How Lonely Planet used email to help launch its new homepage

All this week, we’re running a series entitled The Future of Email Marketing. Our authors will deep-dive into the tools, technology and strategies changing email for the better. Each day will feature case studies, interviews, technology reviews and best practice – as well as the results of our reader survey. Expect cutting-edge insights, predictions and more!

Earlier this year Lonely Planet launched a new home page. We’ve had a website since the mid-90s, and from then it’s come a long way, but our digital evolution as a brand remains as important to us now as it was then.

As part of this latest home page rollout, we also released our newly designed ‘inspiration’ pages (around thematic topics like adventure travel and food and drink). Utilizing email to introduce our community of travelers to these improved parts of our site was a key component of our communications strategy – as it is with any of our big digital releases now.

Subject line: ‘Explore every day with our new homepage’ 

Aims

The core aim here was to underline to our email subscribers our new mission: to help people ‘explore every day’. There are only so many times when people can travel on a holiday throughout the year and we want Lonely Planet to be a brand that not just enables people to take a trip, but inspires them to start planning that adventure even before booking.

This is reflected in the evolution of our publishing list with an increased amount of pictorial books – covering everything from beer to bikes – and in this launch email we aimed to emphasis that ongoing shift towards inspiration through the inclusion of our new brand video in the lower third of the design.

Making more prominent the large scale, rich, visual imagery across the home page (and the whole site in general) has been an initiative of ours since the launch of our new destination pages last year.

This was reflected in the redesign of our home page, as seen with the larger carousel at the top showcasing our article content, and we wanted this relayed in our launch email, hence the use of the lifestyle-y image in the header. A key aspect of our approach now is to feature real-life travellers in our marketing communications and not just our products alone.

With the array of mediums that Lonely Planet now communicates to our audience on, from mobile apps to magazines, we wanted to reiterate with this email that lonelyplanet.com was the true ‘front-door’ to the brand – and the best route by which to enter this multi-channel ecosystem.

This is a message we are continually driving across our marketing in 2017, and will continue to do so throughout 2018. Although the email drove significant clicks to the new homepage, its purpose was as much for education as it was commercially driven. So we carefully considered the subject line for this email (ensuring it was simple and clear) – landing on ‘Explore every day with our new homepage’.

The results

The key metric in this context was the open rate – the positive result for just our US send (the largest list within our overall database) was over 100K opens, with unsubscribes staying under the desired 0.5% benchmark we had set.

There wasn’t a follow-on campaign for the homepage specifically – which was also supported by display activity to reach those not within our community already – but the success of this style of email communication internally paved the way for how we decided to model further product announcements this year, such as when we launched our video hub in the spring.

The video hub launch email

In the past, we’ve been very focused just on Lonely Planet’s travel content (and our print products) in our emails, rather than the brand or specific digital properties of the organization, and so this was somewhat of a new direction in tone for this channel.

For subsequent releases, such as our Trips app last month, we’ve since gone a step further in this ‘brand education’ vein by weaving in several Call-to-Actions towards the end of the launch email to provide a more behind-the-scenes view of what we do via our Medium account.

The trips app launch email

This has had the knock-on effect of helping to kick-start traffic for those Medium posts, giving them an initial spike and helping us to get further eyeballs on the content in that network which has a distinct, but influential early-adopter audience.

Evolving our brand perception obviously can’t happen solely via one channel, but having millions of dedicated travelers there in one place is a good place to start. As we’ve continued to do this, we’ve ensured to also use this channel to ensure that two-way communication is working the other way too.


Getting valuable feedback on key content areas means we can weave that back into the editorial we produce, which in turn helps us ensure that these changes we’re making to our digital properties (like the new homepage) are going to continue to genuinely help inspire and enable the traveler in the way that we hope.

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