 1 April 2021
Expected contract length
2 years
Location
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
LNER - London North Eastern Railway
Budget range
In order to meet our ambitious roadmap goals, increase online share and mobile conversion, we are looking to invest up to £5m in the web front end over the proposed 2-year contract term.

To ensure we're making optimal use of available technology, there may be the opportunity later for this contract to be utilised across a wider group of train operating companies.

About the work

Why the work is being done
LNER.co.uk attracts 3 million customers per year.

LNER are on a journey to revolutionise the online customer experience for rail travellers in the UK and further afield. A key part of our ambitious digital transformation programme is to develop our website and search presence further to become market-leading in the transport industry, and to allow us to accelerate and deliver our innovative digital roadmap.

We are re-procuring to provide a renewed basis for continued online investment in our website over the next 2 years - this will encompass ongoing support and maintenance, CMS administration (new features etc), SEO management, accessibility, and development projects from UX to delivery.

We plan to have the new arrangement in place by May 2021, to build on our vision of a world-class, mobile-first rail website which will provide a best-in-class experience for retailing rail tickets and more, account management, inspiration, and information. This will include significant development to improve on our current offerings.
Problem to be solved
Our customers' digital and online booking needs are evolving quickly, and we want to be able to provide them with a slick, intuitive, mobile-first experience for searching, comparing and booking rail tickets and extras, and easily finding information about our services.

Full details of our current roadmap will be shared with shortlisted applicants as part of the proposal stage.

Work activities will include discovery & innovation to support new features, solution design, scoping requirements, UX & design, user research, development, SEO & content administration, accessibility, testing, delivery, support and continuous improvement of the LNER website.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a rail customer typically travelling with LNER c.3 times per year, I need to be able to trust and research online information easily about LNER train services, compare and book train tickets and extras simply and easily on any device, check information and get help on the day, and manage my bookings and other account aspects such as LNER Perks.

Our customers expect a personalised journey to help them plan, book and manage their train journeys online, with offers and information targeted to them.
Early market engagement
N/A
Any work that’s already been done
The website exists and has had 10 years of continuous development and innovation. This opportunity is for the replacement of our existing contract that will expire in May 2021 to support and continually improve and enhance the site.
Existing team
A variety of suppliers and internal teams as follows: -

- Product Manager (full time)
- CRO Product Owner (full time)
- Content & SEO Manager (full-time)
- Content editor support (full-time)
- Project Managers (part-time)
- Solutions Architect (part-time)
-Test team (part-time)
-IT and Information Security teams (part-time)
Current phase
Live

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
The main LNER offices are in York and London, but work can be carried out remotely
Working arrangements
Typical working arrangements will involve daily sprint and weekly/periodic project status meetings, exclusively via Microsoft Teams and at our offices in London, York and along our route locations. Our partners are expected to be available remotely or on-site to manage relationships with senior stakeholders, project managers and our customers.
Security clearance

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
LNER Service Level Schedule
LNER Information Security Requirements including annual assessment
Drugs and Alcohol Policy
Supplier Code of Conduct

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Demonstrate experience within last 3 years of building marketleading mobile-first e-commerce websites with significant scale. Please include project size/website audience.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out and embedding industry leading SEO strategies, complementing PPC and other marketing strategies.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of designing industry-leading and innovative online products and customer features, with success metrics.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of facilitating insights and data-driven user research to inform an iterative prototyping phase.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of payment tool integration, including guest check-out, card not present payments, payment instalments, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and Apple Pay.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of development and maintenance of secure website application ecosystems.
  • Demonstrate experience within last 3 years of developing solutions that securely integrate to other systems through a variety of techniques including but not limited to tagging, SOAP and REST.
  • Demonstrate experience with last 3 years of regularly releasing fully tested, robust, quality front-end website builds. Please include frequency of these releases.
  • Demonstrate expertise of innovations, products, trends and standards in the online and mobile-first user experience domain.
  • Demonstrate experience within last 3 years of building site optimisation and personalisation campaigns. Please include frequency of tests, tools used and successes.
  • Demonstrate data experience on how the online proposition can gather and rationalise data to inform future product development (across online channels and the wider business).
  • Show/demonstrate expertise of delivering products to relevant industry regulations including but not limited to PCI DSS, DPA, GDPR, ISO27001 and PSD2. Please list all you believe relevant.
  • Demonstrable inhouse website development capability in terms of revenue, staff numbers, skills, competencies and availability.
  • Demonstrable capability to ramp up resource internally or through an associate/partner model in response to changes in customer or industry requirements.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of developing solutions compliant with accessibility standards. Please include any accreditation gained.
  • Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years working successfully and collaboratively as part of a multi-supplier team.
  • Demonstrate capability to deliver a fully managed and resilient solution with defined service availability of 99.99% or greater.
  • Demonstrate ability to deliver all aspects of the service, bound to contractual service level agreements and key performance indicators.
  • Demonstratable ability to provide a 24/7/365, value focused, service support function aligned with industry best practices. (DevOps etc…)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstratable data expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data and automation to improve overall digital customer experience.
  • Demonstratable experience in the transportation and/or travel industry, and regulated industries working with standards.
  • Demonstratable expertise in delivering a continual service improvement throughout the product lifecycle aligned with industry best practices (ITIL, DevOps, Agile).
  • Show/demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out industry leading online content and SEO campaigns.

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
6
Proposal criteria
  • Proposed delivery roadmap, with indicative times and costs, based on requirements document.
  • Approach and methodology for the delivery
  • Proposed approach to being a proactive partner in defining the role our website within the customer experience.
  • Proposed team structure and account management to align to our core LNER values and ways of working.
  • Confidence that the supplier can deliver projects to time and on budget.
  • Confidence that the supplier can deliver an engaging, fun and brand-enhancing online experience.
  • Confidence that the supplier shares a passion for improving the customer experience for rail users.
  • Confidence the supplier can build a solution to make sure a smooth and accessible user experience for all customers.
  • Confidence that supplier will deliver ongoing value for money while improving efficiencies.
  • Confidence the supplier can deliver industry leading SEO and digital marketing methodologies and techniques.
  • Confidence the supplier understands the importance of omni-channel marketing when considering content.
  • Confidence that the supplier can help LNER push the boundaries using mobile first best practices and applying innovative technologies.
  • Confidence that the supplier can identify and manage risks and/or dependencies and offers solutions based on their experience.
Cultural fit criteria
  • Confidence that supplier understands what is important to LNER and rail customers.
  • Confidence that supplier can contribute to, and not just deliver, an industry leading website. This should involve collaboration with all our suppliers, innovative thinking and ideas generation.
  • Confidence that the supplier understands and adheres to the LNER company vision, business plan and values. Ultimately the supplier can live and breathe our LNER values.
  • Confidence that the supplier shares the same passion for improving the brand customer experience for rail users, as LNER does.
  • Confidence that the supplier will always have the LNER customer at the heart and challenge the status quo.
  • Confidence that the supplier will manage the account to ensure maximum buyer confidence.
  • Confidence that the supplier can become an active part of a collaborative multi-supplier team delivering for LNER.
  • Confidence the supplier will be transparent and collaborative when making decisions.
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence

50%

Cultural fit

20%

Price

30%

Questions asked by suppliers

1. Can you please confirm what level of responsibility for ongoing support you are looking for?
The ongoing support and maintenance of LNER.co.uk/connecting systems is a high responsibility. The supplier will be accountable for the health, data security and uptime of the website including CMS administration (new features etc), SEO management, accessibility, development projects from UX to delivery.

The supplier will be responsible for ensuring the website is compliant to all current data protection regulations (including but not limited to PCI DSS, DPA, GDPR) and this compliance is maintained throughout the entire contract. The supplier will be responsible for employing appropriate information security tools/techniques to continually secure the site and any data passing through it.
2. Can you please confirm if there are any restrictions on this work being delivered offshore providing timezone availability is met?
We'd need our design and development teams to be onshore as we'll need our suppliers to experience the product and meet with us face-to-face (post-pandemic!) Admin, 24-hour support desk and developer support could be offshore as long as they can provide timezone availability along with great communication skills.
3. Is there an incumbent supplier?
The incumbent supplier is Kin + Carta.
4. Are there any preferences around toolsets and platforms to be used for execution of the project?
We'll ask our supplier(s) to continue working with our LNER owned systems and tools such as the CMS platform (currently Episerver) and all other integrated website tools. LNER will welcome new and innovative tools and platforms as long as they meet our Information Security guidelines, and help us to build a world-class, mobile-first rail website.
5. What is the CMS you are looking to improve?
Episerver
6. Would you be able to outline the technology stack currently used?
Supplier would be required to intgrate with a number of 3rd party services, ie payment gateway and offer a PCI compliant service. EpiServer is the CMS, which is a .net technology, and showing a knowlege and resource that has .net skills and can work in an Agile manner. Can support managing and maintaining multiple environments inline with our architectural guidelines
7. Are you looking to refresh the technology stack or to continue using the current one?
Any change to the core, we would ask the supplier to have knowledge of Episerver and have shown they have migrated from this technology, and to clearly outline a migration plan. But first preference would be to continue with Episerver.
8. In your request to demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of designing industry-leading and innovative online products and customer features, with success metrics – is “online” referring to web, or broadly digital channels?
We're looking for demonstratable experience delivering online products and customer features across all online channels, but there should be a focus on mobile web.
9. In your request to demonstrate experience within last 3 years of developing solutions that securely integrate to other systems through a variety of techniques including but not limited to tagging, SOAP and REST – can you please define “tagging”?
LNER are looking for examples of how you've securely integrated with other systems through a variety of techniques. This can include website tagging used to facilitate the collection and sharing of data between the website and various technologies.
10. What does LNER see as the biggest challenges that the web site needs to address
Our customers expect an effortless online booking experience coupled with industry leading new features that they'll love. LNER wants to enhance the mobile web book flow experience to help convert and influence more of our customers to book their rail journeys directly with us. Increase online self-service, deeper accessibility knowledge and expertise to drive and increase our organic SEO traffic in 2021 are also important priorities and challenges.
11. Can the supplier provide some detail on the current ‘ecosystem’
Please refer to answers to questions 6 and 7 above
12. Can you please provide details on technology stack for a proposed solution.
Please refer to answers to questions 6 and 7 above
13. With the “Mobile First Approach”, do you mean to have mobile application development first or to have responsive web application that can be access by mobile browser?
This opportunity isn't linked to Mobile App development, our supplier(s) should always think 'Mobile-first' in terms of designing and prototyping to help LNER create better experiences for users from the smallest of screens. Ultimately to make sure our users experience is seamless on any device.
14. If the mobile application development will be into the scope, then on what all platform you want to develop?
This opportunity isn't linked to our Mobile App development.
15. What elements of the Episerver product suite are you using beyond CMS?
LNER are currently using the Episerver CMS Content Cloud product with a few bolt-ons
16. We understand the preference is to upgrade to the latest version of Episerver? Are we open to Cloud based DXP platform?
LNER are open to upgrading to the Cloud based Digital Experience Platform.
17. Are you fine with open source tools and frameworks for any customizations provided they are secure?
Yes, as long as these tools pass our information security compliance and they add value for the customer and/or LNER.
18. What is the frequency of SEO audits and digital marketing strategy?
The SEO audits are carried out each quarter and there is some input to a yearly content audit. The digital content strategy is created yearly and ladders up to the commercial & marketing strategy to deliver our goals
19. Please share details on metrics such as average number of sessions, Page Views, Pages/session, bounce rate, average order value, conversion rate and other metrics data available etc
LNER will share this data with our shortlisted suppliers.
20. What are the external data sources or external systems integrated?
LNER will share this information with our shortlisted suppliers.
21. What is the number of concurrent users during normal hours? How many concurrent users will be there during peak hours? Is there any seasonal promotions that drive more traffic in a year? If yes, Can you share the data?
LNER will share this data with our shortlisted suppliers.
22. You ask “Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out and embedding industry leading SEO strategies, complementing PPC and other marketing strategies”? Do you have an existing SEO partner providing recommendations that the web delivery partner would work with, or are you looking for expertise in optimising sites for SEO as part of this tender?
Our existing SEO partner is Kin+Carta (the current supplier) any SEO recommendations are fed into either technical enhancements or content changes and joint projects are shared across to our media agency for PPC. So yes we are looking for SEO expertise both technical and content led to support optimising the site for search.
23. "Could you please expand on what you mean by the following criteria ‘Confidence the supplier can deliver industry leading SEO and digital marketing methodologies and techniques.’.
What percentage of the budget would you expect to be spent on SEO and content administration vs development and support?"
Of the total budget SEO & content support would be approximately 5-10%. Although we'd welcome a different % split if the benefit was shown.
24. LNER will provide all APIs for integration with different 3rd party systems and backend API’s? Can you please share the list of 3rd party systems integrated and their further details?
LNER will share this information with our shortlisted suppliers.
25. For “Our customers expect a personalised journey to help them plan, book and manage their train journeys online, with offers and information targeted to them”, Does LNER had any product for AI / ML to drive the user experience or LNER looking out for solution proposal from suppliers
We already work with a few third-party suppliers to help us personalise the journey experience for our customers, but we'd welcome ideas and solutions from potential suppliers on how we could build on personalisation (in-house and supplier managed).
26. We understand Episerver is being used as the CMS, please confirm the version used currently and also please share more details about the technology stack for Front-end
LNER are currently using the Episerver CMS Content Cloud product with a few bolt-owns
27. Are you looking in improving only the user experience for mobile user on the web or mobile app development as well?
This opportunity is not linked to Mobile App development, our supplier(s) should always think 'Mobile-first' in terms of designing and prototyping to help LNER create better experiences for users from the smallest of screens. Ultimately to make sure our users experience is seamless on any device.
28. Who all do you consider as your competitors and what value/striking differentiator the new website (mobile web) is expected to bring compared to the competitors?
"This opportunity will involve the maintenance and improvement of a market-leading rail online customer experience, both through existing roadmap items as well as exploring, scoping and developing future initiatives. Not specifically building a brand new website.

LNER is predominantly a leisure rail company, so we have a wide range of competitors across the airline industry, other UK rail companies and third-party rail retailers i.e. the Trainline."
29. The brief highlights few areas LNER wants to enhance in mobile web journey along with focus on accessibility and increase on SEO traffic. Would you be able to share user research. analytics report or testing conducted that covers insights on the problems with the existing site?
LNER will share these reports and insight with the shortlisted suppliers.
30. What are the measurements for success criteria of the enhanced website?
There are many sucess criteria KPIs which we'll share our shortlisted suppliers.
31. What are the SLAs to be met as part of ongoing support services?
We have different SLAs based on the severity of the issue(s), and we expect our suppliers to be on call 24/7 365 days of the year. For example, critical issues would require an immediate response time, less critical issues within a 0-4 hour response time. More detail will be shared with shortlisted suppliers.
32. Could you share the data on production issues reported in last 6 months with a breakup by priority?
LNER will share these reports with the shortlisted suppliers.
33. What are the KPIs used to measure success of LNER website as of now?
LNER will share the KPI measures with the shortlisted suppliers.
34. Which service or platform is being used for Digital Marketing?
We work with another agency partner who delivers all of our media activity including digital marketing and PPC.
35. Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years of developing solutions compliant with accessibility standards. Please include any accreditation gained. Which accessibility standards are being referred to here?
We’re committed to providing a website that’s accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of technology or ability – that’s why we work towards meeting the WCAG AA 2.0 guidelines.

For the Accessible ticket search and the purchasing journey on our website, we’ve partnered with the Royal National Institute of Blind People. This is to check the content against WCAG AA guidelines and also to undertake user testing with blind and partially sighted users. This helps us ensure we’re building our pages to the right standards, and that our online experience is independently tested with users.
36. Are you able to advise the process following the initial application deadline of 4th Feb, please? And are there any agreed dates for those subsequent stages?
We'll confirm the subsequent dates with our shortlisted suppliers.
37. You’ve mentioned ML, big data and AI in your nice-to-haves? Beyond integration with any existing decisioning tool, do you have particular use-cases envisaged for these technologies?
LNER will share any use-cases with our shortlisted suppliers.
38. What do you see as the key difference between your essential skill of “Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out and embedding industry leading SEO strategies, complementing PPC and other marketing strategies” and your Nice-to-Have skill of “Show/demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out industry leading online content and SEO campaigns.”?
This is specifically looking at the SEO support and ensuring that you are able to provide a clear strategy around our search activities and wider marketing/ business activities, which is why it's key to include PPC here: Demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out and embedding industry leading SEO strategies, complementing PPC and other marketing strategies”

Where are this focuses on the content ideas that support the SEO strategy: Show/demonstrate experience within the last 3 years in building out industry leading online content and SEO campaigns.
39. Are you able to provide an estimated year 1 spend against the contract?
We're looking to invest up to £5m in the web front end over the proposed 2-year contract term. We estimate up to 50% of this budget will be spent in the first year.
40. Are you able to confirm timelines for the remainder of the bid process? What additional material do you plan on providing at shortlist stage?
Following the shortlisting process we will invite up to 6 eligible suppliers to bid for the opportunity on our e-sourcing platform Proactis. Further information, including that what has been requested in this Q&A will be shared. In addition to the proposal, bidders will also invited to do a presentation. Further detail and dates will be shared with shortlisted suppliers.