The travel industry enters 2011 still shaking off the cobwebs of a tough year. December’s snowfall was the latest in a series of hardships for UK airports, with the BAA estimating the cost of the month’s weather disruption at £24 million (ABTN, 12th Jan, 2011). And if that wasn’t all doom and gloom enough, the government’s VAT hike and public sector cuts have sparked fears of consumers cutting their holiday spending and refocusing on paying off existing debt. Fortunately, there are several exciting email marketing tactics that travel companies can use to overcome current industry challenges by building and retaining customer loyalty.

 

These techniques involve more than just lowering prices; engaging customers who are investing more time researching offers and demanding more from their airline or agent requires a marketing strategy focused on fostering customer relationships.

Two tactics we predict will be key in 2011 are sending triggered emails and utilising pre-opt-in behaviour.

Triggered emails: Savvy marketers are discovering that thinking beyond traditional transactional emails to ‘Transactional 2.0’ pre- and post-purchase messages can boost revenue. Packed with highly relevant content that’s personally tailored for the recipient, these triggered messages are immensely powerful ways to connect with customers. Many marketers only consider explicit data (e.g. demographics) when evaluating a customer’s level of engagement and what messaging what be appropriate for this person. But by factoring in implicit data such as the specific behaviours a customer took, travel companies can get a better-rounded picture of their customers. Triggered and ‘lifecycle’ messages prompted by customer behaviours, demographics and preferences thus allow you to send a greater variety of tightly focused emails to relatively smaller segments of your database. These individualised messages typically deliver several times the open, click-through and conversion rates of standard one-size-fits-all broadcast messages. And once set up, these automated emails virtually run by themselves, requiring just oversight, testing and occasional tweaking.

Making it personal Using triggered emails was an approach that yielded tangible results for Air New Zealand and its ”Personality Allowed” campaign, which utilised email to strengthen customer relationships and brand loyalty, solicit timely c:ustomer feedback, and give a more personal touch to its service. Using specific technology from Silverpop, Air New Zealand sent personalised pre-flight and pre-arrival emails to passengers. These included imagery and information related to the upcoming destination, along with the ability to share the information via Facebook and Twitter. Linking email to popular social networks is becoming a hugely successful marketing strategy; if information is timely and relevant, the chance for wider exposure increases. Air New Zealand also included a link in its post-arrival email encouraging customers to provide information in the airline’s online preference centre, enabling Air New Zealand to collect important customer information and subsequently deliver a higher degree of relevancy. These post-arrival emails have an average unique open rate of 62 per cent and an average unique click rate of 40 per cent—well above industry averages—and the overall programme generated positive customer feedback.

Utilising pre-opt-in behaviour: Another marketing technique that continues to grow in sophistication is behavioural targeting. By integrating email with Web analytics and other behavioural data, travel companies can deliver more relevant emails, increased conversion rates and a much desired boost to the bottom line. Recently, new web tracking capabilities have emerged that enable marketers to connect a visitor’s previous behaviour on their site with his or her email address when the customer opts in. And since visitors’ Web behaviours aren’t linked to their email address until they have opted in, the tactic maintains users’ privacy and stays within legal guidelines. By taking advantage of this technology, even the very first email the customer receives can be relevant. For example, suppose a prospect browses your vacations in Italy and then opts in to your weekly deals newsletter. If you didn’t know the prospect’s browsing interests, the first regular email received may not have any content or offers related to Italian vacations, but instead promote Spain or Portugal trips. But armed with this data, you can assign the customer right to a track for Italian and similar vacation destinations, engaging the new subscriber right from the start.

Rising above the noise: As customers become increasingly empowered by social media and frustrated by cluttered inboxes, they are becoming more demanding and selective of how, when and what content they choose to receive—and share. To rise above the noise, the travel industry must focus on understanding and communicating with their customers better. Using triggered messaging and behavioural targeting can help marketers more strongly engage with customers and foster long-term relationships and loyalty that will allow them to thrive in 2011.

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