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On the beach email engagement campaigns

If you’ve not heard of On the Beach (OTB), then you may be familiar with their recent campaign and TV ad starring the one and only, Iggy Pop. 

Because life really is better on the beach, right?

We think so. That’s why we were excited to welcome OTB’s CRM Manager, Adam Zullo onto The Big Bright Podcast to chat with us about an extraordinary marketing campaign that he and his team executed during the pandemic.

As a CRM Manager, Adam deals with email, push SMS, direct mail and automation. He looks after customers and works with his marketing team to deliver the best messages to ensure new bookings and customer retention.

Check out the full episode on The Big Bright Podcast, or enjoy our short written summary below! 🏖️

 

You’ll learn:

The art of data capture - How does OTB collect information about customers that helps inform the types of messages they send out?

  • How OTB quickly changed their email strategy as borders were closing

  • How did OTB dramatically increase their email-open rates for marketing emails?

  • What challenges can marketers expect as we emerge from the pandemic?

  • Four tips for marketers looking to increase email open rates

The art of data capture - How does OTB collect information about customers that helps inform the types of messages they send out?


The CRM team at OTB receives the bulk of their data from either a booking or by identifying what a user is actually doing on the website.

Adam says, “If a customer is identifiable, I can see what they are looking at. This can be anything from hotels, the board basis, where they are flying from, where they are flying to or the number of days they are travelling. Once this data is received, it’s then attached to a user's profile - sometimes called a single customer view - and content and email messages can be personalised accordingly.”

Due to data privacy and OTB’s relatively small marketing team, they only tend to send content to the most engaged segments. However, this behavioural data can be used to create smaller segments that the team may interact with.


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How OTB quickly changed their email strategy as borders were closing

You may remember that it felt as though everything changed overnight. For the CRM team at OTB, they simply had to stop sending marketing emails. Instead, they jumped straight into helping out the contact centre and advising customers on what to do if they were stuck abroad or had an upcoming holiday planned. In this case, the best advice was to head straight to the airports before countries closed their borders.

“Because we stopped sending marketing emails, we started becoming more at one with our service communications which saw open rates in excess of 90%.

From this, we noticed that plain text emails that some people often reserve for post-purchase questionnaires and privacy policy updates were seeing a huge spike in opens.”

The reason? They were landing in different mailboxes.

Adam says that when you send a plain text email, it can usually end up in a primary inbox rather than a promotions inbox - which you’ll see particularly on Gmail - and because of this, it meant that OTB got higher opens. The more that someone opens an email, and the safer it is, the higher up in someone's mailbox you're likely to get and less likely in spam. That was fantastic for OTB’s reputation - these were emails that people really wanted to read.

“We also learned that emails with the word ‘important’ in the subject lines would get a higher open rate. So we took those learnings into our marketing plans.”

How did OTB dramatically increase their email-open rates for marketing emails?

Adam admits that he and the team got their strategy a little wrong. “We stopped sending our holiday booking content and switched to content which we thought would increase engagement. So that was informative destination-related emails looking to target users who have either been or were showing interest in that destination.”

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Using behavioral data including search abandonment data, the team created personalised emails targeted at these users, rather than broadcast messaging. Adam found that although this content was really engaging for those who had been on-site, it wasn't engaging enough to retain those who have not opened in a long time.

“So, we had to change our plan to keep our active users active… bearing in mind we weren’t actively selling holidays at this time.”

Adam’s team took learnings from the service emails and sent timely marketing emails that landed in primary inboxes. They sent plain-text, government updates to keep people informed. What’s more, they told the public that OTB wouldn’t be selling any holidays whatsoever - not even for early 2021 - because borders were constantly opening and shutting again. This means that customers were never put in a difficult situation.

This ultimately built a high level of trust, meaning OTB were seeing open rates in excess of 40% on their active list. On inactive lists, (who were people who had not been engaged with the site for over 12 months) they saw open rates of 20%.

“This allowed us to reactivate and re-engage our customers and to increase our active engagement by around 53% over around three weeks!”

What challenges can marketers expect as we emerge from the pandemic?

One of the biggest challenges that Adam foresees is the new Apple iOS 15 update. Anyone who downloads the new update will be presented with an option on Apple Mail asking whether a user wants to protect themself or not protect themself.

If they select protect, that'll mean that anyone who uses an ESP (email service provider) will no longer be able to see if they didn't open an email. So, as a marketer, when you send an email and you see someone has this privacy setting enabled, you may assume that they’ve opened your email.

This is a huge problem because if your email segmentation is based on opens it means that users will start receiving more emails rather than fewer.

“If marketers don't adapt to this, they'll actually start seeing higher unsubscribe rates and send time optimization issues. I imagine we'll also see less personal communications and people may receive the wrong messages on the wrong channels.”

Four tips for marketers looking to increase email open rates

If you’re looking for tried and tested tips to increase email open rates, Adam really knows his stuff:
Don’t panic - the last 18-months have been a rollercoaster. If you see engagement drop off, trust that they will come back over time. So make sure to send out the right messaging when the time is right.
Plan-text emails - as Adam told us, plain-text emails give you a better chance of landing in a primary inbox over a promotions box.

Test, test and test again - You won’t know what’s working unless you’re testing different types of email and messaging. Just be careful this doesn’t increase unsubscribes too!

Personalisation - We hear it all the time, but it really is important. Personalisation is key because it shows you understand your customers. If you’re looking for more tips on this, check out our (blog post + link).

If you want to find out more about On the Beach, head over to their website and fall in love with all of the beautiful beach holidays on offer.

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You can also discover more podcasts about the world of marketing, tech, and company culture via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Vurbl.

Interviewer: Amy Burchill 
Guest speaker: Adam Zullo 
Podcast produced by Let’s Talk Video Productions

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