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How Apple’s Privacy Changes Can Help Boost Guest Experiences Across the Travel Industry

Alex May shares on the blog how privacy updates can help boost guest experiences across the travel industry.
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Apple’s upcoming privacy changes have caused a buzz throughout the email marketing world. New features in September’s iOS and OS updates, such as Mail Privacy Protection update, will give iPhone users more control over their data. The update will make consumer email opt-ins even more valuable and potentially create bigger challenges for marketers to connect with iPhone users effectively. 

According to Apple, Mail Privacy Protection “stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” As Apple plans to cache images post-send on its server, it will affect real-time contextual personalization. Campaigns leveraging open-time or IP addresses–think countdown timers, weather, or current location–will not be available to display to travelers and require marketers to turn to zero and first-party data.

The past 18 months were quite the roller coaster for the travel industry, and just as brands started to rebound, the news from Apple threw in another wrench to marketers’ plans to boost revenues. Because of the lessons learned during a tumultuous 2020, travel marketers are well prepared to pivot, think strategically, and ensure fantastic experiences for their guests. In a world where “six in ten travelers said that brands should tailor the information based on their personal preferences or past behaviors,” marketers have a big task in front of them. They need to ensure guests get this experience they crave, even if Apple’s update requires additional work and strategy reassessment.

Luckily, travel brands have a wealth of information on their guests and are now finding solace in their zero- and first-party data to drive customer experiences. With technologies like customer data platforms (CDPs) growing in popularity, marketers can create a database made up of a brand’s zero and first-party data. A greater emphasis on zero- and first-party data can help travel marketers develop personalized, scalable content that speaks to consumers on a deeper level. Often this data can create an even better and more trustworthy experience than the out-of-the-box contextual elements marketers may be losing. 

While Apple’s new features will make the marketing landscape different, the need to adapt to new industry changes has been a tale as old as time. Take a look at how travel brands can elevate their email and mobile campaigns to create personalized experiences that meet a new era of privacy and customer-centric marketing. 

Loyalty is the way

Moving forward, travel brands can lean on loyalty programs to make their new customer experiences unbeatable. According to GuestCentric, 76% of travelers are more likely to sign up for loyalty programs focused on personal preferences or past behaviors– creating a huge opportunity for travel marketers to leverage zero- and first-party data.

The example above shows one way brands can develop highly personalized communications with zero- and first-party data. The campaign utilizes a customer’s behaviors, spend, and trends to create a year-in-review email curated to the individual that celebrates them, showcases their behaviors, and looks forward to trips ahead. Travelers are more likely to sign up for loyalty programs focused on them, and tapping into the rich data at a brand’s fingertips can help increase guest loyalty by doing just that. 

Utilizing Location Data and Relevant Pricing is still here to stay

While Apple changes will limit marketers’ ability to leverage location-based on IP and open-time pricing in email, this does not mean the need to show travelers relevant information evaporates. Providing travelers with value throughout communications can still drive equal, if not more, engagement and help a brand’s most sticky consumers feel more seen and connected. 

In this example, first-party data on a travelers’ specific destination search or type of destination is pulled in to make a highly personalized header. The content block below the header can showcase the most relevant pricing by including prices for different airports or a previously searched destination based on the user’s home airport to create a unique personal touchpoint. Many brands may choose to include a timestamp of when the prices and availability were pulled in, or simply update the terms and conditions in the footer of the email. 

The campaign can later be duplicated for special promotional destinations, available upgrades, and more. The campaign also highlights available offers to build value. By using a loyalty partner or tapping into the brand’s loyalty program data, the campaign can filter in the best offer for that customer, whether the data is from credit cards, loyalty enrollments, or how many points until the next loyalty tier. 

Put a ring on your engagement strategy

As fewer people traveled over the past 18 months, travel brands shifted towards virtual interactions to keep guests engaged and loyal. While travel brands leaned on digital communications to keep their brands top of mind, metrics like email-opens became increasingly more important to measure. Now that email open data will be impacted by Apple’s iOS 15 (all emails to Apple Mail will be tracked as opened), we can anticipate that driving engagement through clicks will become the lifeblood of email marketing strategy. 

Since consumer interaction means everything, why not make it fun? As demonstrated in the example above, including polls can be a wise place to start. Traveler personas changed for many people during the pandemic. Polls can put power back in the hands of marketers and create more opportunities to learn more about guests for deeper connections down the road. 

To keep the engagement going, the example includes a scratch off with pricing teases for deal seekers or to highlight new available offers. By having a scratch-off, brands can show travelers the previous price and then scratch to reveal the current price. These prices can be determined based on locations most important to your brand, local spots based on the travelers’ zip on file, or previous search history. Lastly, customers see relevant social feeds at the bottom of the campaign to encourage more social sharing and use of your brand’s hashtags.

Cross-Channel Consistency

As of now, Apple’s privacy changes will impact the email channel only, allowing mobile marketing to rise as a new frontier without the same constraints. According to Skift research, mobile is becoming the primary channel for travel. Among younger generations, especially in Asia, smartphones are often the main device before and during travel, with 70% of customers saying connected processes — such as seamless transitions between channels — are very important to winning their business. This rise in mobile travelers is driving marketers to implement sophisticated personalization methods once exclusive to email campaigns to boost booking experiences and on-the-fly purchases. 

The example above demonstrates how marketing teams can mirror previous personalization strategies from channels like email to create more compelling mobile touch points throughout the customer journey. The notification above effortlessly showcases availability and pricing as more guests shift to heavier app usage. Highly personalized in-app and rich push experiences can increase upsells, brand loyalty, and overall guest satisfaction.

Apple iOS 15 is undoubtedly becoming the talk of the town. Still, the update is just another blip in email’s near 50-year evolution. Privacy leadership empowers brands to enter a new era of marketing. As zero- and first-party begin to take center stage, brands have new opportunities to create more effective, customer-centric marketing campaigns with visualized data that their customers want to see. 

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