The ask: cut consumer emails in half, increase engagement substantially, drive more travel calls and sooth thousands of frantic members looking to cancel their reservations during a pandemic – sounds too good to be true, right? The Team behind this marketing program will tell you that you can do it, because they did.
In 2020, amid the chaos of a COVID-related and company-wide reduction in force, this 5-person Team accomplished a nearly impossible task in the marketing world – they created a fully-automated email strategy and online tool called “Product Personalization”, that reduced monthly marketing emails by an astonishing 62.5% and increased travel sales for partners +27% year-over-year (compared to pre-pandemic metrics). As a result, the business continues to secure travel booking records in its COVID recovery, exceeding $1.6 million in sales revenue per month.
After a sudden 90% employee reduction in force, this brand-new Marketing Team started 2020 facing big, new challenges. Over 5 million emails were deploying every single week without any sort of customized or personalized direction to the members, and as a result call and sales budgets were consistently off-target. A new backlog was forming from thousands of customer service calls from frightened consumers wanting to cancel their travel plans. Open rates were shrinking, calls were decreasing, campaigns were clashing, and email volumes were skyrocketing. The numbers were going in the opposite direction than the Company would hope. As COVID accelerated quickly, it was time for a change – and fast.
This email Product Personalization program had three pillars:
1) transition emails from being manually managed to automation
2) implement “lead nurturing” and education strategies
3) launch geo-targeted and behavior-based retargeting to send highly specific and relevant content to consumers based on their online search and past booking preferences.
The astonishing results from these three initiatives entirely reset the Marketing Department’s culture on email best practices and continues to have a profound impact on the Company’s bottom-line revenue production today.
The first pillar required the Team to digitally automate a portion of the Department’s monthly travel emails. The Marketing Team transitioned 75% of their product email marketing to be fully automated so now instead of blanket emails being sent to the entire member base, highly personalized and targeted emails are triggering off a specific member’s shopping preferences, past booking behaviors and recent search behaviors. By transitioning email efforts to this more personalized approach, the Marketing Team created over 1,162 unique and simultaneously running emails configured with the backend logic and system intelligence to deploy the right email, to the right member, at the right time. As a result, Product Personalization was generating a higher quantity of better-quality inbound calls to the sales teams.
The second pillar required the infusion of “lead nurturing” to educate consumers on their travel benefits and how to use them. To achieve this, a strategic customer journey was mapped (comprised of over 6,000 campaigns in English and Spanish), with a series of emails containing content-rich education and tips on how to utilize program benefits. Members now flow through a customer journey that educates them on each of their benefits – covering Cruises, Resorts, Hotels, Flights, Car Rentals, Tours, Activities, Loyalty Currency and more. And based on where that customer is within their lifecycle (e.g., a new consumer, older member, actively engaged, dormant, recent purchaser, etc.), their email experience is customized to their needs.
The third pillar was creating a sophisticated engine of geo-targeted campaigns. These geo-targeted campaigns are destination and product-rich emails that can deploy, in real-time, based on what a consumer may search. The beauty of personalized and automated campaigns is they are behavior-based. These emails are powered by an intelligence to “listen” for a consumer searching a hotel in Miami, Florida, and trigger a Miami-specific email. Or a consumer who is searching for a 2022 Alaska cruise to get an automated email (that feels personalized) about Alaska’s jaw-dropping sights and ports-of-call. These marketing emails helped to encourage travel in a difficult market, fueling a profound impact on business performance. Email open rates increased from an average of 14% up to 60%. Click rates increased from 7% to nearly 35%. That is the power of automated and personalized marketing, and the Team created this new infrastructure to identify consumers who want to travel (or book future travel) during a pandemic.
Today, the Product Personalization program continues to impact the bottom line, fueling an impressive recovery for the Company. It has allowed this Marketing Team to speak more personally with their consumers – sending much more timely and relevant communications that are meaningful to end-users.
Without a doubt, this email Product Personalization program changed the way the Company now approaches its audiences outside of just Marketing – a tribute to the power that a personalized conversation with members has on customer lifetime value, long-term loyalty, and bottom-line sales results.