Expedia Switching to Richer E-mails

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Travel site Expedia.com, Seattle, is transitioning much of its e-mail communications from plain text to a more graphically rich HTML-based version.


The company sent a text e-mail to its opt-in list in late January alerting them that they would soon begin receiving their messages in HTML format. Those who wished to retain their text-based messages could click a link and sign in on the portal's Web site to do so.


"When Expedia first started, we were sending e-mail in text-only format because that's all that browsers could handle at that time," said Tony Gonchar, Expedia's customer relationship management director. "But now we can offer a much more user-friendly and richer experience."


The company, launched in October 1996, offers travel services such as fare comparisons, ticket purchasing and trip planning.


Gonchar would not say how many names Expedia has in its database, but he said it sends millions of e-mails per month. He also noted that more than 95 percent of the company's list opted in for the HTML version of the e-mails.


The company now offers its Fare Tracker, Travel Advisory and Trip Guide mailings, as well as other mailings, in HTML versions.


Expedia can embed features into its HTML e-mails, such as a search engine, Gonchar said. He also noted that the company has the ability to embed Web bugs, or invisible GIFs, into its e-mails but does not do so.


"We do have the ability to place invisible GIFs into our e-mail to see if people are actually opening the messages," he said. "But we have chosen not to do it."
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