Case Study: IHG Optimizes and Secures Email Channel with Return Path

Posted by George Bilbrey on

For the world’s largest and most valued brands email is both vital to success and also extremely complex.

Take, for example, our client IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group). They are the world’s largest hotel group with more than 4,480 hotels and offering more than 658,000 guest rooms in 100 countries and territories. They manage a portfolio of seven hotel brands, as well as Priority Club Rewards, the world’s first and largest hotel loyalty program with over 63 million members around the globe.

Needless to say, they have a lot of email addresses. And email is fundamental to their marketing efforts.They use email to improve customer satisfaction and increase loyalty.

“Return visits are a key metric that we track as a measure of customer loyalty and value,” said Kevin Hickey, Global Manager Email Marketing, IHG.”Our data shows that guests who receive timely emails related to their stay are more likely to stay with us again. Email that is not delivered to the inbox means a missed opportunity.”

To improve the performance of their email efforts, IHG embarked on a ‘test and learn’ optimization strategy designed to improve both guest experience and long-term value from their email subscribers.

The company wanted to measure and track email metrics such as deliverability, engagement, conversion, efficiency and disengagement. A critical element of this plan was to move all of their email operations onto a single platform enabling them to have a truly global view of their email program. Maintaining high inbox placement rates was of paramount importance during testing and tracking.

Another high priority for IHG was security and protecting their highly visible brand from being spoofed or phished, which could damage their reputation and have significant financial repercussions for the company.

IHG’s marketing team recognized the importance of investing in deliverability and security improvements as critical to their email program, especially during the process of moving onto a new sending platform. IHG selected Return Path’s Platinum level service to actively monitor their deliverability rates, manage their sender reputation with major ISPs, and test creative across multiple email clients and devices. Providing log-files, IHG helped Return Path’s team of deliverability experts troubleshoot and resolve the deliverability challenges the company had.

IHG also applied for Certification, Return Path’s exclusive and most widely accepted “whitelist” accreditation program for permissioned-based email senders. By being Certified, IHG dramatically increased its email deliverability at top ISPs like Yahoo!, Hotmail and others. Certification was also an important during their transition to new IPs when they moved to a new sending platform. As a Certified client in good standing, IHG was able to have their new IPs provisionally Certified during the move so they were able to enjoy near-perfect deliverability rates right out of the gate.

By using Domain Assurance, IHG can stay ahead of cyber criminals by helping stop fraudulent email attacks before causing damage to its brand through lost revenue, customer trust, and increased support costs. IHG participated in the Domain Assurance beta program, because they knew that phishing of their famous brand could have significant consequences for the reputation of that brand in the marketplace.

“With Certification and Deliverability Monitoring from Return Path we make sure our guests never miss an important message from IHG,” said Hickey. “We are also very concerned about the online safety of our guests. We never want them to get a malicious message purporting to be from our brand. Return Path’s Domain Assurance solution protects our brand reputation from abuse by phishers and spoofers. The revenue loss that would be incurred if our customers didn’t feel safe responding to our emails is impossible to calculate.”

As a result of its work with Return Path, IHG was able to make a seamless transition from multiple sending platforms onto a new set of servers without a single hiccup in their inbox placement rates. Return Path’s focus on channel optimization through maximizing IHG’s sender reputation and deliverability practices enabled IHG to see a dramatic lift in engagement and reduced complaints. Using data from the feedback loop reporting that Return Path deliverability experts set up, IHG was able to measure a reduction in ISP complaints of 31.6% in 2011 over 2010.

And by leveraging Return Path’s Domain Assurance anti-phishing service, IHG is now able to get complete visibility into the authentication of all the sending platforms used by properties around the world to assure protection of their brand from domain spoofing.

Read the full case study here.


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About George Bilbrey

George Bilbrey is the founder of the industry’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is a recognized expert on the subjects of email reputation and deliverability and is active in many industry organizations, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) and the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). In his role as president of Return Path George is the driving force behind the ongoing innovation of our products and services. Prior to Return Path, George served as Director of Product Management at Worldprints.com and as a partner in the telecommunications group at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University, and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina.

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