Grab your sunglasses and suitcases! Americans are ready to travel. Strong growth is predicted for 2017 as the travel industry is predicted to grow by 6%, turning it into a $381 billion industry, according to Deloitte.
However, competition in the travel and hospitality industry is fierce. Travelers are savvy shoppers. They want to visit amazing destinations at a great price.
To help travel and hospitality businesses create excellent experiences and generate repeat bookings, here is a list of seven digital marketing tips:
1. Make it easy to sign up for emails
Research shows it takes the average traveler 45 days to book a vacation. During that time, they’ll search 38 websites before booking a trip, according to research from Expedia.
When a visitor arrives on your site, they should be able to search for accommodations easily – and sign up for email alerts.
If a customer visits your site, the opportunity to collect an email address is crucial. By joining your list, you can make a connection and keep your brand top-of-mind. The emails that you send during the research phase could be the deciding factor.
Make sure your email sign up form is in a highly visible place on the main page of your website. While this might seem like a basic marketing tip, a quick search of ten random travel sites shows just two sites encourage visitors to sign up for emails on their main page.
Take a cue from the Fairmont, and add a sign up form like this to your home page.
2. Inspire travel through newsletters
There are so many places to travel to, so why not provide a little inspiration to prospective travelers? Create newsletters that focus on specific travel deals that inspire subscribers to take action.
By using a combination of attention-grabbing images, great prices, and links to can’t-resist destinations, you’ll encourage subscribers to make their dream trip a reality.
Here’s an excellent example of an inspirational newsletter sent from Virgin Experience Days. There’s a great list of destinations here with attractive images and call-to-action buttons that practically leads subscribers to the checkout.
The more you learn about subscribers, the more specific your newsletters can get. You can segment your contacts and send specific destinations to specific customers based on their interests, previous purchase history or expressed preferences.
3. Personalize messages by collecting data from the start
The newsletter that we just mentioned could be personalized, which increases the likelihood of subscribers engaging with your email.
Travelers expect personalized messages. That means generating messages for the well-traveled businessman and the mom that organizes a family trip once a year.
It’s a tall order, but one that reaps great rewards. Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates, but 70% of brands fail to send them, according to research from Experian.
To start sending personalized messages, you have to get to know your customers. To do so, start collecting information right from the start.
Take a look at the information that Air Canada collects from its new subscribers. Pay close attention to the travel preference section.
By collecting this kind of information, Air Canada can send emails that are personal and relevant to the traveler, like the one below. Notice that all of the deals that are offered are from the departure airport that the subscriber entered when signing up for emails, which in this case is Montreal.
4. Create a loyalty program
To retain travelers and generate more loyalty, reward programs are becoming popular. They’re a win-win for many businesses as travelers earn rewards and businesses learn more about individual customers.
Seventy-five percent of travelers are willing to share their personal information in exchange for tailored promotions, priority service, or loyalty points, according to ZebraTechnologies.
Brands can reach customers by sending a variety of emails to their loyalty members. For instance, you can send a monthly email that provides a points balance, a newsletter providing industry news, and exclusive offers.
British Airways sends its new loyalty members an email that contains reward information along with links to check into travel deals or details about the program. It’s personalized yet informative.
5. Impress customers as they travel
When a customer books a flight or a room with your company, it’s your time to shine. It’s important to impress your travelers with relevant, timely information that’s important to their trip.
You can create a series of emails that arrive in a traveler’s inbox as they work their way through the trip.
Here’s a list of potential emails to send at various points:
- An email reminder with travel details
- Upgrade opportunities
- Exclusive offers for loyalty members
- Encourage travelers to download your app
- Check-in reminders
Day of departure
- Updated flight, gate, or room information
- Newsletter that focuses on new in-app features
- Events and activities available in their destination city
- Flight and gate information
- A customer service survey
- Update on rewards points
- Thank you for choosing your company
- Book your next getaway now
You can automate these kinds of emails so they arrive in a customer’s inbox as they travel. Finding an email service provider with easy-to-use automation features is crucial to impressing travelers.
6. Focus on mobile
You won’t be surprised to hear that smartphone use is growing. At the end of 2016, nearly 80% of Americans owned a smartphone, according to Nielsen. That means the travel and hospitality industry has to elevate its mobile marketing or be left behind.
The ability to check-in, review your itinerary, and pick your seat via apps or email notifications is great, but consumers want more.
Delta travelers can now track their bags via a RFID chip through the app. Travelers don’t have to worry if their bags will make it to their final destination. Virgin Hotel’s app, Lucy, lets guests control the temperature in their room and order room service.
These examples point to the growing demand for mobile experiences that complement services provided by an airline or hotel. Seventy-eight percent of travelers have downloaded a travel app on their smartphone, according to Google.
Apps and email go hand-in-hand. You can send emails to encourage app use like sending an email that highlights new features or gives subscribers an in-app promotion on their next trip.
7. Use social media as an engaging digital newsletter
During vacation research, 55% of soon-to-be travelers liked social media pages related to their upcoming trip, according to Internet Marketing Inc.
If a potential customer swings by your Facebook or Twitter page, it’s your chance to make a first impression. Consider treating social media like a digital newsletter, where you keep new and existing customers up-to-date with promotions, company news, achievements, interesting announcements, and fun contests.
On Air Canada’s Facebook page, for example, you’ll find a great mix of promotions like a mention of additional flights from Vancouver to Melbourne and an informational post letting LAX travelers know that flights are now leaving from a different terminal.
Posts that keep travelers engaged, like this contest that encourages fans to vote for their favorite video, also make a great impression on new and existing customers.
Every email you send should also contain social media buttons to make sure your email subscribers are getting in on the social action too.
To successfully market to travelers, a combination of digital marketing techniques is a must. Travelers use a variety of platforms to research and reserve flights, hotels and activities, which means brands must have a strong online presence that utilizes a combination of email and social media tactics. By using the seven tips above, travel and hospitality brands can create top-notch customer experiences while increasing repeat bookings.