Around 80% of Travelocity’s 32million customers are e-mailed every seven days with targeted offers matched to their site browsing and previous travel purchases. The offers – as Laura Johnston, vp marketing at Travelocity, puts it – must be “relevant and compelling”, and if they are then the customers, thousands of them, will buy within hours.

The programme helped drive Travelocity’s revenues to US$830million last year and – with the acquisition last May of lastminute.com – make it the largest online travel agency in Europe. It is also the cost justification for a massive increase in the size of its active data warehouse – an NCR Teradata system was implemented in August 2005 and is now doubling in size from 8 to 16 nodes.

The system monitors airline fares constantly and, when it sees a significant price fall on any routes in the overnight price, it identifies all site visitors who have looked at those routes recently, but not bought, and will send out e-mails at 5am alerting them to a new special offer. As the orders come in, Travelocity buys the airline tickets and the profits made on the deal not only covers the costs of the active data warehousing investment but have made a major contribution to the company’s growth.

“This approach is our most effective customer conversion campaign,” says Laura Johnston, “and we actually find very few people want to opt out of our e-mail marketing programme as no-one wants to miss a good deal.”

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