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From May 21st, 2021

How to Personalize the Travel Experience with Vacasa

Do you map out every single step of a trip right down to the rest stops, or are you up for randomly stopping off at a local diner for some good and greasy food to pull an all-night drive? (Yeah, us too.) While emails should be more planned out than late-night road trip stops, you can easily customize your message by pulling in dynamic content. Andy McCutcheon, email marketing manager at Vacasa, walks us through some customized email templates with built-in styles, classes, and our favorite: live text.

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This FF episode was sponsored by Netcore. Revolutionize email experiences with the only email delivery platform that leverages AI to power deliverability and increased customer engagement.


Matt Helbig: What's up, Email Geeks? Welcome back to another episode of Feedback Friday, this week with an amazing guest. How's it going, Andy?

Andy McCutcheon: Hey, it's going well, happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Matt Helbig: Your Vacasa emails caught our eye on reallygoodemails.com. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and maybe a little bit about this brand?

Andy McCutcheon: I'm the Email Marketing Manager at Vacasa, which is North America's largest vacation rental management platform. We manage 30,000 homes across 400 different markets as well as rent out the homes that we manage for homeowners. I am the Email Marketing Manager, touching everything from marketing to transactional emails and everything in between.

Matt Helbig: I was hoping that we could walk through some of these and maybe talk about what you like.

Andy McCutcheon: Yeah. This was a little bit of a different kind of promotional email that we sent. All of our promotional marketing emails go out to previous reservation guests, so they are folks who are fairly knowledgeable or at least aware of Vacasa as a brand and have had a previous stay with us. We do a lot of unit personalization, pulling in dynamic unit recommendations into emails. 

With this one, we wanted to do something a little bit different and really lean into one of the biggest travel trends of the last year, which is driving to destinations. Driving has been super popular with everything happening and folks being hesitant to fly and being able to go somewhere that they can hop in their car and have a little bit more control over their destination and how they get there.

Rather than packing this full of personalized unit recommendations and things like that, we wanted to do something a little bit more fun, and softer, and a little bit broader. We tried to kind of recreate this road trip down the West Coast, highlighting a few of our favorite markets that we have homes to rent in.

Matt Helbig: Even at this top section, a lot of things are standing out to me, a nice color palette, great use of live text. I even noticed on mobile that you left-aligned this content so

it's a lot easier to read on that smaller screen. 

Andy McCutcheon: One of my biggest collaborators at Vacasa is a developer, Taylor Campbell, and he built the email workflow that we use. It's incredibly reusable and customizable with huge base components that we can use and then customize as needed. Then, it's got tons of styles and classes built into it as well, so doing things like taking text from center to left-aligned on desktop and mobile is really, really easy.

We've also tried to be really strong advocates of accessibility in email, and always rely on live text as much as possible.

Matt Helbig: Is there anything you might want to improve on this email? I know it's pretty polished. It's kind of a long scroll, but I do like how you use these graphics to bring your eye down the email.

Andy McCutcheon: Yeah, I’m super happy with how this came out. One of the tricky parts was navigating how much white space we've generated around the dashed lines with the icons. Especially on desktop, I feel like they almost look like they're floating. In a perfect world, we could tuck those dashed lines up underneath the sections above and below them. However, wanting to keep live text and all of those kinds of things in space and consistent, we had to keep them above the sections. Overall, I'm super happy with how this came out.

Matt Helbig: Nice. Could you tell me a little bit about this one?

Andy McCutcheon: This is our checkout abandonment email. This is one of a couple of different checkout abandonment emails we have. This is a user who starts the checkout process for a particular unit and then abandons it before completing. We resurface that unit that they were looking at and link back to it in a few different places, trying to encourage them to complete that reservation.

We've done a lot of testing on the CTA. “Make it Yours” is the current CTA. Previously, we were just doing “Book Now.” We've tried a few different variants, and “Make it Yours” was the highest performer of the last round of testing that we did. 

Then, we recently onboarded a firm as a payment method partner, and we're all super excited about offering that. That was something that we felt made a lot of sense to surface in this email where somebody possibly got to the payment screen and felt a little bit unsure about making that last click. So, we surface this as a flexible payment option. I think this was a great recent addition that's only been in this template for a couple of months.

Matt Helbig: Yeah, I like bringing in that level of personalization, and utilizing that live text to maybe do that as well. It’s cool to see. Then whenever you can use, I'm guessing these great images or things like that, especially with travel emails, it's nice to see, bringing those in and letting them go full width on mobile and stuff. I think on mobile, this one's optimized and would definitely catch my attention in the inbox.

Andy McCutcheon: It makes our job a lot easier when we have phenomenal images of homes like this one. It makes it easy for us to pull in the primary image of the unit that they were looking at and make it pop. We make sure to use the default image for that home so that it's instantly recognizable from that session that they had on the site so they’ll know what we're reaching back out to them about.

Matt Helbig: I'm curious, is there a reason why you don't show prices in this email?

Andy McCutcheon: Yeah, that's a good point. We did an A/B test last year. It's been probably about six months so it might be time to revisit, but we did have a version of this that had the reservation details with the home’s name, the check-in, and check-out dates, as well as the price that they were seeing in their cart when they abandoned.

We had a couple of different breakdowns of just the total price, and then, the rent plus fees, plus tax, and then a subtotal. We had the highest click-through rate and the highest post-click conversion rate from this one, that was a little bit more simple and clean so that's what we ended up going with.

Matt Helbig: Thanks for sharing those learnings. It’s super cool to see testing emails like this that are maybe a more triggered email that can make you a lot of money long term. 

Then this last one caught my eye with this wave breaking up the color here. Great photography, great use of live text.

Andy McCutcheon: This was something where again we're trying to lead into accessible destinations for folks. This was sent to users in our database that live in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, where traveling to the Oregon coast is pretty accessible. Obviously, the waves, trying to be on theme with the Oregon coast.

Our email designer and developer, Rachel, came up with this design and the waves to break up the depth of field almost in the header. That was something I saw on Really Good Emails that stood out to me. I shared it with the team as an example of how we could use live text as the main header title of the email and then have the image below it, and then do something underneath the image to break it up and give a little bit of a sense of depth to it, while still making my main image pop.

Matt Helbig: It definitely stands out to me. I’m a big fan of these colors working together. It's cool to see a ghost button test to see if that would maybe perform a little bit better than an all-white button. However, I think it works for something like this, where there's a little bit more text leading you into that CTA.

Andy McCutcheon: I think if we had gone with our traditional yellow CTA with that accent line directly beneath it, it might have been a little bit overpowering. I like the ghost button for this section as well and had I been thinking a little bit more strategically at the time, I probably would have liked to have done a direct A/B test, but something to think about for the future. 

Matt Helbig: Anything else with these emails? Anything that's exciting with email? Anything upcoming?

Andy McCutcheon: We're trying to keep being innovative and keep trying to take advantage of a lot of the great visual assets that we, as a vacation rental company, have access to. 

It makes our job easier when we have great assets, but then it's also on us to take it to the next level. That's always a challenge with email because you want it to be easily scrollable and not be visually overwhelming and not get in the way of the objective of the email. That's something that I think that we're constantly striving for, is how can we make this visual and really pop to the recipient, but also not be overwhelming and be clean, easy to scroll through, and easy to navigate.

Matt Helbig: Amazing work. I like experimenting with these different layouts and designs. They all still feel like they're part of the same brand and the same design system. Thanks for jumping on and walking through these with us!

Andy McCutcheon: Cool, thank you. It's so good to talk to you.

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