Do Black Friday Deals Really Sell Travel? What Our Data Shows


hotwire3So another Black Friday has come and gone. While this year there seemed to be fewer shocking headlines about consumer fisticuffs in big box stores, we did see an interesting development: increased use of Black Friday promotions by travel companies. A November 24 article in the New York Times announced that Black Friday promotions are now “standard” in the travel industry. Travel guru Peter Greenberg published an “ultimate” guide to Black Friday deals, listing dozens of offers from brands around the world. And brands like Hotwire provided app-only special offers and discounts.

It was only a matter of time before travel brands jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon. But are consumers buying? Perhaps not, Return Path data suggests.

Checking 30 bellwether travel companies we monitor, Return Path found that only 8, or 27%, transmitted campaigns using the words “Black Friday”  in the subject line during the month of November. (We cut Southwest Airlines some slack by including their “Black Flyday” promotion in our tally.) And as the chart below summarizes, Black Friday promotions produced pretty anemic results, with read rates that were generally lower than the read rate for all campaigns during the month of November, with a few exceptions.

Read Rates for Black Friday Travel Promotions vs. 30 Day Rate for All Messages



Some notes and caveats are in order:

  • This data is from Return Path’s Consumer Data Stream, which comprises nearly 2 million consumer inboxes. While the overall panel is representative of the US population as a whole, due to the increased use of triggered messaging and segmentation techniques by leading travel brands, it is possible that we are not seeing all Black Friday campaigns that were deployed.
  • If panel subscribers didn’t visit a web site or take some other action to receive a Black Friday triggered message, or are not part of a target segment, they may not have received some messages transmitted by the brands.
  • In addition, we looked only at message subject lines. If a travel brand had a Black Friday sale but did not use those terms in the subject line, the message was not included in this quick analysis.
  • Of course, only marketers at each company will be able to tell us whether these messages actually converted. It is possible—but not likely—that some Black Friday messages had stellar conversion rates even though they were read by fewer subscribers.

The bottom line? Don’t expect Black Friday sales to become the mother of all travel promotions, as they are for many retailers. Travel brands are likely to continue running promotions around Black Friday and a host of other dates and holidays, but the holy grail for travel marketing will continue to be finding ways of identifying and harnessing traveler intent, or getting great offers in front of consumers when they are interested and shopping. And a consistently targeted email marketing program that leverages all available sources of data will continue to be the best way of doing that… any day (or color) of the week.

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