Marketing emails getting a lot more personal

Ever feel like there’s someone out there watching your booking habits and changing what options you’re being presented based on that? Well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t really after you. And, rather unsurprisingly, it turns out that many companies really are tracking your online behavior that closely, with complex web analytics packages that can trace your click patterns and theoretically figure out where and when you complete or abandon purchases with decent accuracy.

At least one airline has recently started integrating these tracking systems into their email marketing tools. The results are a pretty interesting study in consumer behavior. By tracking behavior on four specific sections of the website – Flight selection, Seat selection, Ancillary bookings and Payment – the company could generally tell where a potential customer was looking at as a destination. Combined with other details they had, mostly from membership in the loyalty program or an email marketing list, this was enough data to generate a targeted email that was very specific to the potential destination that customer was looking at.

OK, so it is just targeted email marketing. Maybe a little creepy as it seems they’re stalking your online behavior a bit. Given that risk they’d only do it if it works, right? Turns out it does. VERY well. Even without offering a discount for the purchase or trying for a hard sale the conversion rates were much higher.

Compared to standard promotional emails, the triggered emails generate on average:

  • 150% higher open rates
  • 170% higher clickthrough rates
  • 200% higher conversion rates (conversion defined as a sale made from the email)

The emails also generate a 1,640% increase in revenue per email delivered as compared to standard promotional emails.

With numbers like that it is hard to believe that other programs won’t be quick to experiment with similar efforts if they aren’t already.

This case study was conducted with the marketing folks at JetBlue. There have been anecdotal reports of similarly targeted emails coming from Continental Airlines as well. Read more about the details behind this particular effort here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Well, maybe UA could start applying some basic smarts and stop offering this 1K member upgrades to E+ etc. 😉

  2. I’m a Presidents Circle member with Hertz. When I search for a car rental when I’m logged in, I get one price. When I do the identical search but not logged in, I get a cheaper car at a lower price. So Hertz is clearly using some form of system to adjust its pricing (but not in my favor). Having said that, their system is not linked to emails, as all their emails are completely irrelevant to the rentals I do.

  3. @NB, out of curiosity, is your membership affiliated with your company/does your company have a contract with Hertz? It’s possible that your company’s negotiated rates are higher than the lowest available rental price for any given search. (Or does this happen every single time?)

    1. I agree with DL that it sounds like there is a rate code associated with the account that is skewing the prices, possibly by including insurance or something like that as well in the rate. I do like that Avis offers to let me search using my corporate code but also gives me the option to show lower fares if they exist or require the corporate code.

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