June 2, 2021 · Pete DiMaio

Hotel Email Insights: 3 Tests To Run Right Now and 3 Pitfalls To Avoid

Email Tips For Hotel Marketing

Email is quite likely the number one converting tool in your marketing toolbox.  If it’s not, you’ve got some work to do to hone your email collection, targeting, and messaging strategies.  Even if your email is already converting well, there is always room for improvement.  We’re going to review three email tests you can run right now as well as look at real world improvements.

Before we kick off the tests we suggest you run, the most important piece of advice is to always, and we mean always, be testing.  Never should an email be sent without some form of test to improve performance.

Hotel Email Marketing: Pitfalls to Avoid

Before kicking off your hotel’s email tests, let’s consider these three pitfalls you can avoid:

  1. 50/50 tests are dumb, don’t do them.  For example, you decide to do an A/B subject line test so you send half your database version A and half version B.  Why?  You did not create any actionable data.  The better approach is to test a sample size (say 30%) of your database with two subjects, and then after a set period of time, deliver the winning version to the remainder of the database.  In this example, you would have sent the best version to 85% of the database!
  2. Give your tests enough time to collect data. A very common mistake we see is running a test like the above but only giving it a few hours to collect data.  Ideally you would give any test a full 24 hours, however minimum you should give your test six hours to collect data.  Very often we’ll see one variant perform better out of the gate, but then the trend reverses once more data comes in.
  3. Focus on the right metrics. Beyond just measuring the effects of a test, it is always good to know what metrics matter.  The one metric that absolutely DOES NOT MATTER in email marketing is list size.  Depending on your tests you may be looking at open rate, click rate, conversion, or revenue generation. 

Three Email Tests For Your Hotel

Once you are aware of the potential email pitfalls we can dive into the testing.  One thing to consider is that your testing performance metrics will be different between your marketing/newsletter sends, triggered sends, and transactional sends.  

Subject Line Tests: 

The subject line test is the most basic of tests that you should be running.  If you are not testing something more complex on a send, then you need to be testing a subject line. Subject line tests are most effective for your marketing sends, considerably less important for transactional sends. 

  • Content variations: 
    • A simple subject line copy change can have massive improvements in email performance.  We typically see between a 5% and 20% increase in click rate when testing a subject line.  
    • This simple test resulted in a 7% increase in open rate.
      • Save 25% On your visit….
      • Myrtle Beach is open. Save 25% on your visit…
  • Emoji versus Nomoji: 
    • Just because you know how to add an emoji to your subject, doesn’t mean you should. In fact, depending on your audience this can be a significant detractor. From a completely anecdotal perspective, it appears that emojis work better for more value-based properties.
  • Personalization:
    • Yes, using a person’s first name in a subject line will help improve click rate.  Every time I have tested this it improves conversion rate.
    • However, there’s more to personalization than a name. Test incorporating other user attributes such as travel windows, room preferences, or other personalization in your subjects. 

Creative/Content Tests: 

While your subject lines will drive open rates, they won’t have an impact on your click rate.  If you want to improve your click rate, and revenue, you’ll want to test and optimize your content. Content testing can be more complex than a subject line test, but it is easy, and something that every hotelier can do.

  • Main graphic/promotion: 
    • Dollar discount versus Percentage 
    • Still graphic versus animated gif/video
    • Room versus lifestyle photography
  • Content topics:
    • Do offers drive engagement or articles/stories?

Delivery Tests: 

Beyond the message you are delivering when, how, and to whom you deliver the message to can have a massive impact on email performance.  First and foremost, the best way to optimize your delivery is to allow your guests to control the engagement via behavior based triggers.  If I engage an email at 3pm and you engage at 10pm, we should each get our emails at those times.  However if your system is not that advanced, we can always test manually.

  • Time of week and day
    • Don’t assume the best time to send a message is Tuesday, or never send on Friday.  Don’t assume it even matters at all.  Though we have found you can improve engagement by finding your delivery window sweet-spot… which is unique for your list.
    • This type of test is difficult to test with a segment of your list and can be more effective in testing across several sends with a few variations per send and then making a decision based on the data you collect.
  • List segmentation
    • Spray & pray with a giant list is rarely an effective strategy.  A much better solution is working to divide your list into specific segments and then testing sending different messages to each.
  • AI Based Email Optimization:
    • If you have an AI component of your email delivery platform, use it
    • The hardest lesson of this test is learning you’re not in control.  Letting the AI trigger your sends based on the data and your limiting parameters is the best path to an effective delivery strategy.

There are many, many more tests you can run but these three areas will help you find an improved conversion rate, more direct bookings, and more engaged & satisfied guests.

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