Chances are that you’ve always got a couple of ideas about how to approach a specific email campaign, and there is also a distinct possibility that on certain occasions you’ve decided to play it safe and stick to what you know has worked in the past. This is, obviously, a very sensible approach but it does lead to hesitation in trying something new.

What is A/B testing?

You’ve probably heard of A/B testing for your email marketing, you may have also heard it called ‘split testing’. If you haven’t put simply A/B testing is a way of working out which out of two versions of a campaign will be most effective for engagement – whether that is how many people open the email, or click on a call to action. A/B testing can allow you to both try new things while mitigating the risk and verify if what you think has been working effectively is actually working effectively.

How does A/B testing work?

When you A/B test an email campaign you send two variations of an email to a small percentage of your proposed campaign recipients. Half of this test group will get version A, the other half will receive version B – hence the rather on the nose name, A/B testing! Whichever variation performs the best with your test group is the version that the rest of your campaign list will receive, which should result in better performance while also giving you valuable insight to inform future campaigns.

Simples!

What should you test?

The truth is you can test anything you want! Some of the most common variables tested using email campaign A/B testing are;

  • Subject lines
  • Call to action wording or positioning
  • The layout of your email (placing different elements in different positions)
  • Personalisation (using title and surname vs just forename, for example)
  • Testing one offer against another

At this point your mind is probably going into overdrive with the possibilities – and they are only limited by your creativity BUT, you should only pick one thing to test for each campaign.

Why only test one variable at a time? If you test multiple variables at one time, for example subject line and an offer in the same email, you won’t be able to say with any certainty which it was that was responsible for the change in performance.

How do you know which has performed better?

When you’re deciding which variable you want to test you should decide what success looks like, or what you’re trying to improve on. For example, if you’re wanting more guests to open your emails, you might decide to test subject lines on your next campaign. In this case whichever variation got a higher open rate would be the ‘winner’ and would be sent to the rest of your send list.

The same applies if you are testing variations in the wording of your call to action, perhaps in a pre-stay email encouraging guests to book dinner, whichever version resulted in the higher click through rate, or bookings, would be the winner.

It is important to make sure that you are clear in what metric you are measuring with your test before you send it. Measuring the success of variations in elements such as subject line, friendly from or preview text can be much easier to interpret as success will be an increase in the open rate, however, it can become much more difficult to interpret when testing different creative elements where clicks will be your metric of success.

Have a clear vision of what creative component you are going to test, whether it is the wording of a call to action, placement of your call to action or image placement.

When and how long should I let my test run?

When working with our hotel partners on AB testing of their campaigns, we would recommend that 20% of the available contact data is used as a starting point for your test, with a run time of 2 hours.

This means that 10% will get Version A, 10% will get version B and the remaining 80% will get the version of the campaign that ‘wins’ the test.

For email campaigns, the time of sending also needs to be taken into consideration. For example, if you regularly send email campaigns at 8am, because you obtain a good open rate in return, it wouldn’t be advisable to split test from 6am for 2 hours because although we know 80% have a high chance of opening at 8am, testing from 6am could be too early for worthwhile results.

Trial and error

No two campaigns or database are the same. For example, while a 20% test sample is a good rule of thumb, you may want to adjust this up or down depending on the size of your database.

The key to making the most of your AB tests is to just start testing, evaluate the results and adjust as you go.

Why not get in touch with us to see how we could help you take your email marketing campaigns to the next level.

It may seem like an obvious thing to say, that as a hotel, and business, you need to understand who your guests are.

When we say ‘understand’ who your guests are, we’re not talking about knowing that Mrs Smith from High Wycombe is coming to stay for a weekend in July – we’re talking about understanding what drives them. Once you understand this you can begin to relate to them as human beings, delivering a much more personalised marketing strategy.

Why do you need to understand who your guests are and relate to them? Well, people are more likely to buy something when they feel a brand ‘gets them’. In a study by Wunderman, a whopping 79% of consumers said that brands have to demonstrate that they ‘understand and care about me’ before they consider making a purchase.

With your guests making the purchase decision inundated with choice, it is important to make sure you stand out by showing that, as a brand, you understand their individual needs.

If you can master this, then those guests are more likely to come to you directly, rather than stumble across you on a price comparison site.

How do you speak to your individual guests?

To make sure you’re delivering the right message to your guests, both returning and potential new guests, it is worth spending the time to create a picture, or persona, of what your ideal guests look like.

As part of your marketing or business strategy you likely have types of guests you are looking to increase bookings from, for example business travellers, or you may want to just increase direct bookings from all types of guests to reduce your reliance on Online Travel Agents (OTAs).

Buyer personas, or marketing personas as you may have heard them referred to, are generalised and fictional representations of your ideal guests. They aren’t however purely of use to your marketing department, they are an invaluable exercise that helps all aspects of your business internalise what the ideal customer looks like and allows you to relate to your customers as real human beings.

You may only have one or two ideal guest personas, you may have one hundred – it all depends on you as a business and the audience you’re looking to attract.

At the most basic level, creating personas will allow you to tailor your messaging to your target audience and help with creating segments for your campaign.

So what should you be looking at when working out what your ideal guest looks like?

You may be wanting to attract more corporate bookings, you may be wanting to increase bookings for a spa weekend break. Whatever your reason for looking to target a specific type of guest, there are a couple of questions you should be able to answer to build your personas.

  • What value do your ideal guests see in booking your hotel?
  • What is it that attracts them to you?
  • How much are they willing to pay?
  • Where do you find these guests online?
  • What kind of content pulls them in?
  • What features are most important to them?

Not as easy as it seems when you start thinking about it, is it?

The truth is that you can answer these questions, and more.

Use your knowledge. Tap into your own knowledge, and that of your staff. Speak to people from your front of house team, your restaurant team, spa team… anyone who interacts with your guests. They could very well have valuable insight which will help you build your guest profiles.

The power of data. Your hotel is brimming with data about your guests. From your Hotel PMS, your online booking platform, your website, your email sending platform, your social media and even your spa software, you have an abundance of data on your guest’s behaviour available. The only problem can be that it is all in individual silos across your hotel – but it is there. Bringing together the data segmented across your hotel, through use of an integrated CRM, can allow you to build a single view of your guests. This means you can see where guests with certain demographic traits found you online or what content they engaged with, for example. The insight you can find will only be limited by the data you have and how you analyse it.

Email marketing or CRM platforms will also usually include the functionality to segment your contact data so your recipients only receive content from you that they are interested in. You can apply this in many ways, from giving the option within your emails for the recipient to adjust their preferences, or by giving them the option of selecting the type of content they want when signing up online. By looking at these preferences alongside engagement results from your email marketing, as part of your single view of your guest’s data, you can start to understand what kind of content resonates with your different guests as part of creating your personas.

Ask your guests. This may seem like an obvious one, but speak to your guests. Following a stay, you can survey your guests to ask them what features are important to them, what attracted them to your hotel, what they enjoyed, what they didn’t and so on. You can even use specialised reputation management platforms to manage this with many, such as GuestRevu, allowing you to integrate this data into your guest profiles by using a CRM to bring all of this insight into one place.

By taking the time to build a profile of your ideal guests you can make sure what you’re offering really stands out in a crowded marketplace and that both potential and returning guests come to you direct.

As a native of Northern Ireland living in Edinburgh with a Scottish wife and 2 very Scottish children I can only say that since coming here for university, I have never looked back. As the CEO and co-founder of  For-Sight Guest CRM myself and the team have grown the product from an agency project for a single resort hotel, to a fully-fledged SaaS product working with hundreds of hotels across independents, resorts, groups and third party management companies.   My role has also been about identifying and managing relationships with key vendors for integrations, both at the front and back end of the product.

About For-Sight 

Our vision is to own the guest relationship and give control back to the hotels.    We want to be the brain of the digital guest experience.

Myself and my co-founder Richard are very proud of For-Sight, we think it’s a great product. It has evolved into a secure, online data management tool taking direct feeds from the hotel’s Property Management System and various other sources (including events, leisure & contact lists), cleansing it to create a Single Customer View.  The hotel marketer can then query the data, report on it and push it out to best of breed marketing platforms to deploy & measure the content.   

We now have a fantastic team made up of clever product technicians, client service managers and developers.    They make the product as seamless and easy to navigate as possible, as well as integrating with key partners & vendors in the industry.   They help put the hotel data on a plate for the marketer to allow them to do great things with that information.

2018 was a busy year for For-Sight. We welcomed a number of new clients, 7 new members of the team and established our Data Science department.  We had a record year for email broadcasting, sending 217 million emails, despite the arrival of GDPR which has impacted email volumes in many industries.  With For-Sight our clients were able to not only manage their guests contact preferences but use their data to target their guests properly with highly personalised resulting in little impact on their ROI.   We also rolled out some key integrations including Opera’s OXI and Premier Spa with many more to come in 2019.   Finally, we announced our partnership with Great National Hotels and look forward to building on that over the coming months.

What next?

We are very excited about 2019 as the team continues to grow in volume and in spirit and we already have many more great partnerships & integrations in the pipeline.  New clients continue to come on board and we have some major development releases planned.

Challenges in our industry remain. Technical & commercial barriers to new start-ups entering the hotel tech ecosystem and data in silos continue.   The PMS market is changing too thanks to open APIs becoming more prevalent through forward-thinking start-ups like Mews and Apaleo, with more established providers like Guestline moving in that direction too.

Recent data breaches in the hotel industry continue to dominate the headlines, adding to the well-documented challenges for Facebook and other large tech companies in terms of how they handle consumer data.   This has led to widespread public mistrust as to how consumers’ personal data is handled.  Do businesses just care about getting their hands on ‘valuable’ data at any cost or do they wish to do the right thing by the customer?

If a brand gets the relationship right, then a consumer will trust them with their data and it becomes a long term two-way conversation, not only is this how For-Sight is engaging with potential new and existing clients, but it is at the core of what For-Sight can help hoteliers achieve.

I can’t wait to let more people know about For-Sight. As I said to my team, be happy and keep driving us forward, buckle up!

 

 

 

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SEGMENTATION: WHO YOU GONNA EMAIL?

Segmentation of your audience can be a spooky prospect. Though, you should imagine segmentation as scary a prospect as Slimer, while the real Gozer in your email marketing strategy is the potential saturation of your audience.

But how do you catch Slimer? How do you successfully segment your audience for the needs of your campaign? Well, where better to start than with the five little W’s? If they’re good enough for the rhetoricians of Ancient Greece, it’s good enough for your campaign.

 

WHAT

What is the purpose of your email campaign? What are you promoting? One of the most pertinent reasons for large unsubscribe rates is that the content is of no interest to the recipient. Make sure you have worked out exactly what you are saying and what your success of the campaign rides on. A spooky, roller coaster ride.

 

WHO

Who is this campaign going to? What are the prerequisites for receiving this campaign? Picking your target audience is not just guessing work, it’s half of the battle in a successful campaign. Work out your demographic, ensure you can justify each and every recipient being sent this particular email.

 

WHERE

Where is the hotel in question-based? And where is the campaign recipient based? Imagine living in Shetland, and receiving a half price code for a lovely boutique independent in central London for tomorrow night. Receiving that email serves absolutely no purpose for anyone and will inevitably lead to your recipient seeing your brand as a nuisance or cutting the marketing tie altogether. Now THAT’S scary.

 

WHEN

When was the last time you heard from your recipient? And what was the nature of the exchange? Similarly to the location of a guest, when a guest last transacted with you is just as important as how far away they are. With GDPR being chucked into the cauldron of guest data regulations, it’s important to have engagement tiers and a clear point of exit for your (ex)guest from your databases.

 

WHY

Why should any person, in particular, be avoided? And why does this campaign not apply to them? This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when deciding who receives a campaign. And it encapsulates the above 4 W’s. What in the message really applies to the person it’s going to? Are they the actually the correct person to receive this campaign? Are they even in the correct location to be enticed by your campaign? Have they shown any recent engagement or interest in your brand’s services? If you don’t have substantial evidence to lay to rest the above questions, then you have the answer to whether you should avoid this recipient.

 

And that’s it. Whoever you have left is, therefore, a fangtastic recipient for your campaign.

Oh, and Happy Halloween. Oooooooooh.

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ABOUT

Within their many offerings, Oracle Hospitality’s OPERA is a leading global provider of Property Management System (PMS) solutions to the hotel industry, allowing hotels to manage their guests across single or multiple properties.

 

HOW WE WORK

For many years For-Sight Guest CRM has integrated with Oracle’s OPERA PMS and we are now Oracle Gold-level Partners.

For-Sight bridges the gap between a guest’s details entering your hotel PMS, and their ensured second stay down the line through direct retention.

Currently, over half of our For-Sight users run OPERA PMS and have sent a combined 100,000,000+ emails this year.

 

HOW WE HELP YOU

With For-Sight ready to move your guest out of your PMS and into our CRM, we give you the freedom to up-sell and cross-sell your services, gather post-stay feedback, and entice them to come back for another stay.

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SOMETHING’S CHANGED…

 

We know we probably look a little bit different since last time you visited. Actually, a lot. That’s because we have launched our new website and we couldn’t be happier!  For all our For-Sight customers, we hope you love it. For our new visitors, welcome!

However, don’t let our new site fool you. Born under the umbrella of Forth Communication – who have 25 years expertise in software and data management – For-Sight has been around since 2009. So whilst our look may be new, our expertise in guest communications is unrivalled, and this is what makes us excel at providing a great CRM to benefit you and your guests.

©Forth Communication Ltd 2019. Incorporated in Scotland (SC114093).
Registered office at 45 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. EH2 2PJ

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