Learn From a Great Email Newsletter Example: Kayak

After ripping apart some poor email examples, I think it’s high time we point out someone who’s doing an email marketing newsletter right.

I’ve been getting emails from travel planning site Kayak.com for a couple weeks. In each issue I’m impressed by their email savvy, from content to design to the little extras that make me so likely to use them to plan my trips.

Why do I like Kayak’s emails — both as an email marketing guy and as a subscriber — so much?

Examples of Kayak’s Emails

Before we go any further, take a look at 2 issues of their email newsletter that I’ve received:

(Click the above images for full-size versions.)

What do you think of them? Here’s my take:

They Build a Relationship, Rather Than Going For the Hard Sell

As a member of several frequent flyer programs, I get emails from a number of airlines. I also get emails from time to time from other travel sites where I’m a member.

Rather than pushing for a sale right away, Kayak keeps my attention with great content.

I’ve never received an email campaign from any of them that tries to connect with me. They’re just so… all-sell, all-the-time, all about price.

Kayak, on the other hand, doesn’t scream at me about the latest deals.

Their emails sell the idea of traveling. Each section gets me excited about a destination, as if the emails were made up of postcards from friends who were visiting each place.

And even though I’m not usually looking to go anywhere, I often click through just to see what it might cost to take a trip. Just for fun (when was the last time your email campaign had subscribers going to your website just for fun? Try it.).

They’re Well-Designed and Easy To Read

This is exactly the kind of email that comes to mind (for me) when someone asks for an example of a “Light HTML” email message.

They cleverly separate each section with a header (the destination name).
They provide navigation at the top of the email to each section/destination, and each section has a link back to the top.
Navigation is text, not images, so it’s even useful with images disabled.
They distinguish their own content from sponsored content/ads by using lightly shaded backgrounds. Interspersing shaded sections with the main content also makes the email seem shorter than it actually is.
They put their logo in the upper left-hand corner of the email, so it appears in the preview pane, and they keep it small enough that it doesn’t get in the way of other content at the top of the email.

They’re Targeted To Me

And oh boy, is it easy to see what a trip might cost.

Did you see what they did in the sidebar? They put links to “cheap flights from Philadelphia.

When I signed up they asked me what my home airport was, and they’re using that to get me from reading their email to making a purchase. The links even go to a flight search page that’s pre-filled with Philadelphia as the departing airport.

With what is really just basic segmentation and personalization — nothing difficult or complex — Kayak makes a smooth transition from inbox to web.

They Encourage Communication

Look at the footer of the email.

Rather than hiding behind a “do not reply” type of address and using email as a way to talk at me, they tell me they want to hear from me!

What’s especially great about this is they give me multiple ways to contact them:

The link in their email goes to a feedback form on their site.
Unlike the company in our email footer example a while back, they send from an email address that forwards to their help desk, so even if I reply instead of using their feedback form, I can still get in touch with them.

Anything Else?

I feel like I’m rambling a bit here, so I’ll turn it over to you.

What did you like about these emails?

Or didn’t you like them (and if so, why not)?

How do you feel you can apply these tactics to your own email marketing campaigns?