Email Marketing: Building Your Travel Brand or Missing the Mark?

We all know that when used incorrectly, commercial email can be the equivalent of junk mail. Unethical opportunists have given email marketing a bad rep, but when it is chosen by customers as a means for a company with whom they have done business or wish to do business to stay in touch, it can be it can be useful, highly effective and rewarding means of communication for both parties.

Email can be an effective tool for building travel marketing brands

Travel marketing can build brands if the communication is relevant. Travel brands that wish to build meaningful engagement with their customers experience excellent results with email, when the context is understood and appreciated.

On the other hand, too many travel brands are missing the mark. Recent marketing research suggests that travel brands are among the least effective users of email in comparison to other industries.

Know what your subscribers are looking for: when and how to use email

Consumer research is vital in understanding what message to convey via what medium. Communication isn’t effective without insight, so here’s some results from a survey of 600 subscribers who received travel brand email marketing, conducted by IBM research.

Why would subscribers sign up in the first place?

The opportunity to receive better pricing in return for the direct communication permission is by far the most popular motivator.

More than 80% sign up for deals and promotions, while less than 40% sign up for inspiration and travel ideas, and even fewer – less than 20% – would be motivated by educational content, travel tips or partner offers.

It makes sense, of course. Potential travellers have a world of inspiration and education at their fingertips via web search. Blogs and articles conveying ideas and tips are there whenever they want to reach out. They don’t need it to be sorted and sent into their inbox, cluttering up their action trays, whether at home or the office.

What they need and want from a particular brand via email is a specific and exclusive price offer, when it suits them. If they request a subscription to email, it is so that they can take action on a price offer whenever they wish.

Is it really that simple?

Although specific pricing offers are the primary motivator, there are others that are considered useful supporting factors in email communication:

Increasingly, smartphones are the entry point for reading email. 45% of subscribers read email communication via their smartphones, so the email design must be responsive and easy to read from this starting point.
Reviews and social proof that are easily sharable are helpful, particularly as almost 50% of subscribers make the decision together with their significant other.
Timing is key. The average planning time starts 84 days in advance of the trip, with the majority deciding within 30 – 180 days. So between 1 to 3 months is the sweet spot. Only a small percentage plan 6 months or more in advance, and even less are spontaneous within 2 weeks.
The weather influences decisions. Cold local weather is a strong motivator for seeking some more sun elsewhere. Both local weather forecasts, as well as destination forecasts that are accurate and within the right time frame, are considered helpful.

What about specific reasons for travel?

Although pricing followed by reviews are the most requested subscription motivators, there are specific travel factors that are slightly different.

For romantic travel trips, destinations matter most. But if you’re sending romantic destination ideas to busy business people or family groups, it will become annoying, rather than helpful. So make sure you know what their reasons are before sending communication.
For business travel, price is sometimes less important than available dates. Customise the communication accordingly, based on travel times, perks and reviews.
Remember that frequency matters, too. Send less often based on better information for success. Don’t clutter their in-box lives with generic information.

But if you get it right, 36% of subscribers say that email led to a travel purchase that wasn’t planned.

So what is the difference between invasive communication that wastes everybody’s time and a useful piece of communication that creates respect, business and satisfaction between the reader and the sender?

Know when to use the right tools at the right time. Professional agencies have studied and understood the role of communication in building your business responsibly and can guide you effectively.

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