How travel brands can capture their customers

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 2, 2015

Celebrus Technologies recently carried out some research into the marketing activities of UK and US hotels and airlines, and scrutinised the email communications that consumers received from these brands. Here Katharine Hulls, VP of marketing for Celebrus, looks at on how well these companies are achieving the basics, such as an ability to sign-up for email newsletters, through to more complex processes including abandonment emails and retargeting initiatives.

The results showed a number of interesting differences, not just between countries but also between sectors. Email marketing is one of the more mature elements of today's marketing mix, with the majority of consumer brands fully embracing this as a means of engaging with customers and retargeting them.

With everything from special offers to the latest destinations and 'new arrivals', email marketing has become a staple of the online purchasing experience. It is therefore surprising that not one of the categories investigated (UK airlines, US airlines, UK hotels, US hotels) achieved a 100% score for the researcher receiving a welcome email after sign up. While 91% of US airlines investigated sent a welcome email, compared to 88% of UK airlines, it was the UK hotels that fared the worst, with just over half (54%) sending welcome emails, compared to 61% of US hotels.

Encouragingly, all the brands surveyed offered an email newsletter except for one UK airline, showing that the leisure/travel industry very much recognises the value of email marketing. However, by not sending out welcome emails, brands are missing an opportunity to reconnect with and retarget that individual, driving purchasing and building longer term loyalty. When looking at the volume of other follow-up emails sent, (not including the welcome email), less than half of all brands across the board are sending any form of follow-up email communication. Personalisation within these emails was also found to be lacking; there was an overall average of only 59% of personalised follow-up emails received from UK and US airlines and UK hotels.

When it comes to email marketing, there was one UK airline which particularly stood out from the crowd with the quality of its email communications: Monarch. The airline is doing a top job of keeping in contact with its customers using email.

For example, following a flight search on the Monarch website, the brand continued to send follow-up emails for at least three weeks. The nature of the emails wasn't intrusive and they were not so frequent that the recipient felt that his personal space had been breached in anyway. This was because the emails were useful and relevant, for example including information on the in-flight entertainment for the searched for flight and 'Places to Visit' at the destination. Monarch's emails also contained details of special offers and ideas for alternative similar destinations, which the recipient found interesting and did in fact click on - showing that the communication is working.

The company's research suggests that the travel and leisure industry is recognising the value of email marketing. However, brands looking to fully embrace all the benefits of email marketing in driving engagement and sales are missing a trick by not sending welcome and retargeting emails. Regular, useful and personalised email communications has a positive impact on the recipient - as was seen in the Monarch example, and encourages long-term customer loyalty.

A strong online customer experience, complete with personalisation and mobile optimisation will encourage a visitor to make a purchase. When this is combined with effective personalised marketing, it enables the brand to contact customers and visitors after they have left the website and target them with new offers and relevant up-sell opportunities to increase that customer's value. Targeting customers and prospects across a number of marketing channels widens the opportunity, and when carried out in the correct way, will drive customer loyalty and increase profits.

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