Flash sale site Jetsetter takes off in UK

US flash deals site Jetsetter.com launches in the UK today (Tuesday, September 20) with specific content for the British market.

Emails promoting its deals will initially be sent to an existing audience of 50,000 members, who were already using the US site. The company aims to grow that number through social media and link-ups with brands such as Londonist, Urban Junkies, Stylist and Shortlist.

The Jetsetter.co.uk site, which launched two months ago in beta, will start with 10 to 15 offers a week sent out in two emails and the aim is to offer daily emails by the end of the year. In the US, the site now has two million members and features 30 flash sales a week with discounts of up to 50%. The average email open rate is 20%.

Founder and chief executive Drew Patterson said the UK was a natural choice for its first site outside the US. He said: “The UK is a very robust travel market, and already we get 10% of traffic coming from outside of the US, and UK was our biggest source of customers. It seemed like our formula was resonating with some Brits already.”

However, Patterson said there was little understanding of the flash sales model among British consumers.

“There is emerging awareness of flash deals model but there is some confusion over ‘deal of the day’ sites relative to a travel site like ours. We address the market in a pretty different way than folks like Groupon.

“There’s been some backlash over the deal of the day model and whether that’s sustainable for suppliers. I spent five years at Starwood Hotels as a revenue manager so we have a deep understanding of inventory practices and what it takes to make sure that sales are successful and profitable for our partners.

“65% of our members say they’d book the hotels again at full price and you’re not seeing that from the Groupons and the Living Socials.”

Patterson conceded the flash deals market was becoming ever more crowded, with more established players such as Travelocity dipping their toes in the water.

He said: “We’re flattered by the imitation that we’ve gotten from others – flash sales have captured peoples’ imaginations. We serve a very different market from the mass market players – I’m not sure if others have the same standards as we do.

“We’ve got a network of 200 correspondents around the world who write first hand accounts of each property before we put it on the site.”

The site also offers a 24/7 collection of hotels which can booked any time. These are hotels that enter flash sales a couple of times a year and outside those periods can be booked at full prices or with up to 30% discounts.

Jetsetter targets a young, affluent market by offering ideas inspired by popular culture. A total of 90% of its members are under 50.

Patterson said: “We tie travel into pop culture more broadly, whether its food and wine, celebrity or sport. We want to connect ourselves to the zeitgeist. We’ll have UK focused communication emails, with a point of view that hopefully connects to what British travellers are thinking and talking about.”

Jetsetter’s content director Dennis Sarlo has come from US to set up in UK and three editorial staff have been hired. In the US, the firm has recently hired editor in chief Kate Maxwell, former articles editor at CN Traveller.

Patterson said blending media with commerce was vital to the success of Jetsetter. “Having an editorial point of view is so important to what we do.

“Many of the traditional media companies don’t get commerce, they don’t appreciate the process of how the consumer gets comfortable making a purchase. I’m not sure they have gotten their heads round that yet.”

Patterson said the US site’s Personal Travel Planning service, which puts customers in touch with a travel writer who will design an itinerary for them, has been growing 10% -15% month on month.

Around 500 itineraries have been planned for customers so far at a cost of $200 each, half of which is refunded if the customer makes a booking. This service is not available in the UK yet.

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