Inbox Insider: Virgin America ahead of other travel marketers on targeted e-mails

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I love to travel, and it feels like half of the e-mails I get are from travel companies, whether online travel agencies, airlines, hotels or online travel magazines. Some e-mails are great, but some aren't, and targeting has a lot to do with that.

For example, I get many e-mails from airlines for which I have frequent flier miles, but they send me deals for flights from Chicago although I'm in the New York area.

According to a report from e-mail marketing firm StrongMail, there is a lack of data integration and subscriber targeting in the travel and hospitality industry. Only 30% of travel marketers use subscriber preferences or behaviors to target offers in pre- and post-stay e-mails, according to the “Connected Marketing for Travel Providers” report, which was conducted with The Relevancy Group.

The study also found that travel marketers who target subscribers by preferences and behavior generate nearly twice as much revenue from their lifecycle e-mail programs as those that send untargeted messages from reservation systems.

One brand that gets it right is Virgin America. I recently flew on the airline, and about a week later the company e-mailed me a survey on how I would like to communicate with it. It asked a number of detailed questions about my location, airports I commonly fly to, and the different interactions I have with the airline. It wanted to know when I look for sales and customer service and my preferred communication method. The survey took about 10 minutes to complete, so the airline was smart to offer a 20%-off coupon for finishing it.

Virgin America followed the survey with another e-mail a week later inviting me to set my e-mail preference center. The message included a link to the preference center, as well as an update on my miles and fare sales.

This is a great way to solve the data problem. Travel marketers trying to better target their data should look to Virgin America as an example.

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