Step-by-Step action plan to engage with your Staycationers 

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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 yearBy 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). 

Email deliverability 

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 journeyLet’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. 

 

5. Technology 

Data-driven strategy 

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. 

Marketing automation 

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.

For-Sight’s Inbound Marketing Executive Maud Bruyere looks at why Guest Communication is more essential than ever before as the industry re-opens. 

As Hospitality businesses prepare to reopen, now more than ever, it is crucial to connect with your guests. New concerns have also emerged from the coronavirus crisis. To maximise your reopening communication efforts and determine the adequate response strategy, your property needs to understand and examine the crisis (Coombs, 2007). From our perspective, we believe that it is crucial to use guest communication to: 

  • reassure your customers,  
  • enhance the trust for your brand, and  
  • fulfil the promise: to delight throughout the entire guest journey. 

In this article, we focus on 3 messaging topics for guest communication aiming to support the reopening marketing efforts of your property.   

  • Communication that ensures safety in the property (Health and safety measures, touchless options, online check-in/out…),  
  • Information about booking flexibility, and  
  • Re-opening offers.   

We also provide tips to maximise and assess your marketing efforts. 

Guest communication, connect with your guests’ preferences 

Safety – be consistent 

The Hospitality sector has demonstrated an incredible capacity to adapt to coronavirus safety measures. Reopening is the time to tell your guest all about it.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the ways guest are assessing properties based on new concerns. Booking.com has seen an increase of 60 % for both words’ “hygiene” and “clean”. Safe interactions and hygiene measures are critically important to reassure guests.  Guest communication supports your efforts and makes your guests feel confident about their stay. Using direct email communication can help to: 

  • inform your guests about health and safety guidelines your property follows,  
  • ensure they are followed, 
  • as well as making your guest a promise: a clean and safe experience. 

Every hospitality business employs different measures, that is why your guest should know what you are doing at every step of your guest journey. For-Sight’s email solution allows you to deliver and fully automate communications with your own branded and personalised messages. 

Flexibility – be transparent 

Guest Communications about flexible booking policies can ease the guest decision process, as well as show great empathy and transparency from your brand. While there is a roadmap for re-opening of the industry, this period comes with real concerns for guests when booking a stay as there still remains a risk of cancellation/rescheduling. So today more than ever, hospitality businesses should consider flexibility as a way to attract new guests and drive loyalty. A recent study of GlobalWebIndex (January 2021) shows that 55% of U.S and 65% of U.K vacation planners desire to have the option to cancel and rearrange their trip easily.

Booking flexibility ensures a financially safe stay for your guests, but not only that! While flexibility benefits your potential guests, Booking.com data reveals a great result of 3% more conversions for Risk-Free Reservations and 92% of all of those being completed without any cancellation. Furthermore, flexibility is also designed to prevent cancellation by actively emphasising on re-arrangement.  

Offers – be attractive 

Re-opening is great news for your property and your guestsHave you have thought about a ‘Welcome back’ offer, to celebrate and attract new or existing customers? That will certainly delight the 51% of U.S and 40% of UK vacation planners surveyed by GlobalWebIndex who would prefer to use brands that offer discounts during 2021. Promoting offers via email, as well as your other digital channels, will drive traffic to your website and create opportunity to increase your direct revenue. 

Offers are also an effective re-opening marketing strategy, make sure you take the time to craft an offer personalised to your individual guest personas, to distinguish your brand in the competitive re-opening market. 

Maximise and assess your marketing efforts 

Understand and Segment your audience 

Technology gives you the key to reach the right audience at the right time. Your property holds an extremely large and rich set of data about your guest interactions and behaviour. By identifying patterns and trends within your business, you can create groups of customers, or “segments”. These can then be used to maximise your marketing efforts and to tailor content to be relevant to your guests. 

Let’s take an example that illustrates our 3 points above. Your hotel has an amazing golf course that will soon re-open. You have analysed your guest data and created a list of contacts who have all played golf at your property. You have developed a personalised “Welcome Back to the Green” email for your local audience, that: 

  • celebrates this news with a promotional discount code of 15%, 
  • informs and reassures guests on how your property provides a safe environment (sanitisation of amenities or self-distancing with other groups of players for example) 
  • and provides flexible booking policies that ensure golf lovers they will play at your property. 

When planning your strategy, keep in mind all the restrictions that may still be in place and the current market trends. 2021 trends show that the travel priorities being focused on are: short, outdoor and local (GlobalWebIndex). According to the same study, 38% of UK and U.S vacationers are planning a long domestic weekend this year. 

Assess your Guest communication 

Happy with your guest-communication? Drop the mic – in your guests’ hands. Remember that communication is a 2-way process. Encourage guests to let you know about what they like and what they think about their experience, give them a voice and offer you key insights to improve your offer. Without being intrusive, guest communication can be used to collect feedback. Communication is about dialogue. You can ask open questions, such as “Do you think our flexibility policies are flexible enough?” Rating questions like “Please feel free to rate the cleanness of our amenities?” Ask them about the best thing they have experienced during their stay.   

You want to individualise and humanise your brand to create a unique experience for your (new) guests and drive loyalty. Guest communication is the right tool to help build these relationships, and despite the coronavirus pandemic keeping us physically distant – personalised digital communication can bring you closer to your guests. 

Analyse your reports and adjust 

Making sure you analyse the performance of your reopening marketing campaigns and guest communication allows you to understand how you have achieved your objectives. You can also make use of analytics and testing to improve your marketing activities. Using A/B testing for your content and messaging can help you to determine what works best for your audience and can support your decision-making process. 

Alongside performance analysis and A/B testing, Google Analytics is a well-known marketing tool (for a very good reason) that provides your property with in-depth insights. Using Google Analytics, you can find ways to achieve better targeting, optimise your campaigns and develop new activities. Check out some more tips on Google Analytics here. 

Chances are that you’ve always got a couple of ideas about how to approach a specific email campaign, and there is also a distinct possibility that on certain occasions you’ve decided to play it safe and stick to what you know has worked in the past. This is, obviously, a very sensible approach but it does lead to hesitation in trying something new.

What is A/B testing?

You’ve probably heard of A/B testing for your email marketing, you may have also heard it called ‘split testing’. If you haven’t put simply A/B testing is a way of working out which out of two versions of a campaign will be most effective for engagement – whether that is how many people open the email, or click on a call to action. A/B testing can allow you to both try new things while mitigating the risk and verify if what you think has been working effectively is actually working effectively.

How does A/B testing work?

When you A/B test an email campaign you send two variations of an email to a small percentage of your proposed campaign recipients. Half of this test group will get version A, the other half will receive version B – hence the rather on the nose name, A/B testing! Whichever variation performs the best with your test group is the version that the rest of your campaign list will receive, which should result in better performance while also giving you valuable insight to inform future campaigns.

Simples!

What should you test?

The truth is you can test anything you want! Some of the most common variables tested using email campaign A/B testing are;

  • Subject lines
  • Call to action wording or positioning
  • The layout of your email (placing different elements in different positions)
  • Personalisation (using title and surname vs just forename, for example)
  • Testing one offer against another

At this point your mind is probably going into overdrive with the possibilities – and they are only limited by your creativity BUT, you should only pick one thing to test for each campaign.

Why only test one variable at a time? If you test multiple variables at one time, for example subject line and an offer in the same email, you won’t be able to say with any certainty which it was that was responsible for the change in performance.

How do you know which has performed better?

When you’re deciding which variable you want to test you should decide what success looks like, or what you’re trying to improve on. For example, if you’re wanting more guests to open your emails, you might decide to test subject lines on your next campaign. In this case whichever variation got a higher open rate would be the ‘winner’ and would be sent to the rest of your send list.

The same applies if you are testing variations in the wording of your call to action, perhaps in a pre-stay email encouraging guests to book dinner, whichever version resulted in the higher click through rate, or bookings, would be the winner.

It is important to make sure that you are clear in what metric you are measuring with your test before you send it. Measuring the success of variations in elements such as subject line, friendly from or preview text can be much easier to interpret as success will be an increase in the open rate, however, it can become much more difficult to interpret when testing different creative elements where clicks will be your metric of success.

Have a clear vision of what creative component you are going to test, whether it is the wording of a call to action, placement of your call to action or image placement.

When and how long should I let my test run?

When working with our hotel partners on AB testing of their campaigns, we would recommend that 20% of the available contact data is used as a starting point for your test, with a run time of 2 hours.

This means that 10% will get Version A, 10% will get version B and the remaining 80% will get the version of the campaign that ‘wins’ the test.

For email campaigns, the time of sending also needs to be taken into consideration. For example, if you regularly send email campaigns at 8am, because you obtain a good open rate in return, it wouldn’t be advisable to split test from 6am for 2 hours because although we know 80% have a high chance of opening at 8am, testing from 6am could be too early for worthwhile results.

Trial and error

No two campaigns or database are the same. For example, while a 20% test sample is a good rule of thumb, you may want to adjust this up or down depending on the size of your database.

The key to making the most of your AB tests is to just start testing, evaluate the results and adjust as you go.

Why not get in touch with us to see how we could help you take your email marketing campaigns to the next level.

Whether you’re a hopeless romantic, or a tad more cynical, we’re giving you a little gift this February 14th.  Feast your googly, heart-shaped eyes on our 5 great email marketing tips!! 😍

Make your first move irresistible with a strong subject line.

Be personal! Personalised subject lines have 22% more chance of being opened. Stand out from the crowd while being creative with emojis.

No, really, emojis!

Emojis can increase open rates by 56% when compared to plain subject lines. Ensure your subject line marries well with the pre-header text, use this as your chance to add more clarity to the email content while increasing your opens by 7.96%.

Show that special someone what they’re missing out on

Be tempting with your offer while ensuring you’re getting the relevant message to the relevant audience.

Whether its dynamic content within the email body or segmenting your data, be direct! To the point that it seems like you’re only speaking to one person.

Keep the email copy short, sweet and with a sense of urgency to encourage the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)!

Get those clicks

Entice and appeal to ensure that they click through to your website or landing page! Including a CTA button can achieve 28% higher CTR compared to plain underlined text.

Is it bold enough? Is your eye directed straight to it? Experiment, make it more exciting than ‘FIND OUT MORE >’

A mobile love story

66% of emails are opened on a smartphone or tablet – there is no excuse, your design must be mobile-friendly. Take the extra time to test send your email to your desktop and mobile. Check both previews and play about with the display options. The email experience should be seamless regardless of the device!

Nobody enjoys awkward first date chat

Last but by no means least, write like a human! Expressing your brand personality while being direct and friendly will make you appear more trustworthy while making recipients more likely to engage in your content.

**TOP TIP**

We know we said five tips, but we’re feeling the love so much at For-Sight Towers, here’s an extra tip for you!

Make sure their heart skips a beat when they see you

Your featured image is key in highlighting your offer so this image must be of high quality. GIFs are a great replacement of a main image but please remember that not all email clients support GIFs. To ensure that you get your offer across seamlessly, it is crucial that your main message displays on the first frame of a GIF!

If you’d like to talk to the For-Sight team about how we can work with you to give your marketing some TLC, click here.

 

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Text Version:

SEGMENTATION: WHO YOU GONNA EMAIL?

Segmentation of your audience can be a spooky prospect. Though, you should imagine segmentation as scary a prospect as Slimer, while the real Gozer in your email marketing strategy is the potential saturation of your audience.

But how do you catch Slimer? How do you successfully segment your audience for the needs of your campaign? Well, where better to start than with the five little W’s? If they’re good enough for the rhetoricians of Ancient Greece, it’s good enough for your campaign.

 

WHAT

What is the purpose of your email campaign? What are you promoting? One of the most pertinent reasons for large unsubscribe rates is that the content is of no interest to the recipient. Make sure you have worked out exactly what you are saying and what your success of the campaign rides on. A spooky, roller coaster ride.

 

WHO

Who is this campaign going to? What are the prerequisites for receiving this campaign? Picking your target audience is not just guessing work, it’s half of the battle in a successful campaign. Work out your demographic, ensure you can justify each and every recipient being sent this particular email.

 

WHERE

Where is the hotel in question-based? And where is the campaign recipient based? Imagine living in Shetland, and receiving a half price code for a lovely boutique independent in central London for tomorrow night. Receiving that email serves absolutely no purpose for anyone and will inevitably lead to your recipient seeing your brand as a nuisance or cutting the marketing tie altogether. Now THAT’S scary.

 

WHEN

When was the last time you heard from your recipient? And what was the nature of the exchange? Similarly to the location of a guest, when a guest last transacted with you is just as important as how far away they are. With GDPR being chucked into the cauldron of guest data regulations, it’s important to have engagement tiers and a clear point of exit for your (ex)guest from your databases.

 

WHY

Why should any person, in particular, be avoided? And why does this campaign not apply to them? This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when deciding who receives a campaign. And it encapsulates the above 4 W’s. What in the message really applies to the person it’s going to? Are they the actually the correct person to receive this campaign? Are they even in the correct location to be enticed by your campaign? Have they shown any recent engagement or interest in your brand’s services? If you don’t have substantial evidence to lay to rest the above questions, then you have the answer to whether you should avoid this recipient.

 

And that’s it. Whoever you have left is, therefore, a fangtastic recipient for your campaign.

Oh, and Happy Halloween. Oooooooooh.

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