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Direct mail vs. digital trends in travel marketing

Travel Marketing

When was the last time you paid full price for a break or holiday? Or didn’t at least do several cost comparisons? We’ve all become savvier at seeking out great value.

That luxury holiday with £500 off, those two free nights in paradise, that boutique hotel break which was such a snip you boasted about it for ages.  We take pride in discovering luxury for less.

All of this explains why there’s an ever increasing number of travel providers who play to this psychology (and the practical effect of an economy where we often have tastes beyond our means).

Secret Escapes is one such player, offering up to 70% off luxury escapes. You need to ‘join’ but this is free and in fact only requires provision of an email address. Effectively this is data-capture dressed up as a ‘club’; but of course the club connotations work well, making the consumer feel part of a privileged group receiving select offers. And this veneer of a ring-fenced audience works for the hoteliers too, allowing them to offload spare inventory without publicly discounting and potentially damaging the brand. Travelzoo is similar and so too are retail equivalents like Achica.  This is not a travel-only phenomenon.

This ability to cost effectively manage yield and capacity digitally might lead you to believe that offline communications like direct mail are as dead as dodo but that’s not yet the case.  Take a look at the month of January, traditionally the peak for travel bookings. Brochures are still in existence and not just to fulfill inbound requests; they are proactively direct mailed, most sensibly with previous, recent customers at the top of the picking list.

That said, Mr & Mrs Smith are still mailing out to folks who haven’t transacted in over 8 years, according to a colleague. Best at Travel whom I had booked with fairly recently sent a fairly uninspiring brochure but they’re trying. The simple act of direct mailing places these companies higher in our awareness than those who are doing only digital, undeniably. But direct mail is a pretty expensive way to achieve awareness only; it really does need to be ‘worked’ in order to deliver ROI but it is a beautifully accountable discipline when correctly conceived.

This is where companies like Park Resorts (with 41 coastal UK holiday parks) come into their own. While their product offering is anything but complicated, the direct marketing we deliver for them is complex and completely accountable. Our direct mail programme tests formats, offers, timing, follow ups and the effect of sophisticated matrix-driven 1-to-1 personalisation among different data sets year on year. So every year we know more. And we can secure more bookings from less budget. That’s the diametric opposite of diminishing returns!

Offline direct mail will remain a key device for delivering value for a long while yet, especially from previous and recent customers. But it needs to be planned properly, precision targeted and thoroughly analysed. Curate your company’s direct mail programme and you’ll have a faithful partner whose predictable behaviour you can count on while you experiment with newer social and online techniques.

Direct mail is the daddy and digital the kids. We all know that one day the kids will be ruling the roost but right now dad’s a sure bet for paying the bills.

Why not take a look at the work we do with Park Resorts which has dramatically increased bookings in a highly efficient way. 


Photo credit: Tom Godber