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[Q&A] TripIt Talks Email Marketing Strategies for the Travel Industry

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When it comes to traveling for business, customers have more options than ever before.

You can use apps, websites, wearables, and mobile devices to stay organized and ensure that you get from Point A to Point B.

Of course, many of these options can cause more problems than they solve. Anyone who has frantically searched their inbox for a plane ticket or travel itinerary knows just how frustrating this experience can be when you’re trying to make a meeting.

We recently got the chance to talk to Devin Ruppenstein and Charity Lorenzen, who are part of the marketing team at TripIt (owned by Concur), about how the company has worked to build email marketing strategies to solve these challenges.

Here’s what Charity and Devin had to say about TripIt, email marketing, and the travel industry:

1. What’s the story of TripIt? What makes the company special?

We created TripIt in October of 2006. It was back in the day when online travel booking was still pretty novel. As travelers took planning into their own hands, their hands got pretty full and their lives got pretty frantic.

TripIt set out to change all that by bringing calm to the chaos and peace of mind to the panic. Nine years later, we have over 11 millions users and growing daily.

We’ve worked hard to make the online traveling process “automagical,” so all you have to do is forward an email to get an itinerary. We made it accessible and, agnostic, and free so as many people as possible can benefit from TripIt’s capabilities.

We want to enable our customers to have the perfect trip by creating apps that delight travelers and make the whole process automagical. We do this through our parent, Concur, and our family: TripIt, TripIt Pro, and TripIt for Teams.

2. How does TripIt use email marketing today? How has your approach evolved since starting an email program?

TripIt’s email program is primarily focused on engagement activities. Our goal is to keep our travelers engaged through their lifecycle.

When a member joins, we send out a welcome series within their first 30 days to get them onboarded with TripIt. We also keep them updated when we have a new feature announcement, and after a year of joining TripIt, we send them an anniversary email thanking them for being a member.

Over time, we have automated most of our programs and leveraged our data to create new email campaigns based on the traveler’s behavior or profile data. With Movable Ink, we are able to create more dynamic and personalized emails that are relevant to the traveler’s behavior.

3. What sets TripIt’s emails apart from other companies? What kinds of results have you seen from your campaigns?

TripIt captures a lot of data on our travelers such as their  itineraries, travel info, and demographic data. We leverage this data to make sure we are marketing to our travelers in a personalized and relevant way.

For example, if a traveler has an upcoming  trip to San Francisco, we want them to receive timely information that relates to their trip. Connecting with travelers on a more personalized level has allowed us to engage with our members throughout each part of their trip (pre, during and post trip.)

We’ve seen positive response rates to our emails, with an average open rate of of 30% and a click-through rate of 8%.

4. What are the most common challenges for email marketers in the travel & hospitality industry?

Often times, the data on your customers lives in different sources. You may have a CRM, social and mobile data, or your own data warehouse. That can make it tough to pull the data together in one central location.

Once you accomplish that, knowing how to act on the data is key. Finding the right cadence and timing is essential, because you don’t want to bombard your travelers with tons of messages and annoy them and then they end up unsubscribing.

Once someone has unsubscribed, you have lost your chance to communicate with them.

5. What have you found to be most effective in your email program to solve those challenges?

A few things – first, you should establish a good partnership with your data engineers and your product team.

Second, you should continuously test and optimize your campaigns based on the results to establish the right cadence and messaging for your email program.

But really the most important thing you can do is put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about how you would feel if you got one of your email campaigns – would you want it? Is the message relevant and useful to you?

6. How does TripIt use social media? Do you promote those channels through email marketing or do the programs operate independently?

TripIt is very active on social media and has a blog packed full of rich content where you can find tips and tricks for traveling as well as cool, new TripIt feature announcements.

We’re always looking for opportunities to partner that content with social to create fun and engaging emails.

For example, we just ran an email campaign congratulating our Top 10% and 25% of travelers in our TripIt community, encouraging them to share their TripIt status on their favorite social media channels with the hashtag #TripItsTop.

This campaign proved to be very successful and reached nearly 1.4 million people on social media. We are also working on including live social feeds in our emails using the capabilities of Movable Ink!

7. What would you say are the digital marketing priorities for the travel & hospitality industry this year?

Definitely mobile and push notifications, as well as leveraging the data you have on your users. Travelers who are on-the-go are most likely looking at their phone rather than their desktop to get information.

We need to reach them where they are and use the data to send them messages that are relevant.

8. Does TripIt have any big campaigns coming up in the next few months?

We are developing a series of “thought-leadership” emails called 2 Hours In… . If you are flying out of one of the top airports, you’ll receive an email with interesting recommendations of things to see, do, and eat  if you have some time to spend in the airport before your flight departs.

Our first pilot, 2 Hours In SFO is already live, so look out for it next time you’re in SF!

9. What advice do you have for a travel brand that’s just starting to ramp up an email marketing program?

Create your emails with the traveler in mind. Always put yourself in their shoes.

To us this means providing the traveler with information that benefits and relates to them. Data is key to doing this right and making sure you are reaching your travelers in as close to real-time as possible is also essential.

Want to see what awesome emails in the travel & hospitality industry look like?

Check out our eBook, 12 Next-Gen Travel & Hospitality Emails.

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