A Step-by-Step action plan to engage with your Staycationers
Additional insights: watch our ‘Email Marketing to Capture and Retain the Staycation Market’ Webinar.
Staycations are trending! There is no doubt that the COVID– 19 pandemic has influenced consumers’ behaviour. 2021 guest decisions on travel destinations are no exception. Today, the UK holiday market benefits from cautious and price-sensitive consumers planning to stay closer to home. This staycation market represents both, a short and long-term opportunity to generate revenue and drive loyalty with those guests. Focusing on this opportunity, how can email marketing, help you engage with your staycationers, today and into the future?
Staycation market – an optimistic overview
While the ‘travel abroad’ search term dropped down by more than half, the searches for UK travel have increased by 103%. Staycations represent an opportunity of 13.68 million trips within the UK for hospitality businesses (Parkdean Resorts, 2020). This summer, holidaymakers are set to spend approximately £7.1 billion in staycationing, which represents an exceptional 22% increase from 2019’s £5.8 billion (Mintel, 2021). In fact, when we step back and compare the forecast for the total value of the 2021 domestic holidays in the UK (£12.9 billion) to the pre-coronavirus 2019 period (£14.5 billion), there is an 11% drop – but keep in mind that the domestic tourism industry in the UK has been restricted since the start of the year. By 2022, the domestic market is expected to fully recover with an estimated £15 billion.
Why email marketing?
Email marketing can help you communicate with your guest, but that’s not all. Here are some reasons on why we recommend email marketing for hospitality businesses:
- Engage. Build an authentic and human connection with your guest.
- Generate revenue. Use a recognised and successful tactic to increase your revenue – email marketing has an excellent ROI, research by HubSpot reported that for every $1 spent on email marketing, you could expect to generate $38 of revenue on average
- Enhance direct booking. Driving traffic on your website to reduce reliance on OTAs.
- Upsell. Help the decision making and promote your activities, amenities, events etc.
- Collect feedback and stats. Keeping track of your guest experience to help you continue to engage, improve your offering and increase your revenue.
The 6-step action plan
The following 6 steps will help you to maximise your email marketing efforts and build relationships with your staycation guests. Throughout this process leveraging technology will influence your effectiveness and your chances of getting better results. The State of Email Marketing Benchmark Report (Validity, 2021) highlights that to get better results with emails you “must continue to invest in best-of-breed technology.”
1. Get the basics right
Set SMART Objectives for your emails
Key indicator performance can help you set the right direction and stay on track. When you look at Analytics, you can assess the performance of your emails.
Guest details – recipients
The first step for a successful email marketing strategy is to make sure that you speak to the right audience. Collect quality email addresses to build your lists, including demographic information (name, age, nationality etc.) and keep updating it throughout to learn more about your guest profiles.
Capturing data will help you understand your guest habits and preferences. Making sure to convert masked OTA email addresses will also allow you to engage directly with guests and increase the chances of them booking direct rather than returning to an OTA.
Stand-out – subject
One of the top challenges to increase open rates is to stand out from the competition in your guests’ inbox. The subject line of your email is your first contact with your guest. Make sure that the first impression you make is ‘WOW’.
Conversion – Call to action
While open rates are a crucial metric, it isn’t the end of the game, click rate is. It usually is a clickable button or a text hyperlink, “Book, check, subscribe, find out, learn more” … There are numerous call-to-action phrases that you can use to lead your guests to the next step of the journey. To give you an idea, the travel industry averages open rate is 17.7%, and click-through rate 2% (Campaign Monitor, 2021).
This is crucial that your emails reach their destinations. Your reports offer important insights on how well you are performing. For deliverability you should monitor:
- Your spam reports – The percentage of your emails that has been labelled as spam
- Your bounces – The percentage of emails that have never reached the inbox (non-existent/incorrect email address or recipient’s full inbox)
2. Understand your guest
What is the purpose of their stay?
To connect with your guest, you need to understand their intent and decision-making. The more you know, the more effective your message will be.
Pandemic fatigue has resulted in people seeking rejuvenating travel, where they can enjoy new scenery, see family or friends and participate in events. Rejuvenation is the reason for more than 75% of leisure trips for UK and U.S travellers (Expedia, 2021).
What are the motivations and frustrations?
When thinking about travelling in the next 12 months, 50% of travellers feel optimistic but the other half still need reassurance. Understanding your guest frustrations can help you craft the right message that answers your guest concerns. While uncertainty persists for international travel, staycations encompass many advantages that can ease the mind of your guests.
3. Personalisation – the ultimate guest-centric approach
Now that you know your guests, the next step is to use this data to create relevant communications, to tell a unique story that will help you increase guests’ engagement. Creating authentic and personalised content is one of the top benefits of Email Marketing (HubSpot).
Your staycation market segment is an opportunity for you to promote your destination, advise them to make their stay an amazing experience. Create content that helps your guests visualise their stay. Your email could link to your newest blog article about the best walks at your destination area, the local activities or food business partners, for example.
4. Map your guest journey
Mapping your guest journey isn’t a one size fits all. Every single guest engages differently to the emails you send. That is why defining the various touch points at each stage of your guest journey is important to help you identify when email marketing can help to enhance the guest experience with your brand.
Right timing – when is the best time?
Keep it conversational. There is no perfect answer on the frequency of your email marketing. You want to keep it human and not be intrusive. The number of emails depends on your guest and hospitality brand.
Regarding the pre-stay emails of your staycationers, a report from Expedia (2021) shows that since May 2020, travellers are mostly searching in a 0 to 21 day window prior to arrival. This relatively short time window can be explained as a guests’ response to overcome the travel barriers set by the coronavirus pandemic (STR, 2021):
- Barrier 1. Government legislation and restrictions, that the hospitality industry has little control over,
- Barrier 2. Personal health concerns
- Barrier 3. Financial barriers.
Being aware of what barriers your guests are facing, you can answer their concerns and develop “barrier-free” messages for your guests.
Right message – Don’t just say it, prove it.
You care for your guests and there are numerous ways to prove it. Flexibility policies, re-opening offers, advice to enhance the stay… There is a variety of topics you can communicate to your guest. The message you deliver should always be consistent. You care about your guest safety and have social distancing policies in place, let them know about it.
Our tip? Step into your guests’ shoes.
Your email channel can ease the mind of your guest and can reassure them throughout the guest journey. Let’s take the mode of transportation. To limit close contact with others, using cars to travel appears to be a safer option. Furthermore, staycationers will more likely use their personal vehicle or rent a car. Advice about car rental company, free parking, access roadmap… are examples of topics you could include in your pre-stay emails.
Hospitality businesses that are not currently leveraging technology could risk getting left behind. CRM technology helps you leverage data sets that are available from an increasing number of other core-transactional systems. For-Sight email functionality is built to help you deliver a fully automated, mobile-optimised email marketing solution to develop a unique guest journey with your brand.
If you don’t already, consider using marketing automation. The benefits:
- Time saver (e.g., create welcome and confirmation sequences when guest books)
- Personalisation and dynamic content at scale
- Create and maintain your guest relationship, using a relevant and scheduled email marketing guest journey
6. The ripple effect – multiply the touch points
The coronavirus outbreak has increased the worldwide usage of social media by 21% (Statista, 2021). Meanwhile, in the UK, 93% of the people aged between 25- and 34-years old own a social media network profile. When you look at social media usage and the great potential to reach a wider audience on a regular basis, it clearly could be your best friend to develop brand awareness. Email marketing can be used to promote your social media, add potential staycationers to your followers, and ultimately multiply the touch points between your guests and your brand.
Maud Bruyere, For-Sight’s Inbound Marketing Executive.