Scott’s Cheap Flights Lands Its Messages with ActiveCampaign

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Scott’s Cheap Flights, an email service that notifies subscribers about upcoming affordable flights, began as a hobby, after founder Scott Keyes got back from a vacation in 2013. When Keyes returned to his office, his coworkers and friends caught wind of the incredible deal he’d scored: a nonstop round-trip from New York City to Milan for just $130. They requested that he keep them in the loop for future trips, so Keyes started sending emails to a list of people he knew, hoping to share any bargains he found.

Since sign-ups were open, the list began to grow through word of mouth beyond Keyes’s circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, and by late 2015, Keyes had launched a full-fledged, business, with added options for premium subscriptions that offer additional perks for diehard travelers. The digitally connected team is now composed of 25 professionals not limited to Keyes’s home base in Portland, Ore., but spread out in places such as Colombia, Scotland, Moldova, and Bali, among others.

Until April 2016, the company was relying exclusively on Mailchimp to carry out the bread and butter of its business: emails. “But by the time we started to hit 100,000 or 150,000 [subscribers], it started to really have a lot of issues,” Keyes says. For one thing, the system wasn’t equipped to tag that many users based on their preferences, or follow up with the offers that could lead to increased opened emails and engagement. For instance, if a subscriber was interested exclusively in flights from Los Angeles or New York, the system couldn’t determine that. “That’s when we went hunting for a new email carrier, and what brought us to ActiveCampaign.”

According to Keyes, Scott’s Cheap Flights was in a unique situation in that it didn’t resemble most companies with email marketing campaigns, which tend to send fewer emails using specific drip buckets. “When people sign up, they want an email every time there’s a good deal” from their location, Keyes says. “We might be hitting someone with an email up to five times a day.”

The company needed an enterprise-level solution to make sure it was getting emails out quickly enough and hitting the right inboxes, and not being delayed by server mishaps that could lead to reputational issues.

“With cheap flights, time is paramount—the best deals don’t last very long,” Keyes says. “Creating a system where people are getting our alerts as quickly as possible is really, really important.”

When the company deployed ActiveCampaign, the transition process was “fairly seamless,” Keyes notes. The company simply imported user data stored in Mailchimp. The biggest adjustment was in learning new processes, like working with a new CMS and the nuances of the system.

Scott’s Cheap Flights now uses ActiveCampaign for most of its interactions with customers. Using the solution, the company can set up internal algorithms and drip buckets, which can assist with on-boarding campaigns for an average of more than 2,000 new users a day and sending out emails. Much of this operates according to user behavior. If someone signs up for the list and doesn’t open the emails they receive during the first week or two, for instance, the company can follow up asking whether the person received the communication. This can help determine whether the person is in fact a high-value customer or whether to stop sending him the emails altogether.

Since Scott’s Cheap Flights started using ActiveCampaign, it has gone from close to 150,000 subscribers to 1 million. The open rate on each email the company sends falls between 25 and 30 percent. And the company sees more interest in its paid, premium services, Keyes says.

In the future, the company is planning to redesign and relaunch its properties, making sure that that the foundation and back end are working smoothly, which will enable it to implement new features and technologies, including a mobile app that will include a push notification system.

The Payoff

Since implementing ActiveCampaign's email marketing automation and small-business CRM software, Scott's Cheap Flights has:

  • grown its subscriber list from 150,000 to 1 million;
  • seen 25 to 30 percent open rates on all sent emails; and
  • increased interest in its premium services.

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