Following on from my focus on what makes a good retail email program, I have chosen to take a look at the travel sector, another industry we have lots of experience in, with clients ranging from Saga, James Villa Holidays, OntheBeach.co.uk and many more.
The key difference between retail and travel is that booking a holiday is a complex decision making process on the whole. As a result, the booking process can take several weeks, and email plays a crucial role in this time period.
If you can identify that a customer is researching booking a holiday, now is the time to increase the frequency and send new emails. You want to ensure your brand is front of mind at all times during this phase and email is a great tool that allows you to push messages directly to customers, quickly, at low cost.
Cart Recovery & Browse Abandonment
A cart recovery program is essential for anyone selling online – especially in travel with high ticket value purchases and complex decisions to be made. Furthermore, visitors simply browsing your site but failing to order can be reached as well, as these are part of those `in market` customers who would benefit from additional emails around their holiday decision making process.
Emailcenter has recently implemented a number of basket abandonment programmes for a number of clients to help them convert abandoned carts into sales. Take a look at our latest basket abandonment case study for James Villa Holidays.
If you don`t sell a holiday then you have no opportunity to recover that lost revenue again. A Late Deals campaign and content in on-going newsletters is a must-have for travel clients.
Inbound Enquiry Chasers
With the holiday booking process generating many questions or decisions that need to be made, the role of the call centre can play a major part. Email can support the call centre by triggering messages after the enquiry on the phone, even with the option of personalisation, making the email appear to be from the agent they spoke with. These carefully timed chasers are yet another example of those ‘In-market Emails’ where a dialogue can be continued over the next few weeks to ensure your brand is front of mind.
Brochure Request Follow-ups
For many, the brochure is still a vital piece of information to assist with the decision making. While some business models are seeing it being phased out by replacing it with website content, the brochure still provides that tangible coffee table reading material which makes choosing a holiday a wonderful experience in itself.
So how does email fit into this? Well, email can act as support alongside the brochure with messages such as ‘Your brochure is on its way’ or ‘Did you receive your brochure?’, which can provide personalised live information that print cannot.
There is not a single piece of research out there that claims recommendations do not provide an uplift in performance. I think we can all agree that it is better to deliver customers a tailored set of destinations, properties or holiday packages, as backed up by our Cottages4u case study which showed a 499% uplift in click-thru rates.
The key here is to work out what to recommend, and then have the technology to do this easily in email.
Start with deciding what to recommend, we need to take as much data as we have about an individual – browsing activity, past bookings and any preferences stated at any point. We then also need to understand current intent – if the customer has recently visited the site looking for their next holiday we need to understand what data tells us, what they are looking for. Perhaps this is the first search they did on your website, and we want to make sure any recommendations we arrive at are all based around this.
However, if we want to inspire their next booking, which they have not started to research yet, do we want to show them more holidays like they have just been on? Sometimes we do, where that type of holiday is habitual, however for many we need to look at different types of holiday experiences to inspire. These should still be tailored, but we are looking for attributes about their last holiday which they are likely to want to retain. Perhaps its holiday type, a cultural holiday versus say an adventure holiday. Or perhaps it is simply location.
From here we are dealing with a vast amount of complex data that needs to get be pulled through into your emails, and it is essential that your ESP is able to handle and work with the data. Within Maxemail, we have developed special data tables that allow us to store this data in your chosen schema, and then provide simple tools for turning that into customised HTML for each and every customer.
As touched on when we talked about recommendations, the role of email is to provide inspiration for the next holiday. This is easily done with the vast amount of imagery available that provides us with that burning desire to go on holiday. However, if your email templates don’t display your images correctly, that jolt of excitement is lost.
Customer not Commercial
The C in CRM stands for Customer, not Commercial. This is important to remember as your Commercial team insist on using email as their primary tool for shifting stock. While email has to play a role in this, it is crucial that customers don’t get fed-up with you pedalling holidays and destinations they have absolutely no interest in, leading to them beginning to start ignoring your emails. Therefore when you do have something of relevance to say, they won’t be opening it to find out.
The Holiday Experience
Email can also play a simple but effective role in the customer experience around a holiday. This could be pre-departure emails that suggest other services from car hire, airport parking or excursions that are available, and the welcome home message with the opportunity to rate the holiday experience on your site or Trip Advisor.
To find out how we can assist you with your travel email programme, get in touch with one of our experts or take a look at our case studies to see how we have helped numerous clients in the travel sector implement successful email programmes.