In this article, you will learn how to develop an efficient email strategy, build loyalty and encourage repeat stays. If you are already leveraging emails to build relationships with your guests, you will find a few tips to improve your results and to take full advantage of your email list and customer base.
Main pillars to success
Evaluate your list
Hopefully, you have been accumulating emails from interactions with customers and visitors to your website or social media accounts. You may also have captured emails when guests check in your hotel but are these valid? Sending bulk emails to dodgy emails can seriously hurt your server’s reputation and become an impediment to healthy deliverability. If you are unsure about the quality of your emails, it is probably best for you to use a cleaning tool such as Million Verifier or BriteVerify. These will help you remove the emails that return hard bounces and identify soft bounces as well.
Once your data are clean you can begin to blast. Sending email weekly is a good way to keep it that way as most email marketing solutions will automatically remove hard bounces. However, keep in mind that if you collect emails manually (at the front desk upon check-in or check-out for example), you will need to repeat this cleaning process before these can be added to your main list.
We would also recommend reviewing the received and opened data of your subscribers on a quarterly basis in order to move to a new list, emails that did not open your communication a single time. Perhaps these are bored of your communications and you should give them some space. Coincidently, this will save you cost as you would end up sending less per blast or having fewer subscribers which ever model your email marketing solution provider offers. Ultimately, your email database will be leaner and made of your most engaged subscribers. The unengaged email list can be the subject of a long-term reactivation campaign that you send every 6 months or quarterly in an attempt to reconnect with them. Should they open your email, you can move them back to the main list.
Improve subscribers’ data
The more you know about your guests, the better you can communicate efficiently with them. Segmentation is paramount to the success of your campaigns. That’s why it is important to structure your email list so that you have at the very least the following data fields:
- Email (obviously)
- First & Last name
- Preferred language
- Country of Residence
While you may not capture all of these data at the moment of subscription, consider engaging with subscribers with incomplete data to request them to add those details to their profile. These will really go a long way to improve the performance of your blasts as it will allow you to segment your campaign and regionalise and personalise the content.
Capture more emails
Collecting information on your past and current customers is important, but you should also take every opportunity you have to expand your list by encouraging visitors to your website to sign-up for newsletters or alerts via a pop-up window or a prominent form for example. This could also be something that involves your operation. For instance, while you will obviously already have the emails of guests that booked via your website, if the booking was taken through your reservation office, do make sure the agent captures the user email. Likewise, for guests that booked through other online or offline channels, such as OTAs for example you would want your front desk to ask for their email. While some people may refuse, you could offer an incentive such as free WiFi.
Tracking & Analytics
If you aren’t already, you should be using a good blast email platform. They should provide you with an array of metrics to analyze how effective an email campaign is, as well as to slice and dice your email lists into different segments/targets. Statistics that you should be able to access include open and click rates broken down by the time of day, which links were most clicked, and responsiveness by groups (current customers, online sign-ups…). These data are critical to evaluate the success of your campaign, but also, in the long run, to understand how you can improve. For instance, you may find that it is usually best to send your weekly email on Wednesday as opposed to Friday based on open rates. Similarly, you may find out that click rate increases when you display a % off message compared to a flat discount rate. Test and learn is the way to go here.
While the performance data are immensely useful, you may also want to use click tags on your links so that you can track the impact on the traffic and conversions via your web analytics solution. With Google Analytics for example, make sure to add UTM parameters on every link. Likewise for Adobe Analytics and CID. Tagging your link will allow you to gauge how much your email marketing activities contribute to your traffic acquisition and what role it plays in the path to conversion.
Master the customer lifecycle
The booking confirmation email is an important touchpoint for your hotel. Of course, there is the business that needs to be done – confirming booking information, names, dates, times, etc. But it is also the perfect opportunity to get additional information about your guest’s preferences to ensure that their stay is perfect. You could for instance link to a form that would include:
- Dietary requirements
- Optional amenities such as a baby cot,
- Pillow requirement (soft, medium, hard)
- Coffee/tea preferences for breakfast
- Special requests such as airport transfers
Pre-arrival and welcome emails
Just before guests arrive, show them how excited you are to welcome them in person with a pre-arrival email. You can also offer tips, such as how to get to your hotel or resort, what the weather forecast is for their stay, and any seasonal activities or events that they may be interested in. But most importantly, you can take this opportunity to upsell and cross-sell. Perhaps would your guest like a room upgrade. How about a session at the spa or a romantic dinner for 2 upon arrival? Or you might have a unique experience they may want to try such as a sunset cruise.
Once they arrive, you can continue the hospitality that your brand is known for with an entertaining, informative welcome email. Here you can point out in-room amenities you want to highlight as well as information on facilities, such as fitness center opening times, breakfast service times, and any other events planned. This allows you to continue the conversation started by the pre-arrival email and makes the guest feel special and cared for. Note that this can be a part of your guest satisfaction plan. Welcome emails are perfect to evaluate the check-in process and first impression of the room. If you use a solution like Reviewpro or Revinate make sure to set this up.
Post-stay / Guest Satisfaction Survey emails
A heartfelt thank you 24h to 48h after a stay is always a good idea. You can provide a round-up of their stay, including any loyalty rewards or benefits that they may want to record for the future. This is also an excellent time to ask for their feedback. It is generally accepted that most people will rely on customer reviews and ratings when deciding where to stay. However, you should not wait for guests to go to TripAdvisor or bookings.com and leave a review. People are more likely to leave a review if asked directly from the business, in this case, your hotel or resort. To garner good will (and hopefully a good review), you may not want to try to upsell anything here, but you should include branding and imagery that may trigger good memories of their stay! Just like the welcome email most guest experience platforms will allow you to build comprehensive Guest Satisfaction Survey forms. These can also be linked to TripAdvisor via review collection, so you can increase your ranking over time with more reviews more frequently.
We would also recommend to engage with your guest 6 months after their stay if they have not booked again. Offering discounts for repeat customers will increase the overall customer lifetime value and boost your occupancy.
Cancellation / cart abandonment emails
Even what seems like bad news can be converted to good news. If a potential guest cancels a booking or leaves your site and abandons a cart, you can use a strategic email to rebuild trust or even convert a cancellation or abandoned cart to a sale. With the email, you could be reminding them of their plans and may re-ignite interest in your property. Furthermore, you could sweeten the deal with incentives like private discounts or free extras. This could be an interesting strategy to offer lower rates than OTAs and boost your direct business.
Some key features for every email campaign
Personalise the content
If you have detailed information about your subscribers (and the permission to use it), you can set yourself apart from generic email blasts by adding a personal touch. This could be as simple as using a person’s name in the subject line or the body of the email. Birthday emails are also a great way to engage with your audience in a personalised way and give you the opportunity promote your offers and promotions and send a gift in the form of a discount or an added value such as a complementary drink upon arrival or a free dessert at one of your restaurants. Subscribers exposed to personalised emails are more likely to not just to open the email, but also to take action and book.
Link to social media
There is no reason that email marketing should occur in a vacuum. While you have the email recipient’s interest, you can also direct them to your social media accounts. This creates a feedback loop as well as more points of contact with the person to further develop your relationship and increase conversion opportunities. You could just have buttons linking to your social media accounts, or you could create emails encouraging visits to your accounts, such as giveaways for likes or shared content with hashtag campaigns.
Think also about how user-generated content could increase engagement and conversions when used in your newsletter. In fact, lifestyle images of real guests are the best advocates you could find. Don’t forget to request permission from the user and give them credit.
Hotel branding and destination tips
Special discounts and value-adds are fantastic ways of drawing guests in, but not everything is about conversions. Branding is how you set your hotel apart from the competition, and emails are an excellent canvas to do this. Offer your subscribers food for thoughts with destination highlights, pristine nature shots, and other activities that might set their mood for a stay at your property. Furthermore, you can use these types of emails to highlight local attractions that may appeal to your target audience. This will set you up as a trusted advisor who is thinking about guests’ full experience, inside and outside the property.