The January sales period is an important time for many brands, none more so than travel firms looking to cash in on consumers’ post-Christmas hangovers and urge to avoid the long nights and cold weather.
Virgin Holidays is no exception. The January sale period accounts for a third of the travel firm’s income as consumers look to beat the January blues. But with Brexit uncertainty putting the dampeners on Brits’ long-haul travel plans, the company realised it was time to give its email marketing strategy an overhaul.
The brand hadn’t invested much in email for a number of years, which meant it had settled for achieving the same results each year. However, it had a new goal for January 2018 – to drive 50% more customers into store and increase revenue by 30% compared to the previous year.
In order to do so, Virgin Holidays knew it needed to avoid being salesy so decided instead to focus on what it believes is its key differentiator – customer experience. Rather than focusing on price and treating the sale as a chance to flog its low-hanging fruit, Virgin Holidays chose to focus on personalisation and make searching and booking a holiday part of the experience.
To outperform the competition, email became its most important channel. Working with Proximity London, the company identified what it calls the ‘five moments of maximum opportunity’, using data and human insight to tie in with deals that would help consumers from November, when searching begins, through to purchase in January. The resulting activity took home the prize for email marketing at this year’s Marketing Week Masters Awards.
These moments included offering customers the chance to win their dream trip by sharing a competition with friends, which also helped boost its email base in time for the sale; offering tailored in-store experiences and variable rewards; and sending out sneak peaks of relevant destinations ahead of the sale.
Virgin Holidays partnered with Phrasee and used AI to drive greater reach by crafting subject lines that were most likely to resonate with its audience. Emails were also delivered through several algorithms so every member of its user base received emails with unique send times and destinations depending on their interests. It also prioritised those with high engagement rates for more content-led emails.
Keeping emails relevant and individualising delivery helped the travel firm achieve 70% more email opens and 65% more clicks than the previous year’s sale activity.
Perhaps most significantly, Virgin Holidays was able to bring in 49% more revenue than the previous year, dwarfing its target of 30%. That means £17.3m of revenue can be directly linked to the email campaign.