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It may not be the sexiest digital marketing tool, but email can be a powerful driver of business on today's internet -- big business.

Travel firms using email, however, may want to reconsider their use of email marketing following a study conducted by digital marketing solutions vendor IgnitionOne which looked at the impact of exposure type and sequence on the the effectiveness of cross-channel digital marketing campaigns.

IgnitionOne looked at marketing data from US and European travel firms and made an interesting discovery: outside of organic search, paid search drives the highest average order value (AOV) when it's a single-channel conversion path.

But firms looking at email to do the same may be disappointed: when it's a single-channel conversion path, email delivers an AOV that's 56% lower. What's more, email-only conversions takes 250% longer to materialize.

Even when it's part of a multi-channel conversion path, paid search continues to produce good results. When a converting paid search click follows an organic search click, for instance, IgnitionOne found that it still delivers an AOV that's 18% higher than normal.

But multi-channel paths involving email continue to underperform. Email, when the first exposure to a campaign, results in an AOV that's 39% lower; when it's the last exposure, the AOV is only modestly lower (36%). And both exposures take 100% or more longer to convert.

The email results aren't entirely surprising. As IgnitionOne notes:

[Email campaigns] are traditionally very promotional in nature, which lowers the AOV. Email campaigns are also more heavily dominated by existing customers who may not be currently in the market for travel and/or are more discerning among promotional offers.

This may be true, but that doesn't mean that travel firms should simply assume that email must be relegated to serving as the digital marketer's bargain bin.

With proper list management, personalization, creativity and an increased level of sophistication, there's no reason that email can't produce decent AOVs, timely conversions and in many cases perhaps most importantly, incremental sales.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 July, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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