Email is still the top-performing channel for marketing engagement and conversion. It’s the biggest driver of customer acquisition and retention across industries, and it has the highest return, bringing $38 for every $1 spent.
It’s no surprise then that 2017 saw 269 billion marketing emails landing in consumer inboxes. The problem, however, is customer fatigue. As subscribers lose interest in emails trying to sell them stuff, fewer than a quarter of marketing messages are even opened. Many are simply deleted without being seen, and some even result in an immediate ‘unsubscribe’. In the Travel industry, the average open rate for marketing emails is 20.03%, and the click-through rate is just 2%.
So how can you use email to drive subscribers to your airport website, channel them through to your OTA and turn website browsers into travel bookers? How can you ensure your email is even seen? Surely your airport needs a big marketing team with substantial resources to break through all that noise…
Or does it?
In Rezcomm’s recent Travel Marketing Webinar, Shaun Staff who runs Marketing Communications at Regional and City Airports, revealed the core aspects of RCA’s easy-to-implement email marketing strategy and its impressive engagement figures.
“Shaun is achieving some of the most outstanding email engagement statistics I've ever had the pleasure of seeing: They're really healthy!”
Victoria Wallace, Director of Digital, Rezcomm
Regional and City Airports (RCA) owns and operates a handful of regional airports across the UK. These are Exeter, Norwich, Bournemouth and City of Derrry. RCA also has management contracts at Blackpool, Solent Airport Daedalus among others. It owns XLR Executive Jet Centre, a corporate aviation brand with centres at Exeter, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bournemouth.
Shaun started contracting with RCA in July 2017. Initially his role was to support the commercial team in digitally promoting the airport car parks and other on-site products including various airport concessions. His role has grown to become less digital and now encompasses a broad range of marketing activity across the group.
However, the key thing to know at this point, before we look at the success of RCA’s email campaigns, is that despite the size and the scale that RCA has reached through various acquisitions and organic growth, it still employs a very modest marketing team. In fact, Sean is the only person who is doing any marketing across the whole group.
Let’s look at some of RCA’s email campaigns in detail:
The standard ‘Travel’ email
Targeting: All subscribers in the database
Frequency: Once per month
Open rate: 31,52%
Click-through rate: 2.96%
Travel emails are sent monthly, or occasionally twice per month, to promote the different types of content available from the relevant airport.
These take the form of high-performing e-shots, and they use a really simple approach to the design of the messaging.
The email contains only three elements:
- A strong, attractive, relevant image
- A short section of text selling not just the airport destination but the onward destinations such as ski resorts
- A ‘book now’ call-to-action
This type of campaign is sent in bulk to all subscribers, and concurrently run across all of the different social channels. These travel e-shots with an exciting destination that passengers can potentially book with one click are by far the best performing type of mass campaign produced by RCA.
And despite the air of mystery that may exist around aspects of a successful campaign such as the ‘perfect’ subject heading, Shaun says:
“I'm very rarely too creative with things like subject lines or content because what I tend to see from our database is that open rate and click rate always go up when the subject is kind of straight-to-the-point.”
These campaigns are supported with a content calendar. The calendar dictates which type of holiday theme should be promoted at any given time. Shaun works closely with the route development team at Exeter Airport to target specific routes based on what's available, or focus on routes that need extra promotion to sell.
While the simple 3-point e-shot has proven undeniably successful with open and click-through rates substantially above industry averages, Shaun has recently been exploring a new process for gathering content and communicating travel messages to the database.
Using the new drag-and-drop editor in Rezcomm’s email marketing functionality, RCA will be able to produce e-shots featuring four or five content blocks each promoting a different destination or a commercial product that’s available direct from the airport. These new campaigns will be sent to subscribers once a week, with the content from each module distributed separately via social media on each day of that week.
Shaun explains the motivation for this development:
“Clearly that the benefit to this is route awareness. Exeter and the Devon region is particularly challenging - people know that they have an airport on their doorstep, but they don’t always know why it's a good option for travel. Campaigns like this, sent direct to a database of people who have opted in to receiving marketing messages and previously booked with us, are a really useful way of promoting travel and destination marketing to that database.”
The Wi-Fi signup confirmation email
Targeting: In-terminal Wi-Fi users at Exeter Airport who sign up to marketing
Frequency: 1 per user
Open rate: 59.21%
Click-through rate: 15.74%
According to Shaun, the Wi-Fi sign up email can be one of the most powerful campaigns. It’s a functional email designed to confirm that the user is connected to the Wi-Fi, but it can also be used to prompt passengers, to let them know what’s available in the airport. Once they’ve passed through security, these passengers are about “as captive an audience as you can ever hope to get”.
When a user receives the email, the place-specific nature of the sign-up means that they are only a matter of yards from any of the airport’s concessions. It makes sense then, that a compelling offer direct to the passenger’s inbox will result in better commercial performance for the airport.
Given that these emails have an open rate three times higher than the industry average, the Wi-Fi sign-up email is also an obvious place to encourage passengers to explore all of the other destinations available from Exeter Airport.
“I don’t think that an open rate of 59% is particularly surprising. But I think the 16% click-through rate demonstrates how well this type of campaign can promote and sell travel and ancillary products with simple links back to the website, to an audience who have at least 45 minutes to an hour to kill when they're ‘stuck’ in the departure lounge.”
The automated campaign:
Targeting: Parking customers
Frequency – 1 per booking
Open rate: 62.8%
Click-through rate: 13.05%
“I absolutely adore all forms of automated email, because I think that anything we do to enhance the customer journey, no matter how subtle, is the best way to ensure that passengers keep coming back to the airport.”
Shaun Staff, Marketing Communications, RCA
One example of how automation is used for parking customers is an automated email that each car-park user receives the day after they've arrived back to Exeter. This type of ‘trigger’ campaign can be easily set up in your Rezcomm dashboard.
The campaign is used to up-sell car parking. The email offers 10% off the next booking for customers, acknowledges customers who bought any of the premium products and gives 10% off flights and holidays. This again pushes passengers towards the booking agent.
This is another email that gets particularly high stats and is really powerful in promoting travel and destinations to existing car parking customers and making sure they're turned into fliers.
It’s also valuable in building customer loyalty.
When a customer books parking, travel, or any other service through the airport website, they receive a series of entry plan emails. The customer goes on to have a nice experience at the airport, and is then greeted by the airport on their return home.
“If we look at the open rate and the click-through rate, they speak for themselves on this type of campaign.
“If, within that loyalty loop, you’re sending out valuable, non-intrusive content that presents real benefits such as a special offer, or even just some useful information, in my opinion, your airport will be the first place the customer will look next time they're going to travel. At the same time, if you’ve done a good job of promoting products and destinations as part of the customer journey, when the customer does travel again they will be well informed about their options and incentivised to spend money.”
Marketing to benefit airline partners
The final point to consider when designing your airport email marketing strategy, is the importance of finding a balance between pushing traffic into the Airport’s own OTA and promoting airlines. While this can be challenging, it is necessary for airports to fulfil their responsibility to their airlines, and to ensure that customers have the best possible experience.
RCA cherry-picks the most valuable content from the marketing messaging provided by its airlines. This helps with route promotion. Shaun’s work with the route development team helps him to understand what's most important to them in terms of new or distress routes. He then uses all of the promotional material available via every channel including email and social media.
This strategy is balanced by all of the automated email campaigns and the calendar route-awareness email marketing that goes directly to the CRM database. This drives traffic exclusively to the airport OTA.
This two-point approach ensures the best outcome for all parties.
Even small airports can get big results
The success that RCA is achieving with its email campaigns really does prove that small teams can do great things with the right tools.
While email ‘Travel’ campaigns provide the opportunity to raise awareness of routes and destinations, the Wi-Fi signup confirmation email is key to driving footfall into retail and food and beverage, effectively closing the loop on passenger experience in terms of added value.
Wi-Fi sign-up is a great way to incentivise people to join the email marketing list with a giveaway, special offer, or the chance to be involved in a VIP experience in the airport terminal, and it gives another chance to talk about travel and raise awareness of routes and destinations.
“It’s really exciting to see that all of that is working so well for RCA!”
Victoria Wallace, Director of Digital, Rezcomm
Rezcomm partners with airports worldwide to provide technology solutions and marketing support. If you would like to find out more about how our products can help you get the most from your resources and build customer loyalty and revenue with creative email campaigns, contact the team today.
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