Checkout abandonment is usually an issue we associate with retailers. It’s not uncommon for retail shoppers to start loading products into their online basket and then abandon it before completing their purchase. In fact, it’s pretty common. With almost 70% of visitors abandoning baskets.

While that figure seems very high, abandonment rates are much higher for travel brands. On average, travel brands see 81% of website visitors abandon a booking they have started!

In this blog, we discuss the impact of high abandonment rates and how travel brands can tackle it to convert potential customers while improving marketing ROI.

Why booking abandonment is so damaging

Quite simply, nobody can afford to watch 81% of potential business disappear. Especially in one of the most competitive industry sectors.

In retail, a shopper may decide against making an impulse buy at the last second.

When someone abandons a travel booking, it’s unlikely they’re abandoning their holiday plans altogether. Instead, it’s far more likely that they’re jumping from your website to continue their booking with a competitor!

Think of it this way. Four out of five people who abandon their booking on your website end up booking with one of your direct competitors.

Also, we don’t tend to travel as much as we shop with retailers. Travel brands are likely to attract occasional custom from an individual – maybe even just once a year. When an individual abandons your site, all the time and money spent on your marketing efforts to get them to this point is now wasted. And if that individual is a regular customer, losing them to a competitor is a disaster that needs to be avoided at all costs.

Where travel brands usually focus attention

A lot of travel brands rely on third-party booking sites. These offer lower margins and stiff competition as potential customers are surrounded by tempting offers from competitors.

However, not featuring on aggregator sites could risk being overlooked altogether. Research shows that Millenials heavily favour these websites – 36% of aggregator website customers are between 25 and 39 years old. They value choice and convenience and aren’t usually swayed by loyalty programmes.

Retargeting ads are also a common tactic in a final attempt to win over potential travel customers.

Retargeting certainly has its place in the marketing mix but it’s a costly exercise where cost-per-click rates are constantly climbing. It essentially means paying to get in front of people who have already visited your site. And if you paid to get them to your website in the first place through advertising, then you’re paying twice in your attempt to acquire customers. Expect your cost per acquisition to creep up if you’re reliant on retargeting to get people over the line.

Improving booking abandonment with triggered emails

Booking abandonment emails are a must-have for any travel brand. They invite potential customers back to complete the booking they dropped out of.

Considering that most travel purchases take planning and consideration, it makes complete sense to prompt customers with an abandonment email. They may even appreciate the helpful reminder and ability to quickly pick up their booking at the click of a button.

And the statistics speak volumes. According to Smart Insights, travel brands can expect to see the following from booking abandonment emails:

  • Nearly half (44.1%) of all abandonment emails are opened.
  • Nearly a third (29.9%) of clicks lead to a purchase back on site.
  • The average order value (AOV) of purchases from abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than typical purchases.

But, as with all email marketing, the execution of it needs to be well thought out in order to drive success.

So we’ve compiled a checklist of how to create successful booking abandonment emails for travel brands.

1. Use personalised content

Subject lines like ‘Whoops you forgot something’ aren’t going to cut through the inbox noise anymore. Personalising the subject line and content to really speak to that individual and reflect their booking journey is going to have much more of an impact.

Airbnb do this well as you can see in this example:


2. Consider discounting

An abandoned booking email might be a good time to present your prospect with a discount.

We recently worked with one of our customers to discover that it made good business sense to offer a discount on abandoned bookings. This customer found that many visitors were abandoning its site to complete their booking with affiliates such as cashback sites. Paying commission to affiliates meant less revenue on each booking.

It actually worked out more cost effective to offer discounts in abandonment emails instead of letting visitors find their way to affiliate websites.

3. Be helpful

Booking a trip away can be an absolute minefield and quickly become overwhelming. Dates VS cost VS flight times – need we say more.

Think about what might be useful to your recipient. Providing them with a review of their booking details so far gives them the opportunity to reflect or discuss the itinerary with their other travel companion(s) before committing to their purchase.

4. Tone of voice is important

All solid brands should have an established tone of voice that is unique to its identity. Tone of voice isn’t what you say but how you say it.

Is your brand modern and playful? Or is it traditional and informative?

Your brand tone of voice will help guide the approach and content in your abandonment email. It should be a continuation of the experience they’ve had on your website.

For example, Thomas Cook’s approach appears pretty basic on the surface. But the caring and consultative tone is very in keeping with its brand – a leader in travel that differentiates itself by “the level of care and reassurance that we provide to [its] customers”.


5. Don’t neglect design

Have you ever seen a poorly designed email? It doesn’t do much for brand reputation or the product they’re trying to promote. In fact, it can have a negative impact. So it’s important that your email design is well-considered.

This example from Virgin Trains is playful and bold. In this campaign they cleverly approach their web visiting by using the phrase ‘you’ve dropped your ticket’ to grab their attention.


They’ve displayed the visitor’s journey details into a ticket design which provides a clear and compelling visual cue. It also represents Virgin Trains as a helpful brand where they virtually ‘pick up your ticket’. This also doubles up as the call to action button.

Ultimately the design is simple with only a couple of visual elements and three colours, demonstrating that an email doesn’t have to be complicated to make the right impact. It’s distinguishable as a Virgin Trains communication and is consistent with its website theme.

This is a key point to creating a smooth customer journey. If your design differs massively from your website, it can cause confusion and you may not be recognised.


All of this could be a wasted effort if you aren’t considering the timing of your triggered emails. According to Forester, 90% of abandoned baskets go cold within an hour.

We know that the travel customer is likely to be researching, comparing prices and trying to hunt down the best deal for their trip. So you should be sending these emails sooner rather than later so you don’t lose them.

Informing them that their quoted price is time sensitive (like the Virgin Trains example) is a good way of creating an urgency to buy now.


Booking abandonment emails are emails that are triggered automatically when a web visitor abandons their travel booking. In this blog we’ve explored how this cost-effective method can boost conversions and encourage travellers to book directly with your brand.

These campaigns shouldn’t be approached as a bolt-on marketing tactic but should be well-devised as part of the entire customer journey.

Be creative with your approach and consider what your customer needs in order to complete their booking.

Follow these steps and you’ll be sure to see success in recovering that lost revenue. Our customers report a 12% increase in sales revenue, on average.

Find out how it can help you recover more lost revenue by booking a demo via the button below.

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