Cover Story: E-mail’s Video Renaissance
Sipping Chianti and dreaming of a vacation while tapping away on the computer at home, the wistful may seek images of that idyllic Italian wine region. Seconds later, the heart warms at finding Ca di Pesa, a vacation villa in Chianti, Tuscany.
Paging through photos, the dreamer envisions arriving at the 11-bedroom, 8.5-bath countryside estate with family and friends. So she clicks on the site's "Contact Us" page and sends a note to Marblehead, Mass.-headquartered Homebase Abroad, the company that rents the villa.
During a daytime call with the company, a chat reveals she would rather sip wine surfside. So she learns about some of Homebase Abroad's other 50-plus villas, including those along the Amalfi Coast. She's already provided her e-mail address, so she's soon looking at e-mailed videos of beautiful vacation homes like Torre di Clavel. She books the trip.
Mara Solomon, Homebase Abroad's director and co-founder, says the e-mailed videos have revolutionized her company's ability to instantly satisfy the needs of both prospects and return customers. Plus, the technology has greatly improved its data collection and decreased its marketing costs. Soon, she also may start using the videos as prospecting tools. But for now, the e-mailed video brochures mainly provide behavioral data that help with the human touches in which her company specializes—the phone calls—which Solomon believes are the ultimate reason one out of five people discussing the high-end rentals with Homebase Abroad books a stay.
"What's amazing for [Homebase Abroad] is to … be able to satisfy that need for instant gratification," says Mark H. Hollister, former director of Homebase Abroad who hired Hopkinton, Mass.-based on-demand video software provider Flimp Media in 2008 and reorganized the travel firm's marketing around this new approach. "It's also [expedited Homebase Abroad's] time in the office of getting information out. … [The staff is] not burning CDs and … not printing out descriptions of properties and … not having to print up expensive brochures and print envelopes and stock to mail people information on properties that they'd get a day later. So [Homebase Abroad has] saved a lot of time [and] saved a lot money … and [has] so much more information about … what people were tuning in to [on the video landing page], what they liked, what they wanted more of, and when they opened it and who they sent it to. So it helps in terms of development of a database and just understanding all of the travelers."