Travel is back! According to recent research conducted by Criteo, 69% still plan on traveling before the summer ends.

For many travel brands—email is the primary vehicle driving every moment that matters. Whether it takes the form of a booking confirmation with every detail included, a last-minute reminder or notification that saves the family getaway, or a personalized promotion that shoppers just can’t pass up, your email marketing strategy has a lot of heavy lifting to do over the next few months.

Unless, of course, you switch up your messaging by implementing these three easy tactics to take advantage of the summer vacation trend:

Add flexibility into your fares

While any traveler’s plans are subject to change at the drop of a hat, travel conditions and geographic shutdowns outside of anyone’s control unfortunately are as well.

So, shift your messaging by introducing email campaigns promoting more flexible solutions. Things like refundable tickets, free cancellations and upgrades, and no-fee online booking are already helping travel businesses get back to their 2019 summer performance peaks—and will no doubt be something consumers demand long after things return to ‘normal.’

summer vacation

This seemingly small move can result in major rewards, whether your goal is customer acquisition or retention.  New shoppers who are welcomed by an easy, fast, and convenient experience are much more likely to make a purchase. And your loyal, long-term buyers always feel appreciated when they receive a travel option that doesn’t feel like it nickels-and-dimes them at every step when making a change.

Can’t forget about COVID-19

Did you know that 53% of consumers feel that it’s still very important for the brands they shop with to have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC-recommended guidelines.

By simply acknowledging this reality and communicating openly about any potential cautions, you enhance the impact and value your emails deliver because they contain everything someone needs to know before they even schedule their trip. Especially if you do so through a special message from the captain or an embedded email video.

summer vacation

TrustedHousesitters, for example, uses video messages to overcome its number one customer objection: trusting a stranger to take care of a traveler’s home and pets while they’re away. By sharing videos that include the perspectives of both pet owners and sitters, the brand is able to eliminate buyer hesitation by addressing this issue directly. Not to mention lift conversions, engagement, and open time duration across these emails too.

Make man’s best friend a priority

After being stuck at home the last 18 months, it can be understandably hard to abandon the furry friend that helped you survive it all. Which is why so many travel brands are experiencing unprecedented success by promoting pet-friendly summer vacation accommodations and travel options.

For anyone feeling especially clingy after spending 24/7 with Fido throughout COVID-19, a pet-centric email promotion can be the motivator that finally pushes them out of the house and into your care.

summer vacation

Beyond the allure of an animal-friendly vacation, however, this degree of personalization helps your brand stand out from the competition. It gives customers the impression that you truly care about their individual preferences and needs—as well as your business the chance to create more engaging and relevant conversations that keep travelers coming back whenever they’re ready to schedule their next summer vacation.

First-party data has always been your best personalization tool because it comes from the insights your customers share directly with your brand. At its most basic level, this info can be classified as one of two categories:

You need both kinds of data to get a well-rounded picture of each customer. Because what customers tell you in preference data might be different from what you see them actually doing. Combined, this more comprehensive picture helps you create more relevant, personalized content for every customer in every campaign you send.

So, what’s going wrong for so many companies in terms of email conversions right now?

1. You’re not selling customers the right stuff.

Your goal isn’t just to send an offer. It’s to deliver value and an exceptional customer experience with every email conversion opportunity. 

Yes, you can sell. But you sell best when you recommend products or services that reflect the data you have on your customer—the kinds of products she browses and buys most often, the sports he tells you he enjoys, where each customer lives, and so on. A truly personalized customer experience only comes after you apply the first-party data insights you’ve collected about each customer to your marketing messages. Especially if it doesn’t take extra work or development resources to put into practice.

email conversion

As one of the world’s largest online pet marketplaces, Rover wanted to know if dynamically personalizing its emails based on customers’ dog breeds could have a positive impact on sales. And after applying new segmentation rules and A/B testing of a generic email’s results versus one with a dynamic, breed-specific hero image the answer was an overwhelming yes. Compared to its static alternatives, Rover’s personalized email experience drove 80% more revenue to the retailer!

2. You don’t speak your customer’s language.

An irrelevant message won’t generate clicks or conversions. In the long run, the only way to win is with messages that show customers you know them. After all, emails with dynamic content elements that can be automatically adjusted based on your first-party data insights are more appealing to the average buyer.

That’s because—rather than another one-size-fits-all sales promotion—these personalized interactions are more interesting and engaging. Your customers are excited when they see a new email from you in their inbox, making your messages more likely to not only be read—but your recipients more likely to click and convert on your offer.

And that generates even more first-party data feedback. Which you can use to refine and further personalize your emails for even better results and long-term customer loyalty.

email conversion

Prior to partnering with us, Hot Topic received an uptick of customer service complaints whenever Harry Potter promo emails were sent. After asking its subscribers about their Hogwarts house affiliation and segmenting the audience by their responses, the brand has eliminated this negative noise—on top of growing email engagement, open rate, conversion rate, and CTR too.

3. You’re selling to the wrong audience.

A growing subscriber list is an essential component for any email marketing strategy’s success—but size alone isn’t enough. If you don’t include as many likely buyers as possible in your campaigns, you’ll never see the CTR or conversions you expect. 

So, use the customer insights you can draw from studying your first-party data to divide your email list into meaningful segments and personas. Then and only then are you ready to target your message content to each specific group. 

When FitKit UK needed a more in-depth understanding of its email subscribers to send more targeted, engaging content to its recipients, we helped the organization build an interactive campaign that featured embedded surveys asking customers about their fitness needs and overall familiarity with the brand.

email conversion

As a result, FitKit UK experienced immediate results—including a 272% increase in email clicks, a 59% increase in conversion rate, and a 298% increase in orders placed through these interactions

Everybody wins when you put the customer first

By following these best practices and prioritizing your customer experience, you’ll be ready to send more relevant, engaging messages that help your customers shop successfully in no time! And that’s a win-win that pays dividends for everybody involved.

Download our playbook, The Dynamic Personalization Elements You Can Be Automating to Spend More Time Creating, for a step-by-step guide to enhance your customer experience through first-party data and dynamic email elements.

Despite all the changes and customer behavior shifts that have occurred over the last 18 months, email remains the most effective tool for your marketing team.

That’s because 80% of retail professionals still rely on the channel as their number one driver of customer retention. And anyone that makes a purchase via email spends 138% more than the average transaction.

As you begin to pull together your customer acquisition and retention strategies for Q3 and the holiday season, let’s explore why email is still king. And—more importantly—how it can help your marketing strategy dominate the competition, deliver continuous value, and enhance your online customer experience.

Email boosted customer acquisition and retention in 2020

As a customer acquisition channel, email’s biggest advantage is that it gives someone the chance to signal their interest or intent to buy from your very first brand interaction. By opting into your email list, for example, you begin a two-way conversation with each recipient, giving you the chance to start learning about each buyer and collecting first-party data insights before they browse your site or put the first product in their digital shopping cart.

Before the pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation to an unprecedented rate, 66% of businesses used email to find new customers. Now, 10% more have discovered how email helps them reach new audiences, a MeritB2B study discovered.

But finding new customers is far from email’s only benefit. Because, in terms of customer retention and engagement, email is also doing a lot of the heavy lifting to keep existing customers excited and coming back for more. Beyond the 28% of businesses that saw CTR increase as a direct result of email, AOV grew 56% and customer engagement grew 76% for companies that inserted personalization into these messages.

3 reasons why email continues to dominate

While we could list dozens of reasons and write thousands of words on this subject, let’s focus on three disruptive benefits email can deliver to help your brand stand out:

1. Email marketing lets you optimize messaging for specific buyer personas.

There’s no doubt about it anymore—email personalization must be baked into the customer experience. Customers expect it, look for it, and will click away from your emails the second they receive a one-size-fits-all promotion. 

Don’t believe us? After combining research with Sailthru to create our Values-Based Personalization is the Future of Retail Marketing guide, we found that nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) say it’s important that brands personalize their retail experiences, either online or in the store.

If your brand has invested heavily in initiatives to enhance your CX and grow your audience, there’s no doubt that your business stands to gain a lot from email’s almost limitless capacity to personalize messages, images, and even offers to someone’s specific interactions and browsing/buying history.

With a minimal investment, you can set up email marketing strategies that automatically anticipate and serve each customer’s needs with unique, personalized messages that show you understand them as individuals. Making them much more likely to engage with your content, act on your CTAs, and help you uncover $20 or more in ROI for every dollar you invest into email personalization.

2. Email is highly customizable and measurable.

Besides creating individual messages for each customer in your audience, you can also use email to build unique journeys or customer programs that help you achieve your business goals. Just a few examples:

Beyond this high degree of flexibility, almost every activity related to email generates data signals you can use to learn more about your customers, create new email journeys, and make messages even more relevant. Your brand can constantly learn and improve its interactions simply by tracking customer clicks before using these insights to inform future testing and optimization strategies.

3. Emails is both a stand-alone and omnichannel digital marketing strategy.

Email binds your online and offline channels together to create a transparent, comprehensive marketing ecosystem. For you, that means email can support and draw strength from other channels to become more effective. Or, it can support your website, mobile, and cross-channel strategies to deliver a greater overall impact instead.

In playground parlance, that means email plays well with others. It can expand your social media reach, for example, to attract subscribers from a wider range of audiences that don’t regularly engage with these platforms.

Search and email are natural partners, too. Your high-ranking keywords can create more subscriber-relevant email content. At the same time, your search campaign landing pages can attract new subscribers. Everybody wins.

Stick with email to build customer loyalty and engagement for 2022

Marketing pundits are always eager to write off email marketing as outmoded or old-fashioned. But, as current stats show, the channel rises to almost any customer acquisition or retention challenge you can encounter. Going forward, don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

According to its latest blog post, Google is officially delaying its phase out of third-party cookies in Chrome from this year until 2023. For many marketers scrambling to find first-party data solutions, this announcement comes as a much-needed relief.

Because the loss of third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms will likely lead to massive challenges down the road where digital advertising and consumer targeting efforts are concerned. Especially if there’s not a widely adopted alternative in place by the time third-party data tracking finally comes to an end.

So, how does this unexpected delay impact you and your work?

Google and the Future of Data Privacy in Digital Marketing

While Google has been hard at work building its Privacy Sandbox, many marketers are skeptical of whether or not this toolset will be enough to make up for the loss of third-party cookies and insights. Even Vinay Goel, Chrome’s Privacy Engineering Director, admits that there’s much work to be done before the organization (and you) are ready to sunset third-party data tracking capabilities forever.

“While there’s considerable progress with [the Privacy Sandbox], it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” said Goel.

However, the organization isn’t simply looking for a quick fix or to replace third-party cookies with an equally invasive form of individual tracking approaches like browser fingerprinting, The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, or Lotame’s Panorama ID that have been growing more and more popular in media since Google’s original announcement.

Despite this delay, Google continues to develop its next generation of data privacy-friendly marketing tools. If all goes well, expect a new suite of first-party data-driven technologies to be deployed by the end of next year — giving you and marketing experts everywhere nine months to test these tools and migrate services before Google’s three-month phaseout of third-party cookies begins in late 2023.

3 Steps You Should Take Today

If it isn’t already obvious, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start preparing now for life after third-party cookies. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for many marketers who don’t know where to start. So, here are three easy recommendations you can use to ready your future personalization strategies:

Focus on where you already collect first-party data

It’s never been more important to collect insights directly from your customers. But that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel — rather than building out new initiatives and campaigns, focus your attention on improving existing efforts like event signups, landing pages, newsletters, and digital subscription forms. That way, you’re able to capture new data points with minimal time and resource investment required!

Always keep consent in mind

This shouldn’t be a new concept after GDPR. But it’s nonetheless an important consideration that is only growing more vital to the ultimate success or failure of your personalized marketing strategy.

Be sure to check the first-party data you already have in order to gain a clear insight into what data you’ve got, and then update your privacy policy to shed light on how you are using this data moving forward to keep your company and customers protected.

Transition to People-Based Targeting

When you combine first-party data with real-time personalization, you’re able to target a desired audience across any channel they engage with. Because people-based marketing doesn’t rely on third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms, it’s an ideal solution for interacting with customers on their own terms.

If you’re interested in building your own people-based marketing strategy, consider these three key elements:

Every retail success starts with data. Whether you’re optimizing marketing messages or managing inventory levels, a foundation built by high-quality, first-party data is key.

But information on its own doesn’t deliver value. If it’s not accurate, actionable, or accessible at the moment it’s needed, it can lead to inefficient business decisions, inaccurate forecasts, and ineffective long-term marketing strategies.

In fact, the challenge of integrating first-party data insights you’ve worked hard to collect from customers into personalized email is creating a two-tier playing field that separates pretenders from true contenders when it comes to retail success:

Start fueling your personalization with first-party data now

Today, 62% of retail consumers say it’s important for brands to deliver personalized experiences. And with so many more people searching, shopping, and purchasing products online, real-time personalization has become an invaluable tactic for improving customer engagement, loyalty, and intent to purchase.

But integrating your first-party data doesn’t need to be an expensive or time-consuming process. In fact, here are three things you can start right now to improve your digital marketing results right away:

Take personalization beyond product recommendations. Integrate a personalized content strategy for every customer email. After all, this small change can be particularly useful for retailers with smaller assortments and longer purchase frequency cycles. The combo of first-party data and real-time personalization can even be used to engage and nurture relationships while simultaneously maximizing the value of existing assets like blog and influencer content.

Use personalization behind the scenes. Personalization does not always need to be explicit in order to deliver an effective experience. Identify interest, product, and brand affinities that can help you deliver more relevant content, align your brand with your customers’ values, and deliver a more engaging, exciting customer experience across all channels.

Consumer behavior shifted towards essential goods at the beginning of the pandemic. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, now is the time for every kind of retailer to prepare their strategies. Personalization does not need to come at the sacrifice of branding or creative efforts. Even the most high-strung luxury shoppers’ expectations can be met with effective segmentation and behavioral strategies that can predict a browser vs a high-intent shopper.

Eliminate inconsistency, inefficiency, and lost revenue in one move

When you combine first-party data profiles with the power of real-time personalization, you get rid of the disconnected experience your marketing team faces anytime a personalized email needs to be built, updated, or sent. Transforming any overly manual, time-consuming legacy processes you use into streamlined project sprints that maximize your productivity and efficiency — and your organization’s email engagement, conversion rate, and revenue generating potential, too.

Now more than ever, it’s important for you to integrate first-party data into your email marketing strategies. Because, as you move closer and closer toward a truly omnichannel customer experience, the insights your customers decide to share with your brand are an invaluable tool for building more relevant and engaging email content, establishing more meaningful customer relationships, and aligning your business with future trends and behaviors that are likely to lead to long-term retail success

If you want to boost email engagement, one of the best ways is also becoming one of the easiest: add video.

Video and email are a match made in marketing heaven. Everybody uses email, and more consumers are watching videos online with each passing day.

If video is so great, why doesn’t everyone use it in their emails?

The relationship between email and video hasn’t always been a smooth or lovely experience. In the past, largely technical hurdles like incompatible email browsers and spotty bandwidth have kept these channels separated.

These tech limitations made video in email a hit-or-miss experience for many viewers. And that unreliability, coupled with a hazy ROI and lack of content and production time, also turned many email marketers off the video trend.

But today, technology is catching up with the public’s growing appetite for consuming video. And it’s doing so in a way that makes the value of video in email much more apparent and trackable. Now, all it takes is a few clicks to embed videos into email and analyze the results without a single line of code or concern about platform compatibility.

A few browser holdouts are keeping video from reaching its full email potential (we’re looking at you, Gmail), but every day more and more email environments are evolving to handle video. Apple’s native desktop and iOS email clients, for example, make embedded email videos possible in Outlook across every Mac device.

Why video is worth the effort

In short, people love it. Just putting “video” in your subject line can boost open rates by six percent or more. Not to mention increase click rates by 300% and reduce unsubscribes up to 26% too. 

Especially if you’re trying to capture the attention of highly coveted Gen Z and Millennial buyers. A 2020 survey found 88% of this group watch videos for entertainment, giving the brands that take advantage of this trend a unique opportunity to engage audiences across a variety of digital and social media channels like never before. 

The lesson here: If you want to increase engagement among your younger customers (or any follower, for that matter), add video. Besides expecting it, these active video consumers are much more likely to respond to interactive messages. So why not give them exactly what they want?

It’s not as pricey or complicated as you might think. Marketers spent less than $300 on average on video in 2020. Today, cost is no excuse. You can produce a high-quality video using just a smartphone and a good ring light. And that doesn’t include the dozens of free or low-cost video production tools you can use to edit emails like a pro. 

Video can amplify other advanced personalization tactics. Video is most successful when used strategically. Your embedded email videos can draw eyes to dynamic factors such as real-time content targeting by location, time of day, and more. Ensuring your customers never open an outdated offer or out-of-stock sale alert again.

2 emails that are winning with video

Add the human element: Room & Board features live video in many of its promotional emails. In the email example below, it brings a customer’s story to life with an on-demand interview that discusses their unique experiences and most helpful advice.

video and email
Image via MailCharts

Set the tone: Videos got many homebound tourists through a year without travel in 2020. And now, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is capitalizing on both the longing to get away in luxury and the need to feel safe by including video in its emails that takes viewers on an up-close,-personal tour of its newest ships.

video and email
Image via MailCharts

Ready for your closeup?

If you’re ready to add video into your email experience, check out our How to Embed Video in Email guide. You’ll learn the basics of DIY video embedding, different ways to use video, and how to effectively experiment with your emails to improve results.

Consistent streams of high quality, hyperpersonalized emails can keep customers engaged, build loyalty, and develop relationships. But it’s triggered emails, not promotional campaigns or nurture drips, that are usually most effective for driving immediate conversions.

About ¾ of email ROI comes from “segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.” It makes sense; triggered email marketing connects brands with customers right at the moment they’re most willing and able to engage.

Given all the potential for conversions and revenue, shouldn’t you be making sure you get the absolute most out of your trigger-based email marketing?

The Power of Triggered Email Marketing

Expertly implemented trigger emails bring a lot to the table for digital marketers. Sailthru listed a few of them on its comprehensive guide to trigger-based email marketing:

To top it off, setting up triggered emails with contextual relevance and personalization is easier than ever thanks to real-time email automation technology. Need some ideas to energize your marketing performance? Draw inspiration from these ROI-generating triggered email examples!

The Warmest of Welcomes

Welcome emails are opened at a higher rate than almost any other kind of direct marketing message. When someone subscribes to your newsletter, joins your loyalty program, or registers an account with your ecommerce site, that’s your opportunity to make a big first impression that will keep them coming back for more!

Need a triggered email example to inspire your welcome series? Chuck E Cheese’s sets the tone for its brand relationship with new rewards program members with a colorful, fun, and highly personalized welcome email. The brand combines dynamic images that adjust to the subscriber’s name, a live map that shows the way to the nearest destination, and real-time geo-data that gives new members everything they need to start planning their next visit right away.

Sophisticated email marketers send multiple messages in a welcome series. This strategy provides additional opportunities to direct consumers to complete high-value activities. If you know that your best customers are those with a loyalty membership, follow you on Instagram, and have set explicit preferences for products consider highlighting these in a multi-step welcome flow.

Weather Triggered Emails

Weather is one of those universal factors that binds us all together. There’s a reason it’s been one of the most popular pieces conversation starters and small-talk fuel for ages untold.

But weather isn’t just basic water cooler chit-chat material; it’s a great way to start conversations with your audience with the power of weather triggered emails. As Paul Walsch, Weather Channel weather and climate specialist said, “Weather is such an important driver of consumer sentiment and activity…but it’s not as well known and leveraged as it should be.”

Imagine having an email set to automatically deploy on a rainy day to invite subscribers into your stores for some shelter (and savings!). Or including live forecasts in a triggered email leading up to a personally-relevant event like a vacation or concert to add even more value.

Hotels.com includes both real-time weather information and an up-to-date forecast in an email triggered to send a few days before a reservation. This information helps customers prepare to make the most of their stays, gives them a reason to re-open, and enhances the customer experience to motivate repeat purchases.

Abandoned Cart Email Triggers

Some 69% of digital shopping carts get abandoned throughout the conversion process. This is the perfect opportunity for a targeted, direct message. Your prospect has made the effort to register an account and choose products she’s interested in; often a little extra motivation is all that’s needed to give her that extra nudge into customerhood.

Automated emails targeted at cart-deserters have impressive engagement and conversion rates that can have an immediate and substantial impact on digital revenue:

Keep Collective makes excellent use of their abandoned cart triggers. The brand uses friendly language and dynamic product-feature elements that adapt in real time to exclude any items that the shopper goes on to purchase or that are currently out of stock. The email reminds people of what they’re missing out on—while cleverly omitting any content that could be confusing or disappointing.

Looking for more highly-effective triggered email examples? Check out our Lookbook or download this inspirational triggered emails guide for creative, results-driving ideas to steal for your own programs!