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Renaissance tries to boost sales

April 18, 2001 

RENAISSANCE IS TARGETING about 10,000 travel agents nationwide in hopes of boosting sales.

EMMetrics, the e-mail marketing division of Grey Global Group’s Grey Direct, hatched the plan. Grey also is offering Push to Talk to other clients. The technology was developed by ITXC, a publicly traded Princeton, N.J., provider of Internet-telephone services.

“The easier we make it for them to book with us the more they will,” says Adam Lippman, Renaissance’s electronic-business manager. “E-mail marketing is the most effective thing we do.” The cruise company has been sending travel agents and consumers e-mail come-ons for about two years. Travel agents get about one or two e-mails a week from Renaissance, while targeted consumers receive as many as three a week.

Although some Renaissance customers have complained, prompting the company to reduce the number of e-mails it sends weekly, only 0.1 percent have opted out.

The number of e-mail pitches is expected to hit 268 billion in 2005, up from 12 billion in 2000, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, a New York e-commerce research firm. Marketers worry about irritating people but have embraced e-mail because it is fast and cheap. On average it costs about 18 cents to send a letter bulk rate, plus the cost of printing the promotional material and the labor involved. By comparison, an outbound e-mail costs as little as half a cent to deliver.

Creating e-mail campaigns also takes less time than traditional advertising. Grey needs three months to create and launch a direct-mail campaign, and six months to a year to evaluate consumer feedback. But an e-mail promotion takes three weeks to develop, with 40 percent of the responses received in an hour and 80 percent in 72 hours.

“Consumers expect to voice their opinions, get personalized messages, and get treated as an individual, not as a number,” says Jeanniey Mullen, managing director of EMMetrics. “E-mail marketing allows us to do that.”

Still, people often won’t open unfamiliar e-mail attachments because of computer-virus concerns. This is why veteran marketers say persuading consumers to open their e-mail is their toughest job. “It doesn’t matter if you have great applications if the user doesn’t open the message,” says Christopher Todd, an analyst at Jupiter.

Travel agents who receive Renaissance’s new e-mails can use the technology to contact the cruise-ship line directly to check on cabin availability and details regarding new promotions. There also is a link to Renaissance’s Internet home page, where agents can view rooms and details about a specific voyage.

The company says it wants to send voice-enhanced e-mail to consumers but still is working on how to connect them directly to their local travel agents.

Executives at Grey say they think Push to Talk will appeal to many companies because it enables them to overcome the bane of online shopping: the difficulty of getting questions answered on the spot. “Too often customers get an e-mail and things interfere with the deal closing — like the person has a question about the offering,” says Ms. Mullen of EMMetrics.


The new Push to Talk service has been rolled out to 10 Grey Direct offices around the world including those in Sweden, Britain and Belgium. Grey says it is in talks with a major fast-food chain and a car company about using the new tool in their e-mail marketing campaigns.

Grey intends to charge marketers 75 cents to 95 cents for every person who connects to the company using the technology. Renaissance, though, is getting free service during a trial basis.

By Suzanne Vranica,THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Copyright © 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc

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