By Jennifer Watkiss, head of marketing communications at Adestra
Marketing automation can transform your email campaigns into powerful, ongoing conversations for both customer acquisition and retention purposes. The travel industry is getting better at it – automated programs rated ‘very successful’ rose to 24% this year – but with some savvy marketing techniques those rates could skyrocket.
The top automated triggers that travel firms are already using are subscription/sign-up to website, abandoned basket, and automated response to website visit, but many firms are still not taking advantage. The main barriers to implementing automation for beleaguered travel marketers are ‘finding the time to make it happen’ and ‘lack or resources’- in common with many other sectors.
Fear not, there are many ways to work automation into your New Year strategy…
1. Welcome program
For those new to automation, start with a welcome series to introduce new email subscribers to your service. Decide on the key message, the number of emails and the frequency.
One brand, Beachcomber, saw a 15% increase in email-driven web traffic when it extended its triggered welcome email into a three-part series sent over two weeks.
A snapshot of Beachcomber’s welcome program from Adestra’s Automation Program Builder
2. Progressive profiling
If a booking was made through a third-party the useful data about your customers can be minimal. Maybe you want to know whether your customers prefer active or relaxing holidays, family or couples breaks?
With progressive profiling you can incrementally gather information over time, starting with the basics like gender and location, and using incentives to build a more in-depth profile through forms or surveys. It can be as simple as the example below:
3. Abandoned basket program
An abandoned basket program is one of the most valuable and measurable in automation as it can recover otherwise lost revenue – surprising then that around half of travel firms are not currently using it, according to the report.
A successful program should first remind a customer within three hours that they selected a holiday package or flight but didn’t buy and include a link to complete the checkout.
A few days later, ask why they didn’t complete the purchase (you can use this data to inform your future marketing strategy). If all else fails, offer a discount and see whether it nudges them into buying.
4. Local weather triggered email
Entice consumers with weather-targeted offers linked to real-time weather conditions: think palm-fringed beaches and ‘escape the cold’ messaging, with a killer hook in the form of a
Personalised reminder that it’s -5°C and snowing outside. If they’ve already booked, try some automated tips on essential items to pack based on the weather conditions of the location they’re visiting.
5. Additional information regarding purchase
Another effective way to build rapport with customers is through an automated email providing useful information like flight check-in details or local offers. Make sure everything is optimised for mobile – for example Stoke Park attracted a room revenue increase of 213% when it ran a Valentine’s Day offer, thanks to a mobile-friendly template that linked a smartphone call-to-action with their phone number.
6. Limited time offers
To increase sales, try planning a limited-time offer around periods where people are more likely to book time off, such as national holidays.
Include inspirational imagery and a countdown-timer to ramp up the messaging, and make sure the email will automatically update with a different offer if it’s opened after the sale has finished. It will help you encourage all the last-minute shoppers across the line without impacting your margin too much.
7. Upselling and add-ons
Even if you have no data other than a customer’s email address and when and where they are going, you can upsell items like travel insurance, currency exchange or car hire.
Think carefully about what customers might need and create an automated ‘you might also like’ email that will be triggered a few days after the initial purchase.
8. Loyalty program
Whether you’re looking to: boost loyalty program membership (with an email that delivers an incentive on sign-up); encourage engagement with the program (by progressing towards a reward); re-engage disloyal customers…automated loyalty programs can offer your customers real value without adding pressure on your team. This makes them perfect for developing long-term relationships.
9. Anniversary program
Remind customers of that brilliant flight or accommodation you provided the year before by automating an anniversary email 10 months after the purchase, encouraging them to book again. For example, Serenity Holidays saw a revenue boost of 120% after successfully identifying and targeting the customers most likely to re-book with an offer for an exotic holiday in the Gambia.
Make sure you segment the data so if you have any unsatisfied customers, they are excluded from the program.
10. Birthday program
Why not automate an exclusive birthday getaway deal? If you don’t know the date, simply ask subscribers (explain that you want to send them more targeted emails). Again, don’t limit this program to one email: if you’re sending a travel coupon, for example, send a seven-day reminder for unused offers; and check in afterwards to see how it went.
If there’s one message to take away, it’s that automation shouldn’t make marketers apprehensive. The best practice approach is to start small, test and improve your program once it’s running, and make incremental steps to build more into your strategy. Make it a New Year’s resolution.