Email Marketing Design and Strategy for a Canadian Public Transit Agency
case study

Email Marketing Design and Strategy for a Canadian Public Transit Agency

Certain details of the case study have been withheld for client confidentiality reasons.


In 2021, Digitalist partnered with a Canadian transportation authority to help deliver an email marketing strategy and campaign to establish a rider-oriented marketing strategy, and to create a fresh, easy-to-digest, email newsletter with a friendly tone. This coincided with an email campaign introducing subscribers to an exciting sweepstakes contest to encourage the return to using public transit, bolstering ridership.

About the Public Transportation Authority

The public transportation agency is dedicated to creating and sustaining a transportation system that meets the needs of customers, residents, businesses, and goods movers in a way that protects the environment and supports the economic and social objectives of the region. Together with partners, stakeholders, and operating companies, the agency plans and manages the region’s transportation system.


From the start of 2020 to current day, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused adaptations of the working lives of citizens into remote work scenarios, reduced commutes and limited local or international travel. As a result, public transit ridership has declined over the last two years. The public transit agency was very quick to respond to the changing situation early on, and implemented policies to address rider health and safety concerns. In late 2021, an effort to recover ridership was initiated and Digitalist was approached to help with the promotion of a sweepstakes campaign and to provide recommendations and design support for their overall email marketing strategy.

Strategy & Execution

Remote multi-discipline collaboration

Digitalist formed a design and digital marketing strategy team composed of an Email Marketing Strategist, a UX Designer, a Design Strategist, and a Visual Designer. This team collaborated remotely with weekly client check-ins to touch base on progress and to share ideas for feedback. We devised a strategy for the new campaign and presented it to the client team along with the final design deliverables.

Understanding the User Journey for Emails

From existing research conducted by third parties, Digitalist could map out a customer journey taking into account the various existing email subscriber lists that had accumulated over the last several years.

A Fresh Uplifting Tone

In the analysis and strategy for the public transit agency’s newsletters and the sweepstakes campaign emails, it became evident that the email templates could benefit from a more uplifting and scannable visual layout of the content, and riders would appreciate a friendlier tone in the communications they received. Working closely with the client team, with input and feedback from their Marketing and Technology team members, Digitalist designed new newsletter templates and created campaign email templates for the sweepstakes campaign to match.


The Newsletters

Upon completion of the project, Digitalist received feedback from the client team that the newly designed newsletter templates were breathing some new life and sparking conversations internally about the use of color, iconography, and simple, direct tone of voice, inspiring changes in other aspects of the public transit agency such as the website.

Sweepstakes Campaign

During the sweepstakes, Digitalist received reports of the campaign gaining traction and buzz among riders. After the campaign ended, the public transit agency approached us to review and analyze how the overall sweepstakes program went.

Based on the data that was provided on the email campaigns, the initial email announcing the sweepstakes was sent to over 400K newsletter subscribers, and had a significantly higher open rate and click rate compared to the industry average of 15-20% open rate and 2-5% click rate. The number of unsubscribes from this initial email was below 1%. Lastly, there was over 500% growth on the number of general newsletter subscribers by the end of the sweepstakes due to the campaign.

Longer Term Strategy and Outlook

The campaign was a first for this public transit agency in utilizing the email lists that the organization had accrued over the last few years, and consolidating communication to a newsletter subscription that is planned to become more and more personalized in the future, accompanied with local important announcements, project initiatives, and more fun and exciting contests and promotions. The design and email marketing strategy services provided by Digitalist was an important step in encouraging the organization to plan campaigns around a feedback cycle that comes from the riders, and involves traditional, email, and social media marketing teams joining forces along with the technology team, to improve communications with riders and allow the public transit agency to provide riders with a better customer experience overall.

We continue to work on many exciting initiatives! If you are intrigued to learn more or collaborate with us, feel free to contact Marty Banting directly.