Lodging, travel agency, and services companies scored 12th among 18 industries in their email marketing open rates, according to a new IBM Marketing Cloud study.

That renders these travel companies among the most ineffective when considering higher-performing industries, including automobiles, banks, computer hardware and telecommunications, computer software, and consumer products, for example.

IBM’s digital marketing arm studied email messages earlier this year sent by 750 companies representing 3,000 brands in 40 countries. Email types such as promotional emails, content-based newsletters, notifications and transactional messages were part of the study. Travel brands that participated in the study included hotels, travel agencies (both online and brick and mortar) and cruise lines. All were IBM Marketing Cloud clients.

The study found that emails sent by lodging companies, travel agencies and cruise lines had an average unique open rate, or the percentage of emails actually opened, of 22.7 percent. That’s lower than 11 of the 18 industries in the study, which also included finance, healthcare, insurance and education (see Chart 1 below).

Why Does Email Marketing in Travel Perform So Poorly?

IBM Marketing Cloud points out that travel’s low open rates relate to the frequency of sending emails. Some travel companies in the study sent multiple emails per day, which would require more time to open and can be annoying.

Lodging, travel agencies and cruise lines’ average click-through-rate, or the percentage of emails that drew at least one click, was the second lowest (2.4 percent) of all 18 industries studied. The median click-through-rate was 1.3 percent, a significant drop from previous years, according to the study.

Travel Brands’ Email Marketing Missteps

Whatever these hotels, cruise lines, booking site,s and traditional travel agencies are putting in their emails isn’t resonating with travelers.

Travel was also about in the middle on the spectrum of highest average unsubscribe and complaint rates, ranking nine out of 18 and eight out of 18 industries, respectively. The complaint rates concerning the percentage of emails that generate a spam alert from travelers.

If mobile is increasingly important, travel brands still have to play catch-up. Some 13 of the 18 industries analyzed reported higher rates of mobile open rates — the percentage of opened emails that were done on a mobile device — than the travel sector, although hotels, travel agents and cruise lines ranked second for average webmail open rate behind only banks and financial services.

Chart 1: Lodging, travel agent and cruise line companies’ average unique open rate of 22.7 percent (ranked 7 out of 18 industries) is among the lowest of most global industries.

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Chart 2: Average click-through-rates for travel brands analyzed is the second lowest of all industries studied (2.4 percent and tied for the lowest ranking of 18 industries).

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Chart 3: Lodging, travel agents, and cruise lines also have some of the average lowest click-to-open rates, or the percentage of emails that got clicks (9.2 percent, with the lowest ranking of 18 industries for average click-to-open rates).

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Chart 4: The travel industry is in the middle of the pack with its average unsubscribe rate (0.176 percent, ranking nine out of 18 industries) when considering all global industries with email marketing campaigns.

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Chart 5: At an 0.026 percent average complaint rate, lodging, travel agents and cruise lines are on the higher end of average complaint rates. This ranks travel at eight out of 18 industries part of the study.

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Source: IBM Marketing Cloud

Photo Credit: Hotel, travel agent and cruise line companies part of a recent study said 41 percent of their opened emails take place on a mobile device.