Practical Ecommerce

Email Case Study: Travelzoo’s Value and Simplicity

Email campaigns can be extraordinarily complex. There are dozens of elements within any campaign that may affect overall results. These elements include subject lines, creative text, calls to action, product offers, timing, frequency, and audience considerations. Email marketers try to understand and optimize the combination of these elements that will result in the most desired action — usually a sale.

In spite of these options, some sites routinely send the same type of email — containing similar content — at predictable intervals. There are reasons for this, and it is not because of a lack of internal resources to develop a more comprehensive program. It is because this particular approach works for them. Travelzoo, the site that aggregates compelling travel deals, is an example of the simplistic approach to email.

This article is the second installment in a “case study” series where I critique email marketing programs from leading companies. The first installment, “Email Case Study: Analyzing J.C. Penney’s Frequency, Subject Lines,” we published last month. For this installment, I’ll analyze Travelzoo’s email program and suggest why it is so effective.

Travelzoo’s Email Program

Travelzoo’s site highlights the best deals in travel and entertainment. Each week it sends out an email — with the same subject line and content — regarding the top 20 travel deals from the site. The subject line is always the same: “This Week’s Top 20.” The email has the same, simple, text-only layout, making it easy to scan, especially if you are accustomed to the format. In the four years since I’ve become a subscriber, the basic layout of the weekly email has remained the same.

Sample Travelzoo email. Note the subject line — "This Week's Top 20" — and the "Top 20 Deals" heading. They are consistent for every Travelzoo email.

Sample Travelzoo email. Note the subject line — "This Week’s Top 20" — and the "Top 20 Deals" heading. They are consistent for every Travelzoo email.

4 Reasons to Subscribe to Travelzoo’s Email

Let’s look at some reasons why the campaign works.

  1. Value: Travelzoo is providing one important thing to its subscribers: value. Not just the obvious value of the discounts presented in the email it offers, but value in compiling all this information in one place for email subscribers, who can then pass the deals along to family or friends. Travelzoo has kept its business model simple and uncluttered, which differentiates it from its competitors.

  2. Setting Expectations: Because Travelzoo’s emails are so predictable, subscribers know exactly what to expect and when to expect them. Subscribers anticipate and, presumably, look forward to the weekly deals, which drives the open rate. And Travelzoo’s email subject line doesn’t hint at the specific deals. This forces subscribers to open the email to see what the deals are, creating a more engaged subscriber.

  3. Back to Basics: With increased use of mobile devices and more email subscribers choosing “images off” within preview panes, email design is reverting back to basic text. Although it is not glamorous, Travelzoo’s email — being text only — overcomes rendering hurdles. Subscribers expect text and can read their emails on any device at any time.

  4. Reliability: Travelzoo’s deals tend to have a common theme. It chooses a variety of travel deals worldwide, and repeats popular destinations in each email. For example, almost every week there is a compelling offer for roundtrip airfare and accommodations to Ireland. I love Ireland. I’m anxious to visit it again. When the timing is right and the discounts are good, I hope to use one of Travelzoo’s offers to that country.

    Even if I can’t go right away, I note the pricing and details for future use. I usually click through to the site, too, to look at the details of the deals: the hotel accommodations, flight information and available dates. Travelzoo wants the repeat traffic to its site and the engaged subscribers, both of which apply to me. Moreover, if I know of friends planning a trip, I routinely forward them the newsletter or tell them to subscribe.

Summary

Even sophisticated sites with plenty of resources choose to keep their email campaigns simple. Travelzoo has likely evaluated the performance of its email program and elected to keep it simple, too. It works, after all.

Carolyn Nye

Carolyn Nye

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