Online to Offline Cross-sales in the Travel Industry

(This post is part of a series on the state of multichannel metrics today, one year after the book came out.)

The previous posts focused on companies accelerating conversions from online to offline. Here now comes an example of cross- or repeat-sales. This time from the travel industry.

The company is Collette Vacations, a provider of global travel and escorted tours to more than 150 destinations. 91 years old, the company is far from old fashioned.

Other than their multichannel approach to marketing, what does Collette have in common with the previous three businesses that we examined (automotive, B2B, and real estate)?

All 4 examples are in the category of highly considered purchases. I.e. Collette’s tours to Antarctica, or Oberammergau aren’t something you book in a rush. Much more typical is that customers research their options online, watch available videos, sign up for a live presentation, and eventually book after clarifying all their questions, maybe by email, chat, or phone.

Last minute travel

Now, something that I learned from Jukka, at The Mileage company, is that travel business is very tricky business.

You wouldn’t guess from the outside.

But one of the many tricky aspects is that travel products are perishable goods just like tomatoes at the grocer.

You can’t sell a hotel room one day after it has been standing empty.

So what to do when Collette has vacation seats to Barcelona on sale and they need to find buyers quickly?

Should they spam their entire email list as a marketer would be tempted to do? Collette thought better.

Protect the future value of your email list

Email marketing is tricky business too. Email too often and while initially you may get results, eventually you burn the attention of your recipients. After all, except for cases when a tour sells out completely, there would always be last minute sales to promote.

If you were a spammer you would find reason to send spam every day. Yet, your future emails would likely remain unopened or go into the spam folder.

So, a year ago, Collette decided not to fall into that trap. Instead they connected their web analytics with their email campaign management system.

When, for instance, Barcelona vacations are on sale they have targeted the announcement to the segment of web site users that have recently spent time browsing web pages related to Mediterranean vacation options but haven’t recently been purchasing travel.

Not surprising that this segment is much more likely to care about the promotional announcement than the average population.

The sausage making

But how to connect web site visitors to their email addresses?

Collette’s web site permits registering online in return for something of value, e.g. the ability to save a wish list of vacation destinations. Along with online registration, it is best practice to save the login (or persistent cookie) that is created in conjunction with the provided contact information.

That info forms the basis of being able to listen to an individual’s clicks so to know better about the kinds of vacations that they may find of interest.

As Collette’s privacy policy states, customers have many options to opt-out. But if they do remain opted-in, “Knowing how you use the site enables us to better tailor our content and services to most effectively suit your needs.”

The Results

The official case study with further details on Collette’s implementation is available for download. Among some of the results that Collette shared is that their flagship, “welcome” campaign performs 30% above industry average.

The Morale

The hardest thing about this is not at all the technology in my opinion. But it is for the business to come up with ideas that entice visitors to register with their accurate email information. What value are you going to provide to your clients so that they will give you the email address where they actually do check their messages?

And since cookies are deleted eventually and people use multiple devices to browse the Internet it isn’t even enough to get a registration only once. Rather, the business needs to entice visitors to login periodically so to keep the data trail alive.

One would wish this was easier.

But what I like about this challenge is that it keeps marketing real. We have to provide value to the customer for the permission to include them in our analytics and the permission to communicate.

Two-way value has always been the basic ideal behind CRM.

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