Three Insights from Holiday Travel Emails

Posted by Julia Peavy 

Like many, I traveled with my family over the holidays. Because the holiday season means traveling for many, I was interested to see how travel companies emails performed during the month of December. Using data from Return Path’s Inbox Insight product for airlines, online travel companies, and cruise lines, I was able to get a feeling for the email landscape in the month of December for the travel industry.

During this timeframe, the overall read rate for these travel related emails was just over 15%. This was on par with the read rate for shopping emails sent during the month of December. However, travel emails were 57% less likely to be placed in the spam folder than shopping emails. Does the increased frequency for retail emails during the month of December potentially lead to more emails landing in the spam folder?

Going on "Holiday"

When looking at subject lines that included specific words, we saw an 8% increase in read rates for subject lines that included the word "holiday" during the December timeframe. These emails included holiday offers as well as holiday greeting emails. The emails with "holiday" in the subject line were marked as spam almost half as much as emails without "holiday" in the subject line.

For senders that segment their campaigns, we saw higher read rates for emails that were stand-alone holiday greeting emails. However, senders that don't regularly target their campaigns or segment their audiences, holiday greeting emails performed no better than their standard blast campaigns.

Key Takeaway: Review any holiday specific campaigns and creative and compare them against your standard campaigns. What campaigns performed well? What campaigns performed poorly? Did you send a stand-alone holiday greeting email? If so, how did it perform? Did it add value to your email program or was it just "another email" in your subscribers' inbox? 

"Award" Season

Not surprisingly, we saw a handful of emails in December that promoted earning or using an "award."  Like emails that that included "holiday" in their subject line, emails with "award" in the subject line had higher read rates and lower ISP-marked spam rates.  Given it was the holiday season, it appeared that subscribers were open to viewing emails that presented opportunities to use their awards for purchasing gifts or earning more awards through their purchases. 

Key Takeaway: Pay close attention to seasonality and your email campaigns. Did certain campaign types flourish around certain holidays while remaining stagnant at other times of the year? Take time at the beginning of the year to analyze your program and ensure your emails are working hard for you at the right time.

Let's Make a "Deal"

While everyone loves a good deal, apparently the use of the word "deal" was not as successful for these travel emails. The read rate for emails with "deal" in the subject line were read almost a 1/3 less than emails without  the word "deal" included.  While the read rate was less, the messages were less likely to be marked as spam.

Key Takeaway: If you have a deal for your subscribers, do you need to tell them it is a deal? If the deal is good enough, is that enough for your audience? If everyone is using a specific word, should you use it in your subject lines or go another direction to stand out from the crowd? Continue to test subject lines to determine what works best for your offer/deal and audience.


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About Julia Peavy

Julia Peavy is currently the Director of Partner Services at Return Path. In this role, Julia is responsible for supporting Return Path’s partners and helping improve the client experience through consistent, quality, and scalable services. When Julia's not helping partners and their clients, you can find her on the slopes, trying to lower her handicap, looking for bargains, or watching one of her boys' many sporting events.

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