Part of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc., Thrifty Car Rental has a significant presence both in the airport and local car rental markets. We currently operate more than 1,200 locations in 64 countries around the world.
As our Web presence expanded over time, our small Web support team could no longer manage the growing load of content requests. We also had an aging proprietary content management system (CMS) that had become cost-prohibitive to maintain. We began shopping for a new CMS, with a number of major goals in mind:
• Making our main Web presence, Thrifty.com, easier to use, consumer-oriented and fast — with the overall sales goal of converting online prospects into customers;
• Maintaining a consistent look-and-feel and brand presentation across Thrifty.com and 250 localized store Web sites in Canada, the U.S. and Latin America — to build brand loyalty and maintain competitive advantage;
• Simplifying the customization of the local store Web sites. These “microsites” are linked to Thrifty.com and deliver targeted special offers for local audiences;
• Enhancing our internal communications via the corporate intranet, which is used by Thrifty employees as well as local franchise holders.
After evaluating a number of CMSes, we selected the Rhythmyx 5 Enterprise Content Management system from Percussion Software. It gave us the greatest value, and its features and functions were the best fit for our needs.
Rhythmyx has become the cornerstone of our e-commerce efforts. With it, we have achieved all of our initial goals and doubled our programmer productivity. Rhythmyx works as sold. In fact, it does more than we expected. Rhythmyx’s flexibility has given us the freedom to ask, What else can we do with this? We can also implement some cutting-edge functionality.
I’m often asked if I’d select Rhythmyx if I had the choice again. Actually, we did have a second chance. After Thrifty purchased Rhythmyx, our sister company, Dollar Rent A Car, determined that it needed a CMS too. On a corporate level, we decided we’d all go with
Dollar’s choice, even if it meant we’d have to switch from Rhythmyx. Dollar went through a similar evaluation process. After reviewing features, pricing and all other factors, Dollar came to the same conclusion as we did. Now, Thrifty and Dollar both use Rhythmyx. [PAGEBREAK]
Rhythmyx Fit Our Needs on Many Fronts
Our content management search led us to Rhythmyx for a number of reasons:
• Robust Content Reuse — Rhythmyx’s success at Thrifty is due largely to robust content reuse and personalization capabilities. Content is entered once and used in many places, in many combinations, on Thrifty.com and 250 local store sites.
• Easy Customization — The Rhythmyx Active Assembly graphical capability allows our local franchise owners to customize Web pages easily, with no programming, based on pre-defined templates that maintain our corporate branding and look-and-feel.
• Best Value — Rhythmyx delivers the best value for us because it offers scalability at a very predictable price point. Its De-Coupled Delivery architecture enabled us to install Rhythmyx on one centralized server and publish content to any number of systems at no incremental cost.
• Programmer Productivity Doubled — Using Rhythmyx has meant that our programmers no longer need to touch content. This has doubled their productivity and enabled us to launch a new version of Thrifty.com in only six weeks, compared to the four months it took before.
• Easily Linked to Other Technologies — We are a Microsoft shop, and the Rhythmyx standards-based architecture has made it simple to link Rhythmyx with ASP .NET. Results include tying content to the proprietary transaction engine on Thrifty.com, and dynamic creation of Web pages that combine personalized content and ASP navigation.
• Content Controlled by Business Users— With Rhythmyx, all Thrifty content is controlled by business users — 15 power users in Tulsa and about 150 additional contributors spread throughout Canada, the U.S. and Latin America. These non-technical users required only a single day’s training to use Rhythmyx.
[PAGEBREAK] Boosting Marketing Clout
We began our Rhythmyx implementation by converting our Special Offer marketing promotions into Rhythmyx-based content. These are offers that, for example, may reward an American Airlines traveler with double miles for renting a car from Thrifty. Such an offer would run on the main Web site, Thrifty.com, and also on the local franchise sites of American Airlines hub cities like Chicago and Dallas.
In the past, one of our business managers would initiate a Special Offer by submitting a content request as a Word document saved in HTML format, with optional image attachments. A marketing person would talk with the Web team, and a Web technician would then use an HTML tool and our aging in-house content management system to build the Special Offer page, format it to fit the desired look-and-feel, and then FTP the file to the Web server.
The process was slow. As the number of content requests grew over time, we developed a serious bottleneck.
With Rhythmyx, content is contributed directly by both business users and local franchise owners. Today, to create a Special Promotion, a business user fills out a form that opens in Microsoft Word, just like any other document. The form captures all the details needed to deliver the promotion online, including our internal tracking code and the actual content — a headline, one-line abstract, short and long descriptions of the offer and so on.
Rhythmyx automatically stores each of these content items as individual chunks of XML so they can be reused very easily. And it’s all transparent to the business users since they’re just doing their usual job. The technology is no longer a barrier to communicating our messages. We can present the same offer four, five, even 10 different ways, depending on whom we’re selling to and what we want to say to them.
To promote a Special Offer locally, the franchise owners use Rhythmyx’s Active Assembly capability to create a Special Offer page, perhaps combining the headline, the long description of the offer and a picture of a local landmark. The result is a Web page tailored to the local audience, created without programming and using existing rich content that’s served in defined templates that maintain our corporate branding and look-and-feel. And when the promotion expires, Rhythmyx automatically removes it from all the Web pages at the same time.
Our Rhythmyx-based process has achieved one of our main goals: getting the Web support team out of the content business. Our programmers no longer have to touch content. Now, we focus on updating the presentation layer, and Rhythmyx publishes content into the new site without any additional programmer effort.
Leveraging ASP in a Microsoft Shop
One of the key technical reasons we selected Rhythmyx was the system’s open, standards-based architecture, which has made it easy to link Rhythmyx into our existing Microsoft ASP-based environment. This has enabled us to tie content to the proprietary transaction engine on Thrifty.com. We’re also taking advantage of Rhythmyx’s database publishing capabilities to dynamically create Web pages that are highly personalized. We simply use ASP, working with Rhythmyx, to pull information out of a database and serve up personalized content —combined with the appropriate ASP navigation — seamlessly in a Web page.
We are also working with Translations.com, a globalization company that has created a link between its language translation engine and the Rhythmyx workflow. We produce content once in English, select the check box for translation, and the Rhythmyx workflow automatically routes the content to Translations.com for conversion to French or Spanish, then back into the workflow for approvals. It’s a simple, elegant solution for creating multi-lingual content. [PAGEBREAK]
Best Value for System Scalability
During our evaluations, the Rhythmyx pricing model first caught my attention. We surveyed eight different CMS vendors and determined that Rhythmyx delivers the best value because it offers scalability at a predictable price point. The De-Coupled Delivery architecture let us install Rhythmyx on one centralized server and publish content to any number of systems at no additional cost. Other vendors charge a fee for each additional target system, making them cost-prohibitive. We just can’t afford to be penalized for growing.
Rhythmyx is like a wheel with many spokes. We rely on its flexible scalability to push content from the central hub to one system or 50 systems. This is critical for us since our workload increases significantly in the summer, and we have to add more servers to accommodate the load. With Rhythmyx we can scale as needed — and do it without adding cost.
A Powerful Intranet Tool Too
In addition to supplying content for commercial purposes — on Thrifty.com and the local microsites — Rhythmyx also supports our intranet, which is used by Thrifty employees as well as local franchise holders. Content includes corporate memos, policies and procedures, phone lists, forms and other documents. These are all handled through Rhythmyx, using Word templates similar to the ones my team has provided for commercial content. Rhythmyx is a powerful, flexible system, and we’re constantly looking for new ways to use it.