Last week we launched the latest report in our Skift Trends series, Inbox Strategies: The State of E-Mail Marketing in the Travel Industry.

Below is an extract. Get the full report here to get ahead of this trend.

The impetus to find fresh ways of reaching the consumer’s inbox is strong in the travel industry. Travel brands are embracing best practices surrounding e-mail and marketing strategies continue to mature. The present and future of e-mail is increasingly personal, targeted, and catered to time, place, and circumstance.

“Platforms are making it a lot easier for companies to get down to that goal of one-to-one type of communication,” said Lauren Fisher, an analyst at eMarketer, in a phone interview. “There aren’t very many out there using that old strategy of spray-and-pray, anymore … they’ve gotten to the level where they have a good idea of how to segment their audiences as well as speak to general populations.”

That kind of control, across industries, is driving results. Travel commands a significant portion of the overall open rates in North America.

With its finger on the pulse of e-mail recipients in the desktop device space, travel’s place in the mobile world is also on par with recent statistics showing open rates growing within that newer device segment.

“Southwest has steadily seen an uptick in mobile adoption by our customers,” said Lisa Hingson, senior manager of Customer Communications at the airline, in an e-mail interview. “It’s a key area of investment for us. As more subscribers view our e-mails on a mobile device, we continually fine tune our content and design strategy to adapt to preferences.”

It is a milieu still developing for travel brands. Overall, mobile open rates only passed the 30% mark in 2012, and travel is tracking along with that at 32%. Evidence that travel’s effectiveness at mobile open rates is growing, quarter to quarter, is apparent in the chart below.

Source: eMarketer: “Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2014—How Do You Stack Up?” (2014)

Source: eMarketer: “Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2014—How Do You Stack Up?” (2014)

At an incremental but steady pace, mobile open rates are on the rise. That doesn’t mean that all e-mail marketing challenges have been solved. The mobile space is still an environment where brands can get it wrong.

“I think people in marketing understand how important mobile is to e-mail,” Fisher said. “Conceptually people get that, but I think there are still a lot of companies, in general, where people are struggling to optimize their e-mail accordingly … you’re still seeing companies that aren’t using responsive design — basic things that they’re not doing to account for that mobile experience.”

Responsive design, meaning web design that correctly sizes and arranges itself to account for the screens on which it’s viewed, is a critical factor in successful mobile e-mail marketing, circa 2015. When subscribers who’ve opted-in to a list receive e-mails not optimized for their mobile devices, the results can hurt brands. Consumers delete or unsubscribe un-optimized content — 44.5% of them total, according to the chart above. A key detail, then, is that brands must be able to ascertain how, where, and on what devices they’re reaching subscribers.

Airlines such as Southwest are deeply involved in refining attribution models along these lines. In the course of one recent campaign, started in 2013, the brand saw significant increases in shopping and conversions via tablet.

“Attribution models are helping in better understanding how mobile advertising is contributing along with advertising to the final sale in the campaign,” Kevin Krone, chief marketing officer at Southwest, told Eye For Travel.

From there, strong brand strategy is about creating campaigns that take new measurements into account, and then it’s about crafting a responsive effort in proportion to what its travelers are doing in the digital space.

Read the Full Report

Photo Credit: Southwest wants to know where its users are seeing its emails. Skift