Top 10 email marketing tips for online travel agents

We’ve all been there; sat at our desks torturing ourselves looking through the latest beach resort deals or scrolling through our Facebook friend’s 100+ holiday selfies on the bus to work, dreaming of a getaway. But the fact of the matter is that travel is expensive. A holiday is often the biggest purchase a person will make each year, so that’s typically all it usually is – looking.

As a rule, most people can only afford the one big trip each year and a barrage of daily deals from travel companies can quickly feel like spam. It’s difficult to know the best way and time to target consumers, but by investing time in building a relationship with travellers you can better ensure that they will choose you when they are ready.

How do you do this? Email marketing of course!

If utilised properly, email can be an extremely valuable tool, read on for our top tips on developing an effective travel e-marketing strategy …

Building your list

First things first, you need someone to send your emails to right? Ensure you embed Sign Up forms into your website that are visible and easy-to-find, you can then promote your newsletter and campaigns through both digital and print marketing. Your booking engine is also a good way to capture subscribers, as the user will have to enter their email address to complete the booking process. It is important, however, that you ensure the user knows when they have been added to a mailing list.

Put them in control

When a person signs up to your messages, they have actively chosen to engage with your brand – but don’t get too comfortable! This is not a free pass to spam them with a daily dose of irrelevant deals. Protect yourself from the dreaded unsubscribes by giving them the option to set their preferences. These can be based on the frequency of which they receive emails or by what types of holidays and deals they wish to be notified about.

Allow them to opt-out easily

If a user wishes to opt-out, you’ve already lost them – so making the unsubscribe button hard to find isn’t going to help your cause. Make the process of unsubscribing as easy as possible, this way you are also more likely to avoid spam complaints. You might also consider a very short, one-question survey asking them why they have chosen to leave the list – this information could be valuable for future campaigns.

Automate as much as possible

Set up and schedule all email templates for your campaign ahead of time so that all you need to do is ensure that subscribers are being added to the correct lists. For example, split up all subscribers who have made a booking into different lists based on the destination they are going to and create mailings based on this. Try to include as much information as possible on the mailing lists you build as it can be used to personalise content within your messages. The process of putting all this in place can be complicated but it will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Get the Subject Line right

As the first thing that a customer or prospect will see of your campaign, it is only right that you spend some time perfecting the email’s Subject Line. Make it clear what they can expect from the email, whether it’s package deals or just some enticing travel recommendations, but short and snappy enough to leave some intrigue. Use humour or relaxed language if appropriate, after all travelling is supposed to be fun. It is also possible to personalise this line, for example with the user’s name, so harness that data!

Be enticing

Your email content should be more than just vouchers and deals – tap into the recipient’s wanderlust. Include quality content about the destinations you are promoting, such as reviews of excursions and must-see landmarks. You can even invite previous customers to give feedback and testimonials to be included, but more on that later.

Keep your messages relevant

Furthermore, data can be used to ensure that subscribers only receive content and alerts relevant to them. For previous customers, you can create lists and campaigns based on the destinations they have previously booked or their budgets, and you can target all of your subscribers based on the pages they have visited on your website or by which links they have clicked in previous mailings. Many holidaymakers travel around the same time each year, so keeping track of when a customer last booked could also be beneficial.

Follow up on abandoned bookings

Abandoned bookings are unavoidable for online travel agents, as we mentioned earlier booking a holiday is a big commitment and it’s no surprise that some consumers get cold feet during the booking process. But it doesn’t have to be a missed opportunity. Store the details of the booking they have left behind and send them a chaser email – some companies even entice abandoners back with a cheeky discount code.

Keep the relationship going after they have booked

Play the long game. Yes, they’ve booked, your brilliant marketing campaign worked! But don’t just forget about them; send them more information about where they are going and some suggestions of things to do, for example “Top 10 Places to Eat in Barcelona.” Or schedule an “Enjoy your trip!” email the day before they travel. On the surface these emails will have a personal touch for the customer, but in reality they can be left quite generic and apply to all customers on the relevant list.

Ask for feedback

Send an email while they’re away asking how they are enjoying their trip and invite them to give feedback (good feedback can be used for testimonials). A bad experience during their trip, even if it is out of your hands, will be associated with your brand so it’s a good idea to be proactive. Even if they don’t respond, the fact that you are continuing communication will further nurture the relationship and hopefully bring them back for their next trip!

Did you find these tips useful? Share your thoughts on this article and tweet us @billianIT or join the conversation using the hashtag #tech4travel