January 03, 2012
Case Study

Mobile Email Marketing: iPhone-targeted landing pages boost conversion rate 40% for Ritz-Carlton Destination Club

SUMMARY: Mobile marketing might be new, but it doesn't have to break the bank. You can target this growing audience and its shrinking screens on a tight budget with simple tactics.

Email marketers at Marriott Vacations Worldwide tested an extremely simple landing page for iPhone users for its Ritz-Carlton Destination Club brand. Conversion rates jumped from 5% to 7%. In this case study, we share more results metrics, images of the campaign, mobile industry stats, and more.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


Alex Corzo managed much of his life through a smartphone, and had a feeling he wasn't alone in doing so. As the manager of digital strategy and services at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, he thought the company's customers might also be mobile enthusiasts.

"I just shot up the idea to our analytics team and said I would really love to see what part of our website traffic is comprised of mobile devices," he says.

Corzo's team checked the site analytics for one of its popular brands, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, which offers luxury vacation resort memberships. Sure enough, Corzo was right. About 2.95% of traffic came from a smartphone or tablet computer.

Curious, the team used a smartphone to visit its email landing pages and see how they looked. They weren't pretty. The pages were difficult to navigate and likely costing conversions. The team needed to act before these pages pushed mobile visitors away from the company and toward competitors.


Corzo's team resolved to optimize The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club's email landing pages for mobile visitors. Without many resources, the team launched a pilot project to build internal support for more investment to push forward.

They took four key steps:

Step #1. Uncover your mobile audience

You can expect more of your audience to go mobile in the coming years (or even months). Here are some stats from comScore:
  • Total website traffic in the U.S. from non-computers hit 6.8% in Aug. 2011. This traffic was overwhelmingly generated by smartphones and tablets

  • Smartphone adoption in the U.S. grew more than 50% year-over-year in October 2011

  • 36.1% of Americans ages 13 and older use a smartphone

This presents a challenge. Mobile Web browsers have different needs than traditional browsers. There are even different needs across mobile browsers as a group. A page that looks good on an iPhone will not necessarily look good on a BlackBerry.

Therefore, you must research which devices your audience uses before you design a mobile page. Otherwise, you could create a page that renders well across every platform, except the most-popular among your audience.

Judging from third-quarter 2011 sales figures from Gartner Research, there are four primary smartphone platforms worldwide:
  1. Android (Google)

  2. Symbian (Nokia)

  3. iOS (Apple)

  4. Research in Motion (BlackBerry)

If you take Symbian out of this list, the top three smartphone platforms in the U.S. remain in descending order, according to comScore. (Symbian is much more popular in Asia. Also, Nokia recently announced plans to transition away from Symbian.) As for tablets, 97.2% of all tablet traffic in the U.S. came from an Apple iPad in Aug. 2011, according to comScore.

Your audience is different

Don't expect your audience to mirror these stats. Your group has unique preferences, just as it has unique demographics. You need to look at your website and email analytics to uncover your group's preferred devices.

Corzo's team looked to its site analytics. Of all traffic to The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club in Q1 2010 from email marketing, 2.8% came from mobile devices. iPhone users accounted for 90% of it.

"The iPhone was astronomically the highest in terms of the actual visitations, so we decided to go ahead and optimize just for the iPhone user as a test and see where that took us," Corzo says.

Step. #2. Create a pilot page for mobile users

Many companies design inclusive mobile pages that render well for a variety of devices. Although this is emerging as a potential best practice, Corzo's team did not have the resources to design such a page.

Instead, his team targeted the overwhelming majority of its mobile audience, iPhone users, with a simple design. This would efficiently prove whether a custom page could improve results.

The team's designers first researched guidelines for iPhone-optimized pages. Check the useful links section below this article for helpful resources from Apple. Meanwhile, here are two basic considerations when designing for mobile:
  1. Mobile pages are often much smaller and simpler than standard pages

  2. A mobile Internet connection is often much slower than broadband

With this in mind, the team designed a bare-bones landing page that fit its budget, rendered cleanly, and was easy to use.

Custom page for a specific segment

The team's landing page was tied to an email campaign that promoted memberships to The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club. The initial email encouraged subscribers to learn more about an exclusive membership offer. Once clicked, it sent subscribers to the team's website, which detected their device-type. Any subscribers using an iPhone were shown a custom landing page, and all other subscribers were shown a standard landing page.

Corzo's team often uses rich imagery and copy on landing pages, but it designed this page to be much simpler. This kept the project within budget while improving the experience for iPhone users. The page included only:
  • Company logo

  • One sentence of copy

  • Online form fields, arranged vertically

  • Button to send

Step #3. Analyze and report results

The team was cheered by the campaign's results. The iPhone page had a starkly higher conversion rate than the standard page. To ensure this was not an anomaly, the team launched similar landing pages in four subsequent email campaigns and hoped for similar results. There were not disappointed.

"We saw a huge lift in the traffic and actual conversion," Corzo says (results metrics are below).

The team could now prove that custom landing pages could increase conversion rates for mobile subscribers. The team prepared a slide deck outlining its results and presented it to the management team. After the deck made its way through the chain of command, top-level managers approved further investment.

Step #4. Enhance the experience

Accustomed to serving landing pages that were content-rich and visually-pleasing, the team was not satisfied with its initial iPhone pages. In response, it set out to improve them, hoping to further increase results.

The team expanded the single-page format into a three-page experience to include more information and images. In a recent example, the team sent an email offer for two free nights at Ritz-Carlton Club in Vail with a standard landing page. iPhone users who clicked the message saw a custom landing page with the following features:
  • Headline, copy and bullet points

  • Button to "request information"

  • Button to "view images"

Clicking the first button brought visitors to a customized form page. Clicking the "images" button brought them to a customized gallery page with high-quality shots of the resort.

"We went with the assumption that a user who has more content and is able to flip through media would convert at a higher rate," Corzo says.


The team's initial stripped-down landing page for iPhone users was a huge success. Taking the five pilot campaigns in aggregate:
  • 8% of all landing page traffic went to the iPhone page

  • 15% of form completions came from the iPhone page

  • These two metrics point to iPhone visitors converting at a higher rate

"Our typical marketing offer sees a 5% conversion rate. Our mobile landing pages for those offers saw a 7% conversion rate on average," Corzo says.

The team saw these results in Q2 2010 and started serving customized landing pages to iPhone users in every email campaign. This brought a burst in mobile traffic, Corzo says. The site saw a 243% increase in the percent of mobile traffic generated by email marketing between pre-launch Q1 2010 and post-launch Q4 2010.

"Traffic to our website and landing pages has increased through all channels, but the email channel definitely saw the highest spike," Corzo says.

Here's the quarter-by-quarter breakdown:
  • In Q1 2010, 2.8% of traffic generated by email marketing came from mobile devices, 90% of which came from iPhone users.

  • Through Q2 and Q3 2010, 5.5% of traffic generated by email marketing came from mobile devices. Of that, 60% came from iPhone users and 25% came from iPad users.

  • In Q4 2010, 9.6% of traffic generated by email marketing came from mobile devices. Of that, 56% came from iPhone users, 30% came from iPad users, and 4% came from Droid device users.

More work to do

After expanding the iPhone landing page and including more copy and images, the team did not notice an increase in conversion rates, Corzo says.

"I was surprised not to see a shift in conversion. Originally, I felt giving more information to people in the mobile environment would cause a shift, either positively or negatively; however, no substantial difference occurred," Corzo says.

The team normally would have continued testing the page, but a company-wide reorganization put the plans on ice for more than six months. However, the team recently picked up where it left off, Corzo says. It plans to improve the page and tweak its design to render well on other mobile platforms, particularly Android-based devices.

Alex Corzo is speaking at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012 on Feb. 7-10 in Las Vegas.

Useful links related to this article

  1. First Campaign – Email

  2. First Campaign - iPhone page

  3. First Campaign - Standard page

  4. Second Campaign - Email

  5. Second Campaign - iPhone landing page

  6. Second Campaign - iPhone form

  7. Second Campaign - iPhone gallery

  8. Second Campaign - Standard page

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012

Mobile Advertising: Sign-up ad campaign increases email database 300% among target audience

Mobile Email Marketing: 5 tactics to engage and convert smartphone users

Mobile Marketing: A look ahead to 2012

Mobile Website Optimization: The growing impact of mobile search

Apple: Safari dev center

comScore: Smartphones and Tablets Drive Nearly 7 Percent of Total U.S. Digital Traffic

comScore: September 2011 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share

Gartner: Mobile Devices Grew 5.6 Percent in Third Quarter of 2011

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions