March 31, 2011, 12:00 AM

E-mail To Go

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As for cost, Wisot says the mobilization of e-mails only required a little more time of marketers and web developers to create the test versions. And now that the narrower version is the standard, there is no extra cost.

A new direction

Avis Budget Group has gone beyond tweaking desktop PC e-mails to creating completely different versions of marketing e-mails tailor-made for smartphones. Its mobile e-mails are only as wide as the typical smartphone screen—this way smartphones do not have to miniaturize the e-mails—and flow at great length vertically to allow plenty of room for messaging.

For an e-mail marketing piece encouraging iPhone-wielding customers to download version 2.0 of the car rental giant's iPhone app, Avis Budget's e-mail services provider, e-Dialog, a subsidiary of GSI Commerce Inc., first created a list of customers using iPhones to open up e-mails. It did so using device-detection technology, which returns information to e-Dialog on the kind of computer or mobile device a customer is using to open e-mail.

The creative was next.

"People on mobile phones are thumb-clicking and viewing on a small device and are on the go. We wanted to develop a message that was clear and concise with nice big buttons and a narrow width," explains Jim Kelly, manager of creative services at e-Dialog. "We worked with Avis Budget on trimming the copy and making the headline nice and bold, clear and easy to read, and made the free download button large so it would pop and be easy for thumb-clicking."

The campaign was very successful, Avis Budget says. "It delivered significantly stronger results than our traditional Avis Savers e-mail," says Jaime Ferrone, marketing manager, customer relationship management, at Avis Budget Group. Avis Savers is a regular e-mail program highlighting promotions. "The open rate was about two-and-a-half times higher and the click rate was nearly double."

Avis Budget declines to reveal the number of app downloads generated by the iPhone campaign, but says the campaign had an enormous effect on the company's e-mail marketing strategy moving forward.

More mobile

"The increased engagement from this audience has proved so successful that we rolled out mobile versions for each of our standard campaigns within a few months of the test," Ferrone says. "In the time since we've implemented these enhancements, the mobile campaign continues to outperform Avis Savers with open rates of more than double and click rates nearly 40% higher."

Avis Budget declines to reveal the cost of mobile e-mails. E-Dialog prices mobile campaigns on a case-by-case basis; there is no fixed fee. "Ultimately it's an additional creative version to produce a mobile-targeted e-mail; it does result in a little more time to do things like quality assurance and different design," Kelly says.

Like Wisot of, Ferrone knows mobile is growing fast, and that it's important for a company catering to travelers to be accessible on mobile devices.

"Our job as marketers is to remove barriers and make it as easy as possible for our customers to interact with our brand on their terms, not ours," Ferrone says. "As we continue to see an increase in the size of the mobile audience over time, it tells me mobile is a rapidly growing segment that will become more important to reach in a relevant manner."

And if a marketing e-mail is not relevant and readable to a mobile consumer, that consumer is likely to delete the e-mail and move on. E-mail marketers that don't tailor their messages to fit mobile devices risk alienating a fast-growing group of consumers.

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