Email marketing in the mobile age with John Thies

Email marketing in the mobile age with John Thies

Even with the popularity of social media and messaging in the mobile age, email marketing should still be a vital part of your hotel marketing strategy. In fact, statistics show that 72 percent of customers prefer to get brand communication via email.

To dig into the importance of email, we interviewed John Thies, CEO and founder of email analytics platform Email on Acid. We delve into what it means to run email marketing in an increasingly mobile world, and review some of the biggest mistakes that hotels and brands make when it comes to email campaigns and analytics.

Listen to our podcast below, or read on to learn the highlights and key takeaways from our email marketing conversation. A full transcription of the podcast is available here.

Why hotels can’t overlook email marketing

While email is one of the oldest ways of communicating digitally, it’s also one of the most universal ways. Not all of your users are on Twitter or Snapchat, but they all have an email address. There are 4.3 billion email addresses and 2.5 billion email users globally. The sheer size of the market is massive, and a major reason why hotels should continue email marketing.

In addition to the large population size, email also delivers the best return on investment (ROI) of digital marketing—when it is done correctly. Email is permission-based, unlike digital advertising or direct marketing. Consumers have opted in to being marketed to and engaged with the brand, and they can opt out at any time. Statistics show that great email marketing can generate an approximately $40 return for every $1 spent.

While email has such high potential, many brands fail to take full advantage of using email as a marketing tool. Without the understanding of who your customers are, why they subscribing are, and why they are opening your email, you cannot do a good job of creating email that engages with those customers.

Common mistakes in email marketing

1. Buying email lists

One of the biggest mistakes a brand can make with email marketing is buying mailing lists. Many marketers may think that a bigger email list translates into more sales. But going to a database and buying lists of email addresses is a terrible strategy for a mass-market email campaign.

First of all, many of these emails are spam traps and generic emails starting with “info@.” Secondly, you run the risk of abuse reports from people who feel they were wrongly added to the list. Thye haven’t opted into your brand, and receiving an unsolicited email from your hotel could potentially give them a bad first impression. The best strategy with list building is to grow your list organically, attracting individuals who want to opt in to your brand and receive communications from you.

2. Overlooking mobile user experience

When it comes to email marketing, one common mistake from brands is forgetting about mobile users. Users are increasingly reading emails on their mobile devices. Approximately half of all email is opened via a mobile device, and of the top five email clients in the world, three of them are mobile email clients. Statistics suggest that if your email does not properly render on a mobile device, as many as 70 percent of users will delete the message.

What this means is that hotel marketers need to pay attention to how email displays across inboxes and devices. Like websites, email can be responsively designed to show consistently across different types of smartphones and mobile devices, along with traditional desktop clients. You can even have email display slightly differently on mobile vs. desktop, for example having an animated photo appear on a mobile device but having it appear as a static photo on typical desktop clients.

The best possible way to ensure that your email is reaching users in the way that you want them to see your campaign is to utilize an email service that already has mobile-optimization capabilities built into the software. You can also test campaigns in email analytics software such as Email on Acid.

3. Not understanding the customer journey of email

To target your email campaigns effectively, you have to understand user behavior and how customers are interacting with your emails. Email subscribers often use multiple devices to manage their email, for example, they might read one email in the morning on a smartphone and then save it for later to revisit on their office desktop computer.

Knowing these statistics can vastly improve how you design emails to the time of day that you send out campaigns. Hotels need to do all they can to understand their email marketing analytics—do you know how subscribers are engaging, where they are clicking, how many times they are opening their email, and on what devices they open their email?

Email analytics tools can help you to dig down into factors like engagement, opens, time of day, environment, and so on. The more information you have, the more you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign and make adjustments after analyzing the statistics.

4. Not having a clear goal with email

Statistics and analytics don’t mean much if hotels don’t have a benchmark on which to measure them. That’s why having a clear goal with each email campaign is particularly important. And remember: not every goal is about getting a booking. There are email campaigns that might simply be to inform a customer of a pending stay, and email campaigns that are about destination promotions. In the first email, the goal might be to get the customer to open the email multiple times, while in the latter email, the goal might be to get the customer to sign up for the promotion. It’s crucial that you don’t measure emails with different campaign goals against each other; you’ll want to compare apples to apples in order to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Frequency is a much oft discussed point about email marketing—how much email is too much email? Some would say that emailing more than a few times in a month increase unsubscribes, but from John’s point of view, a regular consistency of email campaigns (even if they are strictly informational) can help to keep your hotel’s name top-of-mind with consumers. As long as you’re still providing good content and/or good value in your email campaigns, sending at a frequency of once or twice a week could potentially be beneficial.

Another important aspect of setting your email campaign goal is ensuring that the content ties in well with the hotel website—the landing page (if there is one) should have a similar branding and look, and should also be responsively designed in order to ensure a positive user experience when clicking over from a mobile device.

Hotel email marketing tips

Here are a list of important email marketing tips to ensure your campaigns are successful:

Make a point to collect guest emails. From a hotel’s perspective, getting guest emails can be difficult, particularly when the guest has booked through a third-party such as an OTA. But do your absolute best to get these emails when guests check in, so that you can build a database of your past guests and market to them for future promotions.

Get creative with dynamic content. This special coded content automatically updates with the most recent information every time you open the email. For example, you could embed the local weather forecast into your reservation confirmation email—since the email offers a useful piece of information the customer needs for the trip, it’s one that they’ll come back to again and again, increasing the visibility of your hotel brand. Dynamic content providers include companies such as Movable Ink, Liveclicker’s RealTime Email, and NiftyImages.

Keep your email marketing in line with all of your other brand marketing efforts. The voice you use should reflect the one you use on your website and on social media.

Set up Google Analytics and UTM code trackers on your email campaign URLs so you can effectively measure how traffic is coming into your website from your email.

Build email campaigns that target your subscribers in different parts of the buying journey, not just when they are ready to book. For example, as a ski resort, you could send out an email in early October reminding people to start planning their ski vacations for the year. As the high season draws nearer, you can send out emails with specific discounts or package offers that target people who are much more ready to book.

Use email to build a special connection with your customer. The whole point of marketing is to spread awareness and share information that will benefit and be of interest to your users, and email gives you another way to do this. By sharing this type of valuable information with your users, you create that connection. When they want to buy a product that you offer, they will naturally turn to you.


Nancy is the Marketing Director at Travel Tripper and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at

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