Strawberry logo

With 230 hotels, 122 restaurants, and 21 spas across the Nordics, Strawberry is a hospitality company priming your life with exciting, fun, and meaningful experiences. Founded in 1989 and formerly known as Nordic Choice Hotels, a major rebrand and website migration held this Scandinavian powerhouse’s 35-year legacy and loyal customer base in the balance.
Industry: Hospitality
Location: Oslo, Norway
Customer since: 2023

Favorite features
Global delivery network (CDN)
Real-time caching
Load balancer
Next-Gen WAF
DDoS protection
Rate limiting
Enterprise support

Strawberry's future-proof website loads 40% faster with Fastly; improves UX by 66%

Website migrations are notoriously tricky at the best of times. But the stakes are even higher when you’re combining your big move with a radical rebrand aimed at enhancing your customer experience – while retaining a stellar reputation.

And that’s exactly the epic quest one Scandinavian hotels and hospitality legend undertook recently, with Nordic Choice Hotels’ transformation into Strawberry: an ambitious travel brand expanding its traditional hotel group offering to new horizons. It now encompasses food, drink, shopping, events, and even a dash of fika – the fine art of coffee, cake, and conversation.

With tens of millions of organic SERP exposures powering an annual $1 billion revenue and 18,000 staff, Strawberry was yearning for a smooth migration from a monolithic on-prem platform to a flexible cloud-based future.

With Fastly CDN and Next-Gen WAF enhancing performance and security, Strawberry has achieved some impressive results – like more than a 40% faster load time for landing pages and enhanced user experience by 66%.

Yet Strawberry’s migration to Fastly became much more than the sum of its parts. Which is exactly why it’s worthwhile digging deeper into this project’s challenges, solutions, and unexpected benefits.

A platform aligned with ambition

Strawberry’s legacy setup was an F5 BIG-IP solution, built on physical hardware managed by an IT partner which also handled platform configuration – including proxy and traffic-routing rules.

But inefficient and outdated caching was a major problem. That’s because it severely hampers performance in an eCommerce arena where mere millisecond improvements in page loading can significantly boost UX and conversions.

Strawberry hoped introducing a new CDN (with WAF) would extend the life cycles of legacy web-servers and create a little breathing space before a complete replacement was necessary.

Consequently, Strawberry’s wish list included the following must-haves:

  • Improved caching/performance

  • Eliminating security vulnerabilities associated with the obsolete load balancer.

  • Enhancing security and proactively managing DDoS during critical rebranding phase.

  • Automating testing and aligning test and production environments.

These technical criteria were crucial. However, hands-on support and culture fit were also key considerations. That’s because instead of opting for a detached tech giant, Strawberry preferred to manage its sensitive migration collaboratively, working together with a team of experts.

Fastly’s sales team made the most favorable initial approach amongst vendor contenders, and a blend of industry-leading technicality and soft skills ultimately tipped the balance. With the deal done, Fastly’s Senior Security Sales Engineer Nils Boman was on board to help Strawberry’s WebDev ace Christian Ek drive the project forward.

Stacked for success

Strawberry pushed the new platform’s initial bare bones configuration on March 8th 2023, with a launch deadline set for May 20th. And after a particularly swift, smooth migration, everything was actually up and running by May 18th.

The Fastly platform works together with GitHub, Terraform, Datadog, and Contentful CMS. And while the original project impetus was the rebranding and moving away from an old, on-prem load balancer for performance and security reasons, the Fastly partnership has delivered more value than anticipated.

“We gained lots of additional benefits we didn’t expect” explains Strawberry’s Martin Belak. “We can actually have everything in Terraform and GitHub and easily deploy new versions in three different environments now. And we have direct ownership of the configurations, deployment, and code, because the load balancer is the proxy and traffic routing is the essential part of the application. Controlling these rules is crucial as we slice away the old CMS feature-by-feature by routing traffic to the new platform in a smart way”.

Results relief

Despite the challenges, results in Strawberry’s Fastly era are already impressive. Mismanaged migrations can torpedo organic traffic, but since the May launch Strawberry has already clocked 2.44 million organic visits to its new site from Google – with its pages/links exposed 62 million times in the SERPs.

And security awareness was at an all-time high during the migration because of the potential resource and reputational damage of a DDoS attack during rebranding. Yet Strawberry has deployed Fastly Next-Gen WAF in blocking mode with no issues whatsoever. And as well as robust DDoS protection, Strawberry enjoys unexpected benefits such as rate limitings, real-time data and clear actionable metrics which make it easy to make instant changes to mitigate attacks.

Because Strawberry has some endpoints it can’t cache because they’re delivering real-time hotel availability rates, it can be susceptible to crawlers and bots. However, Fastly’s rate limiting means these are neutralized quickly and effectively.

So organic traffic and security are well in hand. But UX drives conversions, so how has performance fared?

  • With Fastly, the average server connection time is reduced from 0.06 seconds with BIG-IP to 0.02 seconds, resulting in a >66% improvement

  • The landing page's average page load time has improved by more than 40%, going from 6.90 seconds with BIG-IP to 4.13 seconds with Fastly

strawberry case study image 1

And the reassuring results don’t stop there. Because Strawberry's Net Promoter Score (NPS), which was 61 prior to the rebranding, has increased to 81 today (thanks in no small part to Fastly’s contribution).

Built by Devs for Devs

One of the most notable factors in Strawberry’s migration is it was managed by Strawberry’s Christian Ek – a relative industry newcomer compared to veterans such as Fastly’s own Nils Boman.

So the project’s success is testament to Christian’s talents and Fastly’s Dev-first credo. This is particularly impressive for Martin Belak, because it fits so well with Strawberry’s “be brave and fail fast” philosophy. “One huge advantage of Fastly’s platform is it’s super-easy to get up and running” he says. “Christian was crucial for the migration, but he isn’t a senior developer. Yet with your support, he’s now owning the platform, which is fantastic”.

And the respect is definitely mutual, with Nils Boman describing the Strawberry team’s migration performance as “smooth and very fast”.

Growing together

So what’s the next stage for this ambitious hospitality brand?

Compute might be a natural progression, with its higher granularity for testing and capacity to enhance conversion-driven UX without adversely affecting SEO performance. Moving towards more composable architecture would make it easier to import code and have it running in parallel with existing components.

And a fine-tuned CAPTCHA solution (coming soon) would help keep the bots at bay. With a relationship feeling like love at first byte, it’ll be interesting to see how Fastly and Strawberry grow together.

“With our legacy platform, we had to do everything on our own – from setup to configuration. The difference with Fastly is it has a lot of features working together and everything can be deployed right out of the box.”

Martin Belak
Director of Digital Development, Strawberry

“It’s super-easy for us now to deploy this new configuration, instead of ordering changes from an IT partner and waiting for a week. We have direct control over everything – amazing.”

Martin Belak
Director of Digital Development, Strawberry

“From a search and conversion perspective, a rebrand and migration are risky for business. But after 180 days, the conversion rate has recovered unexpectedly well. So it’s definitely a success.”

Martin Belak
Director of Digital Development, Strawberry

“Strawberry deployed Fastly Next-Gen WAF in blocking mode without any problems at all. Fastly offers strong DDoS protection in addition to other surprising advantages like rate limits, real-time data, and easily understandable actionable metrics that facilitate quick adjustments to mitigate attacks.”

Martin Belak
Director of Digital Development, Strawberry

“I’d never done infrastructure or varnish before, so I had to learn. It was really fun and Fastly is very intuitive to use. Documentation that Fastly provided is great, and it solves your problems with no issues.”

Christian Ek
Web Developer, Strawberry

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