What do travellers want from pre-travel emails?

A pre-travel email or a pre-travel automation series should provide all of the valuable information that a traveller needs to make a successful trip. What’s surprising is that whilst these automated emails do include information about the booking such as flight numbers, departure info and so on, the content of these ‘pre-travel’ emails really hasn’t progressed in the last 10 years. With travel booking rolling into peak (bless those January blues) I decided to analyse the last 20 flights I took (basically my travel itinerary from the last year) and realised, somewhat disappointedly but not wholly surprised, that the Top 5 UK and US airlines that I’ve flown with in the last 12 months sent me really poor pre-travel content. Here’s a few examples of pre-travel emails myself and the team have received recently:

First-gallery

Second-galleryIn the travel industry, email can be leveraged to deliver highly personalised, time-sensitive, value-laden communications that are completely relevant to a traveller’s upcoming trip. Customers have gone through the booking process so you have a lot of data that you can use, so why are Airlines and the travel industry as a whole, not using the data to its fullest?

There’s a very real opportunity that many airlines and travel companies are missing out on. Capitalising on opportunities to generate additional revenue between the booking and the date of travel/check-in is a must. Equally, it’s really important to deliver high quality, valuable content in that pre-travel period.

For an airline, if the flights are booked, there’s time and opportunity to promote additional add-ons of third party offers such as live car hire ability, live hotel availability and more. You know the dates and destination of travel so delivering content in emails based on this will increase revenue from the channel. Likewise, including live currency conversions, promoting the latest exchange rates is a powerful addition to email. Leveraging Open Time content to deliver the latest, personalized content at every open is proven to increase revenue.

Alongside revenue opportunities, Open Time technology also saves email teams significant time. It’s no longer necessary to build out bulky dynamic content rules with content that needs frequently updating and managing. All of this can move to an automated approach, where the latest content is built on the fly at open time based on the data you know about a customer.

Take this Thomas Cook example, which was setup over two years ago, and runs as part of a fully automated campaign. The Open Time tag was added to the HTML back in 2014, but continues to show the latest exchange rate based on the recipient’s destination at every open.

Thomas Cook

Here’s an example of the live tag:

Airlines and hotels may want to consider incorporating live elements into email around upgrades and room/seat availability to drive urgency and prompt customers to upgrade. For example, an airline could show the number of upgrade seats available, and even the exact seats available at the time of email open.

In the immediate days before travel it’s a key time to build a relationship with your customer and to really cement your brand in their mind as being a great travel partner. At this stage, you really should be using what you know about a recipient and automatically display content that is only relevant to their trip. I need to know useful things like the weather, what time online check-in closes, what the exchange rate is and so on.

As part of the automation program, send an email a couple of days prior to travel with an automated countdown timer, counting down to the closure of online check-in for their flight. From this you’ll see an increase in the number of people checking in online and as a knock on effect see less queues at your check-in. Here’s a great example of this from Aer Lingus:

AerLingus

In the same email you could include a live weather forecast showing me a live 5-day forecast at my destination for my date of arrival and then ongoing from that point. Every time I check back in with that pre-travel email, I’ll see the latest weather forecast for my trip. Whilst this isn’t a revenue driver as such, it’s a good way to connect with the customer and deliver content that they need. Here’s an example from IHG:

IHG-pre-stay

Here’s an example of the live weather Tag:

Finally, it’s a good opportunity to promote live currency again, especially if you work with a partner that offers a click and collect option to buy now at a rate and collect at the airport. Show the live exchange rate from the home currency to the currency at the travel destination.

Whilst every pre-travel scenario is different, there may be days, weeks or many months before the date of travel, what is consistent is that every customer needs to receive relevant and up-to-date content before they depart. It’s no longer enough to send a transactional email for confirmation and then treat the pre-departure period as a promotional window to bombard the traveller with content totally unrelated to their trip. This is unlikely to yield engagement or encourage further booking, in fact it could have the opposite effect. Cleverly crafted, strategically thought out content delivery that well-timed and always up-to-date is something that all travel companies should be looking to do in 2017.

Here’s an example of what my perfect pre-travel email a couple of days before my trip would include:

– Personalised boarding pass image to include: firstname, surname, flight number, airport code.

– Link to self-check-in with timer showing time left to check-in (expect to see higher number of online check-ins and reduced queues at the airport)

– Device targeting to encourage me to download the app for paperless travel (expect to see more people checking in via the app, more trees in the rainforest, less bits of paper left on the plane).

– Live exchange rate for my destination so I that I can buy my currency. Stress-Free.

– Weather at my destination for a few days (I need to know what to pack and what to book).

– Last minute live car hire/hotel availability & prices (for people that leave it until the last minute).

– Activity suggestions based on date of arrival, availability and weather at destination (because this is cool).

– Get me to the airport – GPS directions to the airport for when I’m ready to leave home.

The Power of Personalization

Personalization is a top priority for email marketers; from contextual levels to more obvious name or product specific personalization, there are many different ways to do this. Send highly targeted, well personalized emails to your subscribers and you will see an increase in your opens, and better conversion rates. Ultimately you’ll build a better relationship between your brand and your subscribers, however, despite all of these benefits and the many methods of personalizing email, a huge 60% of marketers admit that they struggle when it comes to personalizing content in real-time.

A prime example of this is a recent email which I received from British fashion retailer OASIS with the subject line:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-50-44

Working in this industry, it instantly caught my attention (not just because I’m on the lookout for a personalized clutch bag) but also because I was intrigued at how they may have personalized this email. With such a specific subject line, I presumed SURELY there would be some sort of individual personalization happening…

I was wrong…

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-52-13

Now, I doubt I was the only person in OASIS’ subscriber list who was disappointed upon opening this email. What a wasted opportunity!

As well as the lack of personalization within the email, there is also no obvious indication of how limited this ‘limited’ time is for.

This would have been an absolutely perfect time to add a personalized name to the image to actually show potential customers exactly how their bag could look.

With a few simple customizations, this email could have really stood out of the inbox and enticed more readers to purchase the product.

 

Firstly, this would have been a perfect opportunity to personalize the image to show readers what their bag would look like. Using a Kickdynamic Tag, this is easy to set up and implement and has a great impact on readers.

Secondly, to create the sense of urgency of the limited time this product is available, it would have been a great addition to include a countdown timer within the email. The urgency of the offer would be driven by the seconds counting down live. Additionally, when this offer/option has expired, swapping the image to an ‘after’ image, or showing a 1×1 gif in place of the timer, would ensure the content is relevant and always up to date. Ensuring the most up to date offer information is shown to the recipient will improve their customer experience and affiliation with the brand.

From this:                                                          To this:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-37-46

 

What do you think? Would seeing your name or initials over the product image have encouraged you to click through and complete a purchase?

How many emails are out of date in your inbox?

As an email marketer I’m signed up to a lot of mailing lists. I receive emails from all of my favourite brands on a daily basis. Whilst I might not always open an email the moment it lands in my inbox, the chances are that I’m interested in the email content – if I wasn’t interested I would have unsubscribed. So, at some point I will open it.

What continues to amaze me as I monitor the email content of well-known and successful brands is how often, and how quickly, the email content goes out of date. Frequently, if I don’t open the email within a few hours of receiving it the content is out of date. As a result of the outdated content, I’m less likely engaging with the message from the brand as it’s no longer relevant – so there could be a lost opportunity.

Try it yourself.  Monitor the email content of 5-10 of your favourite brands. Leave the email un-opened for a few hours before opening it. See how often the content isn’t up-to-date or is no longer relevant.

Here’s some things to look out for:

1) Time sensitive offers that you’ve missed. This is a bit of a bugbear for me. I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve opened with offers that I’ve already missed. Emails promising ‘Sale now on’, ‘Extra 10% off until 12pm’ or ‘20% off everything’ are guaranteed to go out of date.

Take the email example below from Jack Wills, I opened the email after 12am and missed the sale, even though the message in the email said I had 12 hours left. A simple image swap rule, promoting different content, or even a different message, after the expiry and I may have clicked through. The same applies for the Yours Clothing example, if I open the email in 2 months time I’ll still see mid-season sale offers when they won’t be available, luring me into a false sense of security that I could get myself a discount on an early Christmas party dress.

Tip: Don’t give your email content a shelf-life! You spend a lot of time lovingly collating the content, designing, coding, populating and honing the emails you send. Don’t limit your email – make the content relevant whenever it’s opened!

2) The same applies for free delivery offers or next day delivery windows. Usually free delivery is limited to a short time frame, with the message content something along the lines of ‘Order by 2pm for free delivery’. Is that free delivery before 2pm every day? More often than not that isn’t the case. It’s usually a one time promo for a quick sales boost. Using timers and timed images around offer like this is a far better way to promote such time-sensitive offers. Add in the countdown to really drive the urgency.

3) This one is perhaps not quite such an obvious one, but it’s something I come across quite a lot. Often, the products listed in an email as being ‘new in’ are actually no longer the latest. They may not even be available anymore depending on how long ago the email was sent.

For opens close to the delivery date, this isn’t a problem. The content is pretty up-to-date and the products are probably still relatively new. However, if a recipient goes back 6 months and opens your email, the products in there are probably not available any more, and they certainly aren’t the latest. This is easy to solve though using ‘new in’ Open Time Content Automation. At the point of email open, pull in the latest new in products automatically. This means that the products in the ‘latest’ section of your email are actually new in, making it totally up-to-date, relevant and shopable content.

4) Price. Anybody that works in retail knows how quickly prices change. There’s often a disconnect between the price in the email and the price on the site when you click through because the price in the email isn’t updated at open time.

Really there’s no reason why your email content should every go out of date or be irrelevant – whenever it’s opened – be that 2 hours, 2 days or 2 months after it’s been sent. It’s not a great customer experience subjecting subscribers to old content and it’s so easy to avoid. Why give your email content a shelf-life when you can make it relevant over a prolonged period using open time technology? If you do use Open Time marketing, each and every time the email is opened the latest and most up-to-date content will display. This gives your emails far more longevity. It can be as simple as setting up a rule to swap to a different image once a sale has ended. Take the emails below; if both of these emails has automatically swapped to a different image when the sale has ended the content would have been relevant when I opened, whenever I opened, making me much more likely to engage.

 

Jack Wills Offer Email

I opened this a week after it landed in my inbox, however it’s still showing I have 12 hours left to shop the sale.

 

 

Yours clothing sale emails

I received this email but it gives no indication how long the sale is on for.

Has the email gone?

Have you ever wanted to change an email after you sent it? I remember exactly where I was when I realised I had sent an email to 23,000 recipients with something I really had to change (walking home via Green park in London…). As an email marketer you never forget your first time.

There are some things you can’t change: the subject line, HTML or text. However, you can change the images, after the email has been sent. I remember doing this for the first time too, for a UK retailer’s 24 hour sale back in 2007. We changed the image at midnight from ‘coming soon’ to ‘Sale now on’. Now, with Kickdynamic tech, you can do so much more. Firstly, you don’t have to actually stay up till midnight – a rule will do that for you. Secondly, you can add a live countdown timer. Thirdly, not only can you change the image, you can also change the link. In fact you can change the image and link for each individual recipient, on every open, following business rules you set up.

woocommerce-out-of-stock-labelOne scenario we come across frequently is products going out of stock before an email is opened. If you feature a product in an email, you often need to plan this some days in advance of a send out, so that the email designer can work on the look and feel. If you have a low stock level, the product may have very few left by the time the email is sent. If the mailing does well, this may compound the problem. Say you are sending to 1 million people over 6 hours. The recipients of the email in hours 5 and 6 might be clicking through to a product that is out of stock, which is a frustrating experience: you have just promoted something that’s no longer possible. With Kickdynamic, you can automatically identify products that are out of stock and replace them in the email with products that are in stock, in under 400 milliseconds.

This is useful for Deal sites or Private sale businesses, or, in fact, any retailer with a fast moving stock situation. It’s also useful for live pricing – say your prices change depending on events, in the way that Uber’s price changes during a tube strike. Or you can simply track a live event such as a sporting fixture.

2015 was the personalisation warmup; 2016 is game time

There’s no excuse for not personalising email any more. In the past marketers have been held back by data – they haven’t got enough, it’s too complex to segment, the data needs to be cleansed/sorted/restructured before it’s usable. Whatever the reason may be, marketers haven’t been personalising email content as much as they could. But this year is the year that’s going to change.

Personalisation is way more than just personalising an email’s subject line to the recipient or greeting them by first name. With Open Time Marketing (and absolutely no data apart from email address) you can quickly and EASILY send highly personalised email content using information detected at the point of email open. This information can then determine what content is displayed to the recipient, giving them a personalised, relevant and engaging email experience every time they open. Increasingly, throughout 2016 we expect to see more and more emails personalised to location, language, currency, device and time.

timeI know that on many occasions I have opened an email containing numerous offers only to click through to the website to find the offer has already ended. Using the time of email open and Open Time Marketing, marketers can personalise email content to the time of open to show the latest content at the moment of open. Instead of showing the offers that have expired, or products that have sold out, marketers can display current offers and products with stock availability or that are the latest at that point in time. It’s not personalisation in a traditional sense but you’re going to be seeing more and more of it.

KD_icons_LocationThis year I think we’re likely to see nearest store become a constant feature in almost every email send, especially for the retail sector. With competition between bricks and mortar stores at an all time high and customer loyalty becoming more challenging, retailers are looking for more ways to drive customers into store. Nearest store functionality, or geotargeting, has long been a feature ‘in app’ but it’s use in email has been relatively sparse in comparison. This year, expect to see retailers showing pins over a map depicting the nearest stores to the location of open; upon clicking through recipients can be given personalised directions from their location to the door of your store (powered by GPS). Personalising nearest store to open location and providing directions resonates with customers and makes it so easy for them to find you over your competitors.

locationThere are also other, clever, ways to personalise email using location. Do you have a big event happening in a certain location? Or maybe a new store opening in Manchester? Set a radius around the event and only show the content in the email if the person opening the email is within that radius. Again, this is a different way of personalising content, but what you’re providing is content that is only relevant to those opening in the correct area. Anybody else outside of that area won’t see that content. You’re personalising content based on open location.

device targetingDon’t just personalise content based on location though. There’s heaps of things you can do using the context of open to personalise email content, which brings me nicely on to mobile. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Everywhere you turn and every blog post you read you’ll be seeing and hearing about mobile. Quite simply, mobile is everywhere and marketers need to embrace it. Totally and completely. Especially in email. Personalise the content of the email to the device being used to read it. It’s simple to do with Open Time Marketing Tags. Display device specific messaging for the device being used such as a mobile banner with a link to the correct version of your app in the correct app store. It’s the perfect way to promote cross channel sales, app downloads and save messaging space. If you’re promoting your mobile app, only show it to those using a mobile device – content personalised to the device that is relevant and useful. Device targeting ticks lots of boxes so it’s sure to be a hit in 2016.

KD_icons_DevicesSimilarly, you could use device recognition technology to hide content that is not relevant to the device being used. For example, nearest store probably isn’t relevant to those opening the email on a desktop so chose not to display it. In contrast, it’s super relevant for mobile openers who are on the go so show it to everybody opening on a mobile device to capitalise on recipients on the go.

Identify-RecipientI also think that image personalisation is going to be increasingly popular in 2016; I think we’re going to see more of it across promotional, as well as lifecycle and transactional email. Fancy artwork with my name on it makes me want to click through. I enjoy the effort that the brand has gone to and it makes me feel a bit special! Image personalisation does require some data but as long as you have first name then you’re in business. Personalised images don’t have to be big header banners with the name in lights though, subtle uses, such as the ASDA example below, will become more prevalent as marketers look for new ways to add personal touches in email.

Asda example for Image personalisation

InformationThere are lots ways for marketers to take personalisation to the next level this year. Many of them are quick and easy to implement and require little, or no data. Personalising the content of an email at the moment of open with the latest information or to the device being used is the best way to do email this year. Give your recipients relevant, engaging content that’s personalised to them every time you send an email.

Checklist For Email Marketing Beginners

Are your or your company new to Email Marketing? You’ve read, heard and know that email is great way to drive website traffic, revenue and build brand loyalty.

The great thing about email is that you can get going fairly quickly at low cost compared to other digital marketing strategies.

However there are basics things you must have setup before you start emailing. Some for legal reasons, and others to ensure long-term success.

Here is the checklist to get your started on your path to email marketing success:

1. Use an Email Service Provider (ESP)

Even if you are just starting out, using an ESP is important part of the email marketing picture. There are many ESPs out there that allow you to sign-up and start sending for very low cost or even free (depending on the ESP you choose).

Some great ESPs for beginners include:

Constant Contact
Mad Mimi
Aweber

Why do you need an ESP?

The ESP is built to allow you to easily send email to multiple recipients at the same time. It will manage bounces and unsubscribes – two vital basics of email marketing.

Also, most ESPs have an easy-to-use template builder so you can create your email without touching one bit of the HTML code.

2. Working unsubscribe link

Why? It is CAN-SPAM law: Simple as that. When you send marketing emails you must include a working unsubscribe link in the content of every message.

The ESP you choose will not allow you to send email without a unsubscribe link and will show you how to set one very easily. Having people unsubscribe from your email marketing is an inevitable part of email marketing and must be managed and understood to get the bigger strategic picture.

3. Physical address in footer

Why? Again it’s the law. You must include the physical address of your business in the content of your email marketing messages. Normally it is put in the footer.

4. From Name & From Email Address

From Name:
The From Name is sometimes an overlooked component of email marketing but it is very important and it is a factor that can determine if customers open your email.

Your From Name should portray your brand name and be clear and concise. Don’t use your own name or an email address as it can be confusing.

From Address:
Depending on the email client the From Address is also visible when someone is opening and scanning their inbox and is therefore important in determining if they are going to engage with your message. The From Address should be reflective of your brand and be a working email address.

Do not use a soulless email address like: do-not-reply@yourdomain.com

5. Reply-To Address setup

You might not believe it but people will reply to your email and expect a response.Therefore the reply-to address must be a real email address and be managed correctly. These are the type of replies you will send back to the reply-to-address:

  • Customer service queries: These should be sent to your customer service department
  • Change of email addresses: Your system should update the new email address
  • Spam challenges: An application customers can use to protect their email address from spam
  • Out of office: These should be filtered and ignored

6. Get the subject line right

Subject line is a key element in getting your emails opened. It is normally the first thing a recipient will see in their inbox. A subject line should answer the following:

  • Who’s it from?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • How do I take immediate action?

Also don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit and include one word subject lines and special characters.

7. Sign-up form on your website

Allowing web visitors to sign-up on your website from day 1 is highly recommended. Why not? You might as well start collecting email addresses as soon as possible so you have someone to email.

Many of the ESPs will allow you to build a web form to add to your website and when someone signs up they are automatically added to the list. You can then start sending then messages via a welcome email series.

8. Pre-Header

The pre-header is known as an “extension of your subject line”. It is the first part of email content (HTML) displayed before a recipient downloads images. Therefore it needs to contain the important information in the message.

Be creative and think what would make someone open your email message.

9. Use media queries for mobile display

Email is being read on a mobile device more than desktops. Fact. At Kickdynamic we see 20% more emails read on a mobile device than webmail or desktop clients. With iPhone the leader, followed closely by Android devices.

Therefore you must design your email to look good on a mobile device. It should be something that you do from day 1 and not be an afterthought.

Find out more on optimising email for a mobile devices.

10. Personalisation

Personalising email is an easy and effective tactic that produces great results. All ESPs will allow you to add your customer’s first name to your list and then via a mail merge code display their name in the email content. For example:

Dear Matt

Or

Howdy Matt

Don’t forget that personalisation can also be used in the subject line of your email.

11. Set your email marketing content calendar for mailing consistency

A calendar is the final point of the checklist. You should plan the emails you are going to send 6 months in advance. This will allow you to plan correctly. World events (Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc) are going to be key drivers in content selection for email messages.

Consistency is the key. Sending email regularly is going to allow you to build a relationship with your email subscribers.

If you are starting out then the above checklist will have you covered.

Any questions? Ask away in the comments.

Top 10 Email Marketing Metric Basics

Good Email Marketing can get you quick, easy and repeatable qualified traffic to your website.

With Email Marketing, regardless of your experience, there are some key metrics that you need to understand, report and benchmark against to see if your email marketing is performing.

These metrics give you a bigger picture of email performance when analysed month to month or year over year and also offer quick feedback on what is and what isn’t working with your continued testing.

Below I define the top 10 metrics you need to know.

1. Sent number:
This is the total count of recipients (email addresses) that were sent the email message. This is normally after all recency and suppression have been applied.

2. Bounced number:
This is the number of email addresses that had a bounce back from the ISPs (Gmail, Yahoo! Etc). There are two types of bounce: Hard bounce and soft bounce. Your total bounce rate should be 5% or less.

3. Hard bounce number:
Hard bounce is a permanent bounce and is when you send to an invalid email address. An invalid email address is one that does not exist anymore. These addresses should be set to a do-not-email setting on the first bounce occurrence.

4. Soft bounce number:
Soft bounce is a temporary bounce and normally due to a full inbox or ISP deferring. It is normal practice to retry these email address 2/3 more times before moving to a do-not-email setting.

5. Delivered number and percentage:
Delivered is the total number of successfully sent email messages. Delivery number is sent emails minus total bounces. Your delivery rate should be 95% or more. Email messages that go to spam or junk or folders are still classed a successfully delivered.

6. Open rate percentage:
Open rate is the percentage of recipients that have opened your email message. An open is recorded by an invisible 1×1 GIF in the email HTML creative when the recipient downloads images. The GIF is added automatically by your ESP. Your average Open rate should be between 15-30% depending on level of segmentation and type of email message.

Open rate is Unique opens / delivered number x 100.

7. Click through rate (CTR) percentage:
Click through rate is the percentage of recipients that have clicked on any link in your email message. A click is tracked by a tracking code appended automatically to the email links by your ESP.
Click through rate calculation is Unique clicks / delivered number x 100 = CTR.

Your average CTR should be between 15-30% depending on level of segmentation and type of email message.

8. Click to open rate percentage (CTO):
Click to open rate is the percentage of recipients who opened the email message and also clicked on any link in the email message.
Click to open rate calculation is click through rate / open rate x 100.

9. Unsubscribe rate percentage:
Unsubscribe rate is the percentage of recipients that unsubscribed from the email message. This includes recipients that click the normal unsubscribe link in the email footer as well as those who unsubscribe via the list-unsub functionality in the inbox.
Unsubscribe calculation is Unsubscribe number /delivered x 100 = Unsubscribe rate.

Your unsubscribe rate should always be less than 1%,

10. Spam complaint rate.
Spam complaint rate is the percentage of recipients that click the spam or junk button in their inbox. Spam complaints are recorded via feedback loops provided by the ISPs. Not all ISPs provide the feedback loop.
Spam complaint calculation is Spam complaint number / delivered x 100 = Spam complaint rate.

Your spam complaint rate should always be less that 0.1%.

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to email me