Last week I used Hotels.com to book a room. No account was created, I just transacted and that was it. Or so I thought. When the subsequent sends starting coming in, instead of my usual opt out, I decided to wait. Seven days later, let’s take stock.

The emails:

hotels_welcomeDay zero – Email 1
Subject: Thanks for signing up for Hotels.com email‏
Style: Header picture, otherwise well-designed text areas which would still work when images are turned off (often the case with a new unknown sender),
Content: Content on why use Hotels.com, how to save, and some links through to cities I might be interested in.

Day zero – Email 2
Subject: Our app has everything you need for check in tomorrow‏
Style: Pure image, postcard style
Message: Screenshots of their app and a large “Download Now” CTA button below.

Day two – Email 3
Subject: Check out our top destinations for 2016‏
Style: Pure image, postcard style
Content: Pure image, postcard style promoting click through to see the top travel destinations for 2016, “View all the top destinations” CTA button.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.12.04 PMDay four – Email 4
Subject: Access Secret Prices through this email and pay up to 50% less‏
Style: Pure image, postcard style
Content: Save up to 50%, “Access Secret Prices” CTA

Day four – Email 5
Subject: How was your stay? Get a 15% off voucher if you review
Style: Text with some imagery in the template
Content: Leave a review and we’ll give you 15% off, “Rate it now” CTA

Day six – Email 6
Subject: Save up to 50% – Our picks of the day‏
Style: Pure image, postcard style
Content: Deal of the day, “View sale” CTA

Day six – Email 6
Subject: Thanks for the review, here’s your coupon.‏
Style: Text with some imagery in the template
Content: Voucher code with redemption details, “Book now” CTA

Given I never opted in for emails, this is a pretty gutsy first week. Let’s take a look at what Cinder would do differently.

1. The welcome email would have been more personalised (more on that later) and have an invitation to create an account (I never created an account, so the email is a little misleading saying I’ve signed up). If there is no response to this, the emails stop. No consent to send has been given.

2. Since they’re going to send emails anyway without me having an account, they might as well use the information I gave them. Since I booked a hotel room, this was a fair bit. None of the emails I received were targeted towards my geographic region, age, or gender.

3. The review and voucher emails were a nice somewhat personalised touch, however the voucher I received had such an unrealistically near use-by date it was worthless. Given they don’t know anything about my travel history, adding some leeway here would have been valuable (I would have used it!).

4. The emails are very image reliant. When images are blocked, the message would not be getting effectively communicated.

We’ve created a brief flow of how we might do their current on-boarding journey:

hotels_com_diagram

If they were our client we would first and foremost urge more caution in getting consent to receive communications. The first email should be selling the customer on the benefits of creating an account with them, and from there allowing them to opt into what communications interest them in their preference centre.

We would also use the data we had available to our advantage for personlisation, as well as review voucher redemption rates to ensure they are an effective incentive to rebook using their site. We would also take advantage of any other channels available to them as alternatives to email when necessary.

Finally, the email content and design should be reviewed and revised to be less image dominant, especially if a large number of their clients are using Gmail (although Outlook now also defaults to blocking images in junk mail emails, so really it’s just good practice not to rely on graphics).

Now then, if you’ll excuse us, we have some secret prices to check out. This vacation isn’t going to book itself.