Glitzy Emails Befit a High-Gloss Hotel

There’s been a lot of talk about how September 11 has negatively affected all types of businesses around the country. There’s also been a lot of speculation that email marketing will pick up the slack as businesses drop direct mail because of the anthrax scare. Today’s case study touches on both of these aspects.

The Venetian is one of only three five-star hotels in Las Vegas. The slow economy had been hurting its bookings even before September 11, and the tragedy that took place that day further worsened business. Upper management needed to fill as many rooms as possible — and do it as quickly as possible.

So the hotel turned to email marketing, which it had used successfully in the past. Previously, the Venetian had sent out basic HTML messages. This time, it created a snazzy email message, complete with photographs, a video, and a customer-service call button. And this time, the response was overwhelming.

H2F Media, a full-service rich media email marketing firm, was charged with the task of putting the campaign together. It put its end-to-end solution, called the Digital Wildfire service, to work. To create the message, it came up with a colorful “outline” that featured a glitzy photograph of the hotel. Then it used Windows Media technology (WMT) to create a rich media email by adding a video produced previously for use in other media (namely, television commercials). The message also included the eStaraVoice technology, which allows recipients to click to call (using their computer’s microphone and speakers) a call center or to enter in their phone number to request a call from the customer service center.

You can see what this message looks like by going here and clicking on the project called (appropriately enough) “Venetian.”

Oh — and the offer? The hotel offered extremely discounted rates on rooms. Although rooms typically go for $249 to $850, these started at $119 for weekdays and $149 for weekends.

The results were fantastic. In the wee hours of September 21, the message was sent out to the Venetian’s opt-in list of more than 50,000 customers. It registered about 51,000 total opens, including 14,733 unique opens. But forget about open rates. What’s key is conversions. The conversion rate was about 23 percent.

So the hotel booked 2,500 rooms, or 8,000 nights, and generated about $500,000 in revenue. Not bad for a $15,000 campaign.

Some other notes on this campaign:

  • The response was so overwhelming that the booking agents had to call in extra employees to answer phones that day. The morning the message was sent, 10 agents were working. (The Venetian typically has 20 agents answering the telephones, but the hotel had been so empty they had cut the number in half.) “We had 60 calls on hold all day long,” says Chris Stacey, the hotel’s Internet manager. The Venetian needed 50 people to answer calls that day. 
  • For those of you who have written to ask me about the best day to send a campaign, this note’s for you. H2F usually recommends sending on Tuesday or Wednesday, because sending those days tends to generate the best response. But the Venetian wanted to get the message out as quickly as possible, so it was sent on Thursday night. I wonder what response would have been had the message been sent out earlier in the week. 
  • H2F Media uses what it has dubbed its SmartDelivery technology to penetrate firewalls, multiple email clients, various Web browsers, numerous operating systems, and more. The video is encoded so that it will play best on 56K modems and higher-speed connections, such as digital subscriber line (DSL). The company found that, in this case, 35 percent of the recipients were on dial-up modems while the rest had high-speed connections. (As a side note — the video technology can also be backed up with a Flash version if the client prefers.) 
  • The video clip displays in Windows Media Player, which is common on computers these days. The Venetian found that each person launched the 30-second video an average of two times, and the average person watched it 95 percent of the way through.

Of course, rich media doesn’t work for everyone. Your audience may prefer text, for instance. But in the case of a glitzy Las Vegas hotel, this case study shows that rich media can make a huge difference.

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