How do you make your business stand out in an ultra-competitive, multi-million dollar industry? That’s a question that travel marketers have to wrestle with every day.
Travel is one of the world’s largest industries, contributing US$7.6 trillion to the world economy, according to Statista. Global tourism revenue in 2016 was US$1.26 trillion, and around 1.2 million people traveled internationally in 2016.
With a lot of competition, and a large potential market, it’s essential to find effective ways to reach new customers, retain existing ones, and make your business stand out. One of the best ways to do that is with travel industry email marketing.
As our email marketing statistics roundup shows, Statista says more than 90% of American adults use email. Email has an ROI of $38 for every dollar spent, which is better than the ROI for both direct mail and social media.
This guide will show how marketers and travelers view travel industry email marketing. It’ll look at the increasing importance of mobile, and will give some email marketing tips and best practices for the travel industry.
By the end, you’ll know how to nail travel industry email marketing so that more people use your travel business to book flights, reserve accommodation, rent cars, and do other travel-related tasks.
Benefits of Email Marketing for Travel Companies
Email marketing has a lot to offer the travel industry, and travel industry professionals know it. According to Mailchimp, travel email marketing has a 20.69% open rate.
That’s no doubt why 84% of brands use email marketing to help them retain customers.
With people starting to plan their trips 84 days ahead, according to Litmus, email marketing helps woo customers while they’re making their minds up, and can even make people who weren’t planning a trip decide to buy. That’s a nice boost to the bottom line.
Other benefits of travel email marketing include:
- Building brand loyalty among your existing customers.
- Attracting and retaining new customers.
- Letting small travel firms compete successfully for attention with larger ones.
- Getting your share of a large, vibrant market. In the US alone, travelers spend $31,400 a second, according to the USTA.
Smartphones: World’s Favorite Travel Accessory
There’s one major industry trend that affects how you’ll implement your email marketing strategy as a travel marketer: the rise of the smartphone.
Smartphones have become a favorite travel accessory for 76% of people, says Eye for Travel.
And while they’re on vacation, 85% of people use their phones to manage different aspects of their trips, says WebPageFX.
Those two trends add up to one important fact: if you’re marketing to the travel industry today, you need a mobile marketing strategy.
People already use their phones to plan and book their trips, check in for travel (64% of travelers use mobile check in), and to do more research while traveling. That means that even while people are on their trips, there’s a chance for travel industry marketers to reach them with compelling offers.
By 2018, more than a third of online travel bookings will come from mobile devices. As with other industries, younger travelers use their phones even more. More than half of people under 30 have booked hotel accommodation on their smartphones.
That’s why it’s no surprise that, according to Performance Horizon, travel brands expect mobile to have an increasing influence on travel sales. And Eye for Travel says 79% of travel industry executives see mobile marketing as one of the biggest opportunities in the industry.
The Mobile Travel Marketing Opportunity
For travel marketers, the mobile opportunity transcends national borders. There are plenty of places where smartphone adoption’s still on the rise. That means there’s a chance to target both local and international travelers with a mobile campaign strategy.
A report from Email Monks reveals that 69% of travel emails are opened on mobile devices. And Litmus says that 45% of people read emails from travel brand emails on their phones.
The bottom line: travelers are using mobile devices at every stage of their journeys. Common activities include looking up hotel addresses, checking flight schedules, finding things to do at the destination, as well as taking photos, using maps and finding attractions, activities and restaurants.
Travel Email Marketing and Mobile Conversions
There’s just one caveat. Despite the rise of mobile, travel brands can’t ignore desktops. The reason: conversions. Although people research destinations on mobile devices, for now, at least, more people complete travel sales on desktop computers.
According to Eye for Travel, the desktop conversion rate is 2.7x higher than mobile. Their stats show a global conversion rate of 1.1% on mobile devices, and 3% on desktops. Booking.com has a higher mobile conversion rate at 2.6%, but this still lags behind their desktop conversion rate of 6.5%.
Data from Smart Insights also supports this, showing that desktop conversions significantly outweigh those on mobile in the US, Europe and Asia Pacific region.
This means that travel industry email marketing has to combine a mobile marketing strategy for raising awareness and nurturing customers with a cross-device strategy for completing sales.
Now let’s get started with our travel industry email marketing tips. If you’re just starting your travel business, you’ll need to follow these six steps to build and manage your list. If you already have a list, skip to the best practices section below.
Step 1: Set Up Your Email List
The first step is to choose an email service provider. When choosing email marketing services for travel, check that there are plenty of travel-related email templates. If you want to send seasonal or niche emails (such as for beach or ski holidays, for example), you’ll need those.
If you’re using OptinMonster to collect emails (see the next step), you’ll be able to change the optin form templates to match your travel business, as in the example below.
Another important feature to look for when choosing your email service provider is analytics, so you can see how your travel marketing campaigns are doing.
Step 2: Collect Email Addresses
Any successful travel business has to get repeat business from existing customers, and attract new travelers. Your email list is an essential part of that process, so you need to keep it healthy.
A good starting point is to use an optin form on your travel website to get email newsletter signups. Make sure it’s visible, no matter where people are on your site.
It’s also useful to offer an incentive for signing up, like a coupon. See the example below:
When people make enquiries or reservations, that’s another good opportunity to ask them to sign up for your list. Be warned, you have to ask permission. Just because they give permission for you to email travel details, it doesn’t mean you can send anything you like.
Other travel email marketing techniques include running a contest and asking for an email address in exchange for an entry, or using an SMS “text to subscribe” campaign.
You can also use OptinMonster to encourage people to sign up by targeting your optin offers. For example, you could deliver a lead magnet related to a particular destination by using page-level targeting.
You can also promote your email signup form on your social media sites. Here’s how you add an optin form to Facebook.
Step 3: Choose Email Content
Many marketers struggle with content creation, so here are a few ideas for what to include in your travel marketing emails to get you started:
- Destination guides
- Travel tips and essential information
- Recommended destinations or trips
- Spotlights on attractions or events
- Information on holidays and festivals
- Reviews of both destinations and travel services
- Travel stories from other customers
- Polls and quizzes
- Cross-promotional offers (say, for hotels and car rental)
You can also include content from your blog (if you’re not blogging yet, here’s how you get started), favorable press coverage, and insider views of your travel company. And don’t forget about deals, discounts and loyalty offers. Litmus says that’s what most subscribers are looking for.
And, since you’ll be collecting customers’ date of birth as part of any reservation, you can add a yearly birthday email into your email marketing plan, to make each customer feel truly special.
Step 4: Get the Timing Right
Once you’ve decided what types of emails you want to send, figure out how often you will email your subscribers.
Avoid the temptation to email too often. Our research shows that around a quarter of people say they get too much email from travel brands. And Campaign Monitor‘s data shows that almost 44% of people want businesses to send less email.
The danger of sending too much email is that people will mark your emails as spam, unsubscribe or simply never open them. Those are all terrible options from a marketing viewpoint.
The latest email marketing benchmarks from GetResponse show that those who send one newsletter a week get the highest open and click-through rate, at 37.08% and 5.58% respectively, so that’s a good starting point for your own travel email marketing schedule.
However, this is an average across all industries, so you’ll need to work out the ideal frequency for your own audience.
Step 5: Create an Email Marketing Calendar
When you decide on email frequency, put your chosen emails into an email marketing calendar, so you know exactly what to send on which dates, and can see your email marketing plan at a glance. Hubspot has a useful email marketing calendar template you can use.
Start by putting in regular broadcasts, like emails that update customers about new articles on your blog, then add any promotions for the main holidays. Include any announcements that you know about, such as changes within the company. Finally, fill in the blanks with some of the email types suggested above.
Step 6: Send Your First Email
The first email you send subscribers is the most important, because it sets the tone for your relationship with them. For most businesses, that’s the welcome email, which has a 60% open rate.
A good welcome email will help you retain the subscribers you’ve already attracted, and make them feel good about being on your email list. Keep your welcome email short, relevant and valuable, and craft a killer email subject line to encourage people to open and read it.
This is a great place to ask subscribers to do one thing that gets them more involved with your company. It doesn’t need to be complicated; just reading a blog post or sharing a piece of content begins the bonding process. You’ll need to nail the call to action to be effective, though.
Next, let’s look at some practical strategies to improve your travel industry email marketing.
5 Tips for Successful Travel Email Marketing
1. Personalize your marketing
There may be billions of travelers worldwide, but each one wants to feel special. According to SmartInsights, 83% of millennials are happy for travel brands to track them so they can get personalized service. And 85% of travelers prefer customized, rather than generic, itineraries.
That’s why it’s important to tailor your travel industry email marketing promotions to people’s behavior and interests. The more relevant an offer is, the more likely it is that they’ll make a reservation.
One way to get personal with your customers is to use OptinMonster’s Smart Tags feature. That lets you use information you already have to personalize future interactions.
In the example below, this travel firm already has the person’s name, and has used that to get their attention for an offer.
And in this example, the store has used the person’s browsing history to make an offer based on what they were looking at. It’s easy to see how a travel site could use this to show offers related to particular destinations, experiences or types of travel.
2. Include videos
Did you know that, according to Econsultancy, 66% of travelers watch videos when researching a destination? That’s why it makes sense to include videos in your email marketing.
As our video marketing statistics roundup shows, marketers who use video increase brand awareness by 54% and get 66% more leads.
In addition to using videos in your emails, you can grab travelers’ attention early by embedding travel videos in your OptinMonster optin forms. In fact, we’ve got a couple of themes that are particularly suited to video embeds.
3. Use their location
Consider adapting your email marketing campaigns, based on where travelers are located. It’s another useful type of personalization.
You can do that by using OptinMonster’s geolocation addon to target optins by location, and this same information can then form part of your campaigns.
Litmus also suggests including dynamic content in emails to pull in weather information for customers’ location or destination. Weather’s a factor for almost half of travelers from cold weather states, so sharing a little sunshine in your next email could be a big draw.
4. Make your offers urgent
Urgency is a tried and true marketing tactic, and nothing says “buy now” like a limited time offer. Digital Marketer used urgency to get a conversion rate of 8.45% for one optin campaign.
You can use this technique for your travel email marketing. We’re willing to bet that flash travel sales are one of the reasons some people make those unexpected travel purchases we mentioned earlier.
OptinMonster’s is the perfect way to do this. Just use a floating bar optin with the countdown theme, and set an end date for your sale. Here’s the full tutorial on creating a sales timer. We’ve had amazing results with this combo, so we know it works.
5. Detect their device
As mentioned earlier, mobile is where it’s at for travel email marketing, so make sure your optin campaigns are appropriate for the device subscribers are using.
OptinMonster’s page level targeting feature can also detect when users are on a tablet or phone and show the right campaign accordingly.
You can even use our InactivitySensor™ (which we like to call exit intent for mobile) to pop up a travel offer when it’s clear there’s no activity taking place.
Finally, if you’re looking for more inspiration, take a leaf out of Expedia’s book. According to Tnooz, the company has gone mobile first, to match their customers’ preferences. They test everything on the small screen, and make sure it works there before rolling it out to the desktop version.
Now you know how to keep those bookings coming with travel industry email marketing, check out these simple ways to get even more email subscribers.