Email marketing can destroy brand loyalty
This is by no means a case study – and I don’t think email marketing is bad – but I wanted to share this story anyway.
I stay in hotels pretty regularly and I’ve always used Laterooms.com to book.
In late 2014 I booked a night in Manchester for me and one of my girlfriends (just kidding, if she’s reading this) and I happened to use LateRooms. On checking into the hotel I was handed a white envelope hand-addressed to me (with the room number and address of the hotel I was staying in). There was a red wax seal on the envelope with the words magic making department.
We headed up to the room (which was really nice) and after realising that this probably wasn’t a belated Hogwarts letter I opened it. Inside was a handwritten note and a £100 gift voucher for the next time I booked with LateRooms.
The voucher didn’t expire for 6 months. The CTA was soft (URLs for social profiles). It felt like LateRooms actually wanted me to use the voucher – which was probably enough to cover an entire hotel stay – without expectation. And I was genuinely pleased with the gesture.
I was one of those people that most marketers think we’ve made up – someone who felt a genuine connection to a brand.
I liked LateRooms on Facebook. I downloaded their mobile app. I subscribed to their mailing list. For an entire year I didn’t visit another booking website when I needed a hotel – I just opened the app or an email and booked.
I’ll be honest – I probably didn’t engage much with what LateRooms posted on Facebook because it stopped showing up after a while and I didn’t miss it. But I continued to open the emails for a few months.
LateRooms emails its customers daily. Sometimes twice daily. Sometimes more. On several occasions I received the same email more than once. The emails were always the same: “book a hotel this weekend” or “here’s a nice place you should visit…now book”.
By June I only opened the emails that looked like they might have an offer inside. I probably used three £30 vouchers over the course of the year.
Last month I unsubscribed. I weighed up the time it took to delete the emails and the money I might save on hotel bookings and decided I would probably be in pocket.
This is what Simon Sinek calls a manipulation. He says:
Manipulations (dropping your price, having a promotion, using a scare tactic) can be very effective, but the gains are usually short term. Over time, manipulations tend to get expensive – marketers must keep coming up with bigger and better manipulations sometimes at the expense of profits and always at the sacrifice of developing loyal relationships with customers.
For months after the letter I received from the ‘Magic Making Department’ I booked every hotel stay through Laterooms.com (at least 20 of them). I enjoyed the experience of booking (the CX is good, or maybe I’m just used to the site). I recalled what a great time I had during the stay when I received the voucher I wasn’t expecting.
After a while, though, I would only book if I had a voucher. I wouldn’t go away on a whim if I didn’t have one.
More recently I’ve got a Hilton rewards card and started booking directly.
What worries me is this: do the team at LateRooms think that the emails they send are what drove me to book 20+ stays?
Do brands realise that their actions can reduce the lifetime value of a customer?