By Liz Smith, partnerships manager at Adestra
The latest Email Marketing Industry Census shows brands want to implement automated campaigns above all else. This is not surprising when we look at how effective automation can be: B2C marketers using automation have seen conversion rates as high as 50% (according to eMarketer ‘Email Marketing Trends’ 2013).
The Email Census also highlights the fact that 83% of companies regard marketing automation as a way to send relevant communication – a critical component in building customer engagement.
Good automation requires good data and travel companies are particularly fortunate in this regard, because gathering data is part of the nature of their business. Being transparent with the customer is very important, so make sure they know what data is stored and why. Generally the types of data would be:
Locations: Both place of origin and destination
Dates: Of previous holidays and sometimes birthdays
Budgets: Based on previous purchase history
But what exactly is the right message, the right time, and the right audience to address for travel companies? For inspiration, here are some travel email tips concentrated around four types of automation triggers.
1 – Welcome programmes
A great way to engage subscribers right from the start – and drive traffic – are welcome programmes. One example of this is Beachcomber, a travel company specialising in luxury holidays. They wanted to track the success of welcome emails; capitalise on the initial interest, and nurture their new subscribers by extending the single email to a welcome series.
The results were impressive with a 36% average click-through rate for the welcome series and a 15% increase in email-driven web traffic. This was achieved by quickly and easily creating a three-part welcome series:
First email: Thanks subscribers for signing up and explains a little more about their business, followed by a four day delay.
Second email: Encourages subscribers to explore the destinations offered by Beachcombers, giving a little bit more detail about each one, followed by a one week delay.
Final email: Is more sales-led than the previous ones, focusing on detailed offers from four particular hotels in their portfolio.
2 – Abandoned bookings
Travel bookings are usually not as straightforward as shopping on Amazon, so you can forgive your website visitors for postponing final checkout until they have more time to spare. But to make sure they postpone, not abandon, you can use abandoned cart (or basket) technology to remind them to complete.
Include a direct link to whatever they were planning to purchase: flights, package deal, hotels, etc. The temptation might be to suggest similar packages or upselling to a more expensive one, but this will only create confusion and may further delay a decision.
Include a picture of the destination to make that sell even more appealing. And remember, make it easy – the less clicks they need to complete, the more likely they’ll be to do it.
3 – Anniversary: Remind your top customers to book again
This tip might require some data drilling and advanced segmentation, but it’ll be worth it. Serenity Holidays did something similar and saw an uplift of revenue of 120%.
Firstly identify the customers that would be most likely to book again with you. To find them, analyse the data and pick the ones that have purchased more than once, and the ones that left great reviews (even if they’ve just purchased one product).
Then put together an email with similar deals to previous purchases and set the campaign to automatically send about 10 months after their last purchase. Chances are they’ll take their holiday around the same time of the year, so careful timing will ensure messages arrive when they’re in the ‘holiday mood’.
Ask your email designer to code the deals as conditional content and then you’ll only need to create one email. The technology will automatically adjust the deals based on the previous value spent by the customer.
4 – Dates booked: Pre- and post-holiday automation programs
Automation can also encourage customers to be loyal by going the extra mile around the time of their holiday. It may seem more hassle than it’s worth, but the whole process can be automated.
Set up a simple pre-holiday program to create excitement about the event and reduce any anxiety about transport and travel. Consider this example:
There might not be an immediate impact on booking numbers, but stellar customer service will make customers more likely to return, become loyal, and even recommend your brand to their friends. It’s the little things that count.
Similarly, set up a post-holiday program to say thank you, encourage reviews, and signups to newsletters. Now that they’ve already had a great experience, they’re likely to want to keep in touch, which will keep your brand front of mind for when the ‘holiday mood’ appears again.
If you know their birthday, send customers a discount or complimentary offer with a booking for a purchase in their birthday month. There’s nothing like a birthday to encourage them to treat themselves.
Using automation in email marketing delivers serious commercial benefits for brands, not least increased bookings, as long as your data management processes are sound. And getting started is easier than you may think…welcome aboard!