How Hospitality E-mail Marketing Drives Loyalty and Lifetime Value

Direct E-mail Marketing Services I Hospitality E-mail Marketing I iPost

Online hotel booking through third party carriers is a significant growth sector in the hospitality industry, and is steadily gaining share against other booking options, including traditional travel agents and direct calls to specific hotels. With these online booking services offering a plethora of choices along with detailed reviews and price comparison tools, it’s hardly surprising that consumers are flocking to these sites in droves.  How can hotels leverage hospitality e-mail marketing to keep their customers engaged and in the fold?

Leverage Loyalty Programs

The best way to keep your high-value guests in the fold is to reward them for their loyalty.  Hotel marketing programs that offer high-value enticements – things like free nights and discount activity packages – can be very impactful, and e-mail campaigns present a cost effective and efficient way to successfully execute these programs.

The key to successful implementation lies in understanding the behavioral patterns of your loyalty program members. For instance, if you have a business traveler member that reliably books a room every Wednesday and Thursday night, you can set up an email trigger whereby if next week’s reservation isn’t booked, an email offer for discounted spa services is automatically issued.

This keeps you top of mind, and shows your guests that you value their business.

Improve Segmentation

Many hotels view their customer segments as two distinct buckets – business travelers and leisure travelers – and construct their hotel marketing programs accordingly. However, if you can track your customers’ behavior patterns and browsing history, you’ll find a treasure trove of nuances that will provide you with valuable insight beyond the surface.

For instance, if you discover that a guest that regularly books single weeknight stays is on your site searching for accommodations for four over a weekend, you can glean from this behavior that the guest fits into both categories – business and leisure – and tailor your email offers accordingly.

Deliver Better, More Targeted Promotions and Offers

A valuable offer is predicated on two key pillars – relevancy and timeliness. Put simply, hospitality providers need to be able to anticipate what their customers need and when they need it. If a customer is browsing your site to book accommodations for Memorial Day weekend, an offer sent in June misses the critical window of opportunity.  Similarly, if you’re offering tourism packages to guests who have booked a single weeknight stay – likely business travelers – your offer won’t resonate.

Leveraging email marketing software, hospitality providers can track behavior and detect patterns to construct valuable, highly targeted offers that perform.  The secret is the continuous enrichment of customer profiles, because the better you understand them and can predict what they want and need, the better you can serve them.  And if you serve them well, they will be loyal.

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Posted in Email Marketing

OpenSSL vulnerability “Heartbleed” – iMM users not affected

Heartbleed Recently, a commonly-used security software library called OpenSSL was found by security researchers to have a serious bug.  This bug caused a vulnerability, known as Heartbleed, that could expose passwords and secret keys to attackers across millions of websites that use OpenSSL. Fortunately for our iMM users, iPost’s systems do not use a version of OpenSSL that is vulnerable to Heartbleed, and there has been no compromise of our users’ or corporate information.  If you’re an iMM user, you don’t need to take any action at this time, and your data is still secure with iPost. Many websites, including popular services like Yahoo, are (or have recently been) vulnerable to Heartbleed.  We recommend that you change your passwords and other security credentials at these services and check that services you use are no longer vulnerable.  If your own websites use OpenSSL, check them as well.  Here’s a service you can use to check  websites for the vulnerability:  Heartbleed test.
Posted in Data Security, Email Marketing

Why E-Commerce Personalization Pays Off In Spades

Direct Email Marketing Services Blog I ecommerce personalization I iPost E-commerce is a well-established and entrenched sector that has fundamentally shifted the paradigm of the retail industry. Its benefits over traditional retail are numerous and significant – shoppers save time and gas, avoid crowds, and can quickly and easily compare prices and offerings from the comfort of their homes. While brick and mortar stores have traditionally differentiated on experiential elements including personal service to build customer affinity and loyalty, savvy online retailers have risen to the challenge and incorporated e-commerce personalization.

As shoppers become increasingly comfortable with sharing personal information with brands and trusted online retailers, the opportunity to deliver personalized customer experiences grows exponentially. How can e-commerce providers deliver this value?

It starts by identifying what customers want and builds with the ability to deliver what they need within the critical window of opportunity.

By tracking behavioral patterns and browsing history, online retailers can construct rich user profiles to create highly refined segments and valuable offers that feel personalized. For instance, if a shopper has recently visited the site and browsed women’s sandals, an email offer featuring a discount on sandals will be perceived as relevant, valuable and timely.

E-commerce personalization opportunities, however, extend beyond tracking browsing history and creating highly targeted customer segments. Email trigger programs can identify when individual shoppers have reached a critical stage in the purchasing cycle and automate offers to entice them to complete the transaction. For instance, if a customer has browsed the site and added items to the shopping cart and then left the site, a trigger program will automatically generate an email to that customer enticing them to revisit their shopping cart and complete the purchase.

Email triggers can also enhance the customer care experience. If a prospect has registered with an e-commerce site, a trigger program can automate a “welcome” email that greets and thanks a new customer and highlights the benefits achieved through registering. This seals the newly forged personal connection between you and your customer and helps build affinity while your brand is still top-of mind.

The benefits that e-commerce personalization delivers to online retailers are three-fold.

First, by better understanding what customers want and need through behavior tracking and browsing history, online marketers can create more refined, targeted segments. Second, the ability to identify customers at critical stages of the purchasing cycle and sending triggered, automated email messages to spur conversion during the window of opportunity when the customer is still interested translates directly into incremental revenue. Third, by automating your site’s “welcome” to a new customer through a registration trigger, you have built affinity and established your relationship with that customer.

The beauty of automation is that once it’s set-up, it runs itself. You not only deliver a better customer experience but also directly increase revenue. Essentially, e-commerce personalization pays off in spades.
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Posted in Email Marketing

Reaping the Benefits of Electronic Receipts Requires Protecting Your Retail Customers from Breach

Secured Document Delivery I Electronic Receipts I Armored EnvoyThe ability to offer shoppers electronic receipts in lieu of the printed variety offers a wide host of advantages to retailers and customers alike.  Retailers not only save money and lessen their environmental impact but also capture customer email addresses which – individually – can be worth hundreds of dollars in direct marketing value.  For customers, the convenience of electronic receipts can’t be beat – there’s no paper mess to sort and file, and there’s a digital record safely stored in your email inbox that can’t be accidentally tossed with a stack of junk mail.

While the advantages of issuing electronic receipts are significant for both retailers and customers, it’s not without risk. There’s the risk that the email address is entered incorrectly and customers never receive the receipt, and there’s the risk that the correspondence is filtered and lands in the junk folder.  However, the most significant risk from a customer’s point of view is fraud.

When customers opt to receive e-receipts, it’s critically important for retailers to be equipped to issue them safely and securely.  Retailers can’t expect customers to assume the risk associated with email transmission of electronic receipts – and, if electronic receipts are issued via unencrypted email, customers are vulnerable to phishing scams and identity theft.

With hackers refining their fleecing methods as quickly as data security providers are innovating, the onus is on the customer to be vigilant and careful.  Most folks are familiar with phishing scams, and many phishing scams are easy to spot.  However, if you’ve recently conducted a transaction with a customer and have issued an e-receipt, you are top of mind.  So, when a scammer hijacks your system and sends your customer a bogus email requesting “confirmation” around data associated with the transaction they’ve just conducted, they are easily lulled into a false sense of security because the correspondence feels logical and legitimate. And then they’re fleeced.

How do you as a retailer stay one step ahead? 

You implement an email encryption solution to ensure that your transmission of sensitive information to your customer is protected from breach. It’s also critically important that your customer trust that the email that they have received from you was in fact sent by you – sender authentication capabilities are key. 

It’s all about instilling confidence in your customers that electronic receipts are safe and secure. It’s more ecologically sound and cost effective for you, and it’s more convenient for them. If you’re going to issue electronic receipts, however, they must be delivered through encrypted email to protect your customers.  And, if your solution doesn’t include simple, straightforward sender authentication features, your customers won’t feel confident that you are who you say you are. Electronic receipts are a win-win – it’s good for retailers, and it’s good for customers.  The key is putting the solution in place that protects customers from breach. 
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Posted in Email Marketing, Secure Email and Document Delivery

An Introspective Customer Journey in a Successful Email Marketing Program

Instrospective Customer Journey

At iPost we take pride in our ability to guide customers on how to drive meaningful email marketing campaigns.  Over the years we have had the pleasure of working with some truly terrific marketers and brands. Just recently I worked closely with a well known brand that has been an iPost customer for over four years.  After the completion of a complex integration project they provided some meaningful feedback as to why they thought their program with us had been so successful.  I learned a lot from this, so in the spirit of helping others drive their campaigns to a higher level, I am going to share the highlights.

Marketing is Powered by People and Technology

During their initial on boarding conversations, they let us know that the main reason they had left their last provider mostly centered around lack of delivery visibility, segmentation capabilities, and email marketing expertise.  This customer had great products that were perfect for email marketing, but they couldn’t get the program were it needed to be. They stressed that even though the product they had been using could technically meet some of the requirements, they always felt like whenever they inquired about making the system better integrate with their other corporate tools, they would either get the run around or pointed to the standard integrations.  As we probed, it became clear that this client had great plans for their email marketing program, but had never really taken it all way and their program was unfortunately suffering from it.  This was particularly interesting as their last provider had a dedicated account management program and yet they rarely felt compelled to speak to the them as it simply wasn’t a fluid relationship.  They complained that they did not understand their business and did not feel like they had a partner supporting their needs.

Integration to your system is key

From the moment that this client engaged us, we created two buckets.  The first was the things needed to get done to get the first mailing campaign up and running.  The second was a list of all the areas they had always wanted to improve – segmentation that matched their various marketing channels and one-to-one marketing of their products without programming work on their end. All they had to do was supply the data. The program was so successful that the response overwhelmed their back-end servers and it was necessary for them to perform major upgrades before resuming. In addition, we helped put together a beautiful and functional two-stage preference center, integrated with their Google Analytics application, and trained them to create focused campaign segments. This process allowed both the client and us to get to know each other.  In a matter of weeks, we would get a crash course on the customers’ business while they would get to propose every idea they ever had about how they would like to run their campaigns and get a feasibility answers right away.

Be willing to pay money

As you can imagine, this work required intense effort to get going and it was not free.   The economy was tight and there was not a lot of extra budget laying around.  This one was a struggle for the client and we were as accommodating as possible.  Interestingly, as we progressed through the list and the client started seeing their campaigns increase in ROI, this hurdle became less of an issue.  Unfortunately, many companies never actually even start because they run into budgeting issues which then don’t allow the programs to be ultimately successful.

Express your pain

Even after we took care of the first and second category buckets, other things would come up.  In a recent conversation I had with this client she said that the one thing that had happened over time is that trust had been built and they felt that they could ask for anything.  It’s true that a great relationship has been built.  In fact, in order for us to do our job, we actually need for people to feel free to ask for help.  That is what we are here for.

Expand your relationships

I have primary responsibility for this client.  That said, there are many others that they interact with.  From operations to accounting to product, we all play our unique role. Through the years they have gotten to know a few of us on a first name basis, including iPost’s founders – they know we will treat their business like it is ours.
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Posted in Email Marketing

Stumbling Through Secure Document Transmission

Over on the ArmoredEnvoy blog, Luis Rivera had some interesting things to say about the problems of passing data securely through email. I thought it was worth repeating. Here is Luis (reproduced with permission):
Over the years we have all grown accustomed to email – we use it not only to communicate with friends and family but also to conduct business with service providers ranging from our bank, insurer, mortgage broker, and doctor because it’s fast, easy and convenient. And it’s equally beneficial to service providers – it’s a cost effective, efficient and ecologically sound method of communication. With large-scale data security breaches occurring across industries, companies – and consumers – have become highly skeptical about the safety of transmitting confidential documents electronically.  What are the top three stumbling blocks?

Unencrypted Attachments

In the rush to digitize everything, data security is far too often an afterthought.  Consumers want and expect to be able to communicate and receive documents electronically from service providers.  And providers want to be able to offer this capability because it improves not only the quality of the customer experience but also operational efficiency. The problem is that most companies across industries lack the email encryption capabilities they need to safely and securely send confidential documents to their customers.  So, they either disclaim responsibility for data security and send unencrypted attachments or resort to snail mail.

Sender Authentication

Most of us are familiar with phishing scams and viruses and know better than to open attachments, click links or provide personal information when we don’t recognize the sender.  However, these schemes have become increasingly sophisticated – perpetrators masquerade as legitimate senders familiar to recipients.  How can a customer be sure that the communication that they received from their bank is legitimate?  The answer is that they can’t be sure unless they can authenticate the sender with certainty.

Secure Document Retrieval

While companies can put protocols in place around email encryption and sender authentication, these measures aren’t terribly useful unless users can easily and confidently access and retrieve the sent document.  The problem is that most email encryption and authentication tools require that the recipient download software to access the sent files – a time consuming, cumbersome and annoying process.  What happens when recipients are faced with this hurdle?  The reality is that many will decide they can’t be bothered and abandon the document retrieval process. Technological innovation around safe transmission and retrieval of documents via email has not kept up with market demands – there is a clear gap between what both consumers and companies want and need with respect to this capability and what’s currently available on the solution side. By successfully overcoming these obstacles, companies save time and money, minimize their ecological footprint, and improve customer experience management.  
Posted in Data Breaches, Data Security, Secure Content Management, Secure Email and Document Delivery, Uncategorized

Have you over-emphasized mobile marketing?

At the RSA Conference last week I attended a session on social engineering techniques used by phishers.  The theme of the talk was “everybody clicks”:  even the most technologically sophisticated person will eventually miss the warning signs and follow a link they find interesting enough. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with mobile marketing.  No, I am not here to suggest that you try to scam your customers into ordering something they didn’t mean to buy.  Rather, I want to examine some of the analysis done by these security professionals to get insight into the behavior of email recipients, because there may be some clues there that aren’t revealed in the marketing data we see every day. Two details jumped out at me from the security report:
  1. There is a “long tail” of clicks on links in email messages.  As many as 1 in 5 people who receive an email during the day wait to click on it until they are at home in the evening, and about 1 in 15 recipients are still clicking through a month later. 7% of clicks are more than 30 days after receiptThe “Long Tail” of Email Click-Through
  2. Although an estimated 65% of initial views of email now occurs on some kind of mobile device, 90% of clicks come from a desktop or laptop computer.
This suggests that, although marketing email should be attractive and memorable when viewed on a mobile device, you should not sacrifice the traditional browser experience to focus on mobile interactions.  If you have both mobile and traditional versions of your website, don’t pigeonhole your customer into one or the other based on the first interaction with your email.  And if you’ve been neglecting your traditional website or designing your email only for those mobile devices, you might want to think again. Marketing for mobile devices is important and indications are that it continues to grow … but don’t forget the rest of your customers in a rush to embrace a new crowd.
Posted in digital marketing, Email Marketing

Gmail is now caching images, but iMM users need not worry

Gmail recently started caching one copy of an image in email messages and serving it to multiple Gmail users.  This only affects Gmail users who use Gmail’s web interface or Gmail apps – IMAP users are not affected.  Here’s what will and won’t change for iMM users as a results of this new Gmail behavior. The iMM’s response counts for unique views won’t be affected, since each email recipient gets their own unique image source URL. Gmail may cache that image if it likes, but it won’t prevent the image from being loaded at least once for each recipient. Since the image will be loaded through Gmail’s cache-fetch system, the IP address and email platform of some Gmail recipients will appear to be Google’s data centers, rather than their actual location and platform. Multiple (nonunique) view reports may be affected, such as the “Raw HTML View report.”  This kind report has been subject to email client caching since HTML email was invented, so there’ll be no new behavior resulting from this Gmail change.  Most iMM reports are based on the unique view count, so this will have little effect on iMM users. Click tracking won’t be affected at all.  Location, IP address, platform, and number of interactions will all continue to be tracked and reported accurately.
Posted in Email Marketing

New features in the iMM, December 10, 2013

Announcing great new features in the iPost Mailing Manager™ (iMM™).  We’re particularly excited about the new GFH transact capability for storing purchase data from our customers’ websites and fulfillment systems for use in list targeting.  It’s easy and highly effective behavioral marketing!

For full details of this release, see New Features in the iMM.

GFH transact: target with purchase data

Customer transaction data, such as purchase info, can now be logged to your iMM database and used for email list targeting.  See the documentation for GFH transact for more information.

Mobile content

We’ve added support for a default set of mobile-optimized documents in Assets > Gallery.   For help on creating and sending mobile email, see these two documents:

iMM How-To: Deliver mobile content

iMM How-To: Mobile email content

Happy Holidays 2013 from the iPost Team!

Posted in Email Marketing