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With social media marketing booming, email might look like a dying medium for growing your business.  However, Email Marketing still reigns supreme for business growth in small to midsize businesses (SMB’s).

80% of SMBs today rely on email marketing as a primary channel toward customer acquisition and retention. SMB’s are not alone either. Many large businesses profit immensely from Email Marketing, too. Probably because it’s cheap, personal and engaging.

TripAdvisor, a company that provides hotel and restaurant reviews, accommodation bookings and other travel content, relies heavily on its users for success. Due to the company’s reliance on user engagement and its huge number of users, TripAdvisor had to beef up its Email Marketing strategy to focus on retention. Thus, the company analyzed thousands of statistics and trends in its website and created deeply personalized pathways for its emails to take. The company basically created a “choose your own adventure” email chain based on each user’s activity on the site. This concrete analytical approach to Email Marketing limited guesswork and increased conversion.

Without personalization, emails go straight to Email Marketing Hell (The Spam Folder). People don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed to. Businesses should be providing a cordial relationship with a “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” mentality. TripAdvisor is no stranger to personalization. They act as a conditional friend.

Here’s where the “condition” comes in. TripAdvisor wants its users to participate. TripAdvisor is that friend who doesn’t like to be “ghosted” or ignored. They strive to be relatable. They care, and they want to know that you do, too. So, every email from TripAdvisor contains well-placed and cleverly crafted CTAs (Calls to Action). With TripAdvisor, a CTA is always within reach. TripAdvisor isn’t needy. They just want some attention.

With this foundation in mind, here’s a quick look at TripAdvisor’s basic email strategy.

GUESSTIMATIONS

First, TripAdvisor’s emails function as a means to turn their new subscribers into ‘Users’. They don’t want lackadaisical users. They want people who regularly use the resources of TripAdvisor. They want RETENTION.

Thus, the company sends “feeler” emails to new users with flight and hotel suggestions based on the users’ perceived homes using tracking tools such as Mixpanel or Google Analytics. If they can get the user to the website, then they can track the user’s interests. If they can do this, then they can correctly suggest places to go. First impressions have a significant impact on user retention.

\If users don’t bite, TripAdvisor sends “Shiny Object” Emails with stunning views, award winning resorts, and cheap flights. Normally, they are able to convert these shiny objects into personalized emails with suggestions.

The more TripAdvisor knows about an individual user’s interests, the more they can specifically tailor offers to the user. Sometimes, they even send promotional emails with a unique price drop exclusively for them in an attempt to close a sale.

ABANDONMENT

Abandonment emails are considered some of the most statistically successful email types. It is easy to window shop online. According to Shopify, 67.45% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the customer completes a sale. This statistic is problematic for a company like TripAdvisor because they aren’t selling a traditional product. They don’t need sales. They need engagement.

In an era with thousands competing for our attention, it’s easy to forget the sites we’ve already visited. Thus, companies send reminders to their users to finish that purchase or task. According to Experian, customers are 2.4x more likely to complete a cart purchase after receiving automated abandoned cart emails.

TripAdvisor doesn’t necessarily have a cart but they know what users have been searching for, so they send suggestions based on their history. It’s simple. Sometimes, TripAdvisor will even mask abandonment emails in a newsletter format, allowing them to send the same information from a fresh lens.

 SOCIAL PRESSURE

TripAdvisor needs reviews. The more reviews, the better. Once they receive a user’s email, they start pushing for reviews. Research from PowerReviews revealed that up to 80% of reviews originate from follow-up emails urging shoppers to review their purchases. TripAdvisor takes this to the next level.

Instead of framing their CTA as the company’s need, TripAdvisor frames their request for ‘reviews’ as a social obligation. They send an email showing reviews from Facebook friends. According to a survey by Fan & Fuel digital marketing group, 97% of consumers say reviews influence their buying decisions. So, it makes sense that TripAdvisor’s CTA to reciprocate is effective. Their friends are counting on them. It becomes the user’s self-interest to review their experiences on TripAdvisor.

At first, users might feel like the act of reviewing their experiences is a burden, but once they do it, users feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. It just takes a little push.

FIRST REVIEW

TripAdvisor pushes a milestone culture. Everyone loves records, trophies, shout outs, etc. TripAdvisor does a great job at validating and encouraging their users with mini-celebrations. After a user’s first review, TripAdvisor sends them a congratulatory email with a link to review three more experiences that the user may have done.

Once the review is accepted and officially published, they send another email with a link to the review. Users are likely to check out their reviews because it feels good to complete a duty and help others. Attention also feels great. Engagement leads to retention. Rosetta Consulting found engaged consumers are 5 times more likely to buy only from the same brand in the future.

THE TWO-TIMER

TripAdvisor also sends a second email the same day as their “posted” email encouraging their user to review more experiences. Email two-timing is a shameless venture. Many times, this practice brings on a lot of negative reaction. TripAdvisor doesn’t care. They feel they can capitalize on their user’s positive emotions from their completed task. Plus, adding this ‘Review’ CTA to the original congratulatory email would cut away at the user’s happiness. So, TripAdvisor just sends a second email as a “just-in-case you’re feeling the momentum”. To them, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

49% of consumers like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a weekly basis, according to Statista. TripAdvisor sends them daily. Persistence

BADGES/MILESTONES

Once users review enough experiences on TripAdvisor, they begin receiving analytics and badges. With enough reviews, users can become “Senior Reviewers”. How much weight this badge holds in actuality? Who knows? How much this badge encourages a user to review more? A lot. These are badges of honor. Bragging rights that the rest of TripAdvisor’s users can see. The company sends check-in emails to let users know how close they are to earning new badges, how their existing reviews are performing analytically, how users stack up against other users and to congratulate users on new badges. TripAdvisor’s goal is to nudge their users into perpetuating ‘experience and review’ cycles, using competition and community. 

LOYAL USER CONTENT

Once subscribers have solidified their status as consistently engaged users, TripAdvisor feels more comfortable sending more unique emails. These emails might provide more in-depth analytics about user’s activity. These emails sometimes ask users how their holidays went (usually knowing what the users did for the holiday based on search history). The company also notices when users only utilize certain features of their wide-encompassing website, so they might introduce something different to loyal users to try. TripAdvisor knows to spice things up when their relationships begin to feel one dimensional.

It costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a returning one. Kind of like how it’s easier to maintain and build existing relationships than to create whole new ones. TripAdvisor understands. They keep relationships engaging.

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