21 Booking Abandonment Emails that Drive Direct Bookings

September 5, 2019

As a hotelier, you spend a significant amount of time, money, and effort attracting holiday shoppers to your website. Why? Because direct hotel bookings increase your profit margin, boost your brand, and enable you to start a long-term customer relationship. But it’s not working.

Booking abandonment is at an all-time high – 81.3%. And, although this figure can be explained by the longer purchase journey of travel bookers, the growing dominance of online travel agents (OTAs) shows that when these customers are ready to book, they aren’t always booking with you.

One solution to this industry-wide problem lies in booking abandonment emails. Booking abandonment emails are targeted reminder emails sent to hot leads who visited your website but left before finalizing their reservation. Importantly, these have the power to recover anywhere between 10-20% of lost bookings. 

You can learn more about the power and essential components of booking abandonment emails in our previous blog: Booking Abandonment Emails – The Answer to Indirect Hotel Bookings. This week, we’re delving a little deeper – looking at the different techniques and tactics used to generate conversion-boosting results. 

Booking Abandonment Email Examples that Drive Direct Bookings

1. The supportive email

These two reminders adopt a supportive approach that aims to help the customer back to their lost booking. This is achieved through the use of gentle wording (“We noticed your interest in a romantic getaway”); offering assistance (“How can we help…”); and checking for any problems encountered (“we wanted to make sure that you hadn’t run into any difficulties”.) 

A supportive booking abandonment email works by utilizing the psychology of ease and trust. 74% of people are likely to switch brands if the purchasing process is too difficult because our brains are hard-wired to look for the easy option. Not only does a supportive email accommodate this need for ease, but it also sets the tone for the level of customer service likely to be received going forward – showing that you’re looking out for them and not purely trying to sell to them. 



2. The personalized email

This email is all about personalizing the content to the lost customer. You might first notice the photograph of the room they were interested in, but that’s not the most important aspect of this email. Through the use of CartStack’s “Booking Engine Data Sync” the customer’s travel dates have been pull into the content – ensuring that nothing in this email is generic. 

Personalization is a really powerful tool for booking abandonment emails. 59% of customers say that tailored engagement based on previous interactions is “very important” to winning their business. Not only is personalization engaging and attention-grabbing, but it also serves as a reminder to what the customer was looking at during their four-week booking journey – reigniting emotions and enticing reservations. Other ways to personalize recovery emails include using the customer’s first name, recommending alternative rooms, and attaching travel tips and guides for the location they were viewing. 


3. The visual email

In an inbox full of deadlines and reports, a glass of red in a sun-drenched garden would go down rather well. This email is all about the image and branding – transporting the reader away from reality and straight into their dream break with a sophisticated and luxury brand. 

Visuals work especially well in the travel industry, where access to emotive photographs of bustling cities, relaxing spas, and never-ending beaches is easy. Photographs are processed 60,000 times faster than text, allowing your stunning photography to tell a story, drive emotion, and entice a booking before your audience has read a single word. 



4. The relevant email

Who doesn’t want to come back and plan their Dream vacation at Disneyland? This email demonstrates the power of relevance – using CartStack’s visitor journey tracking tool to pull in the photograph, resort, and itinerary of the customer. 

The relevance of this relevance? Again, it serves as a reminder and makes the customer journey easy, which after an average 191.4 minutes of research is a welcomed email to receive. Plus, who would be enticed to book with Mickey?


5. The incentive email

Each of these emails is offering the customer an incentive for returning to their booking, and it’s not just a generic 20% off. These discounts and deals are tailored with the specific customer in mind, including free Wi-Fi and breakfast for the business traveler, 30% off for a 30th anniversary, $25 mini bar credit for the city traveler, and two free mojitos for everyone. 

Why does this work? Well, free mojitos for one thing, but also the psychology of value. The logical part of the human brain is easily turned off by expense – it’s why cost is the reason behind 37% of booking abandonment – while the subconscious part of the brain loves value. Incentives overcome the booking barrier of cost while accommodating the love of value to unite both parts of the brain in deciding to return and book directly before missing out (also known as loss aversion, which we’ll come onto later). 





PRO TIP: If you’re offering a booking incentive, teasing it in your subject line is a great way to improve open rates!


6. The social proof email

This hotel is using its 2019 Forbes Travel Guide five-star rating to attract readers back to its website and through the reservation process. This is known as social proof and it can also be achieved with user reviews, TripAdvisor ratings and local awards that demonstrate trustworthiness and reduce the perceived risk of booking directly. 

The need to conduct more research is the biggest reason for booking abandonment and it’s why social proof works so well. Injecting this cross-referenced information into your recovery email is a way of conducting this research for your customer so that they don’t need to look at OTAs or alternative hotels.


7. The contact information email

Holidays and city breaks are an expensive purchase, prompting many pre-purchase questions and concerns. This email offers shoppers the option to continue their purchase online, while also providing a range of contact information should they want to speak to someone in-person first. 

The contact information email works so well because one in five customers are still using phone, emails and in-store methods to plan their trip. Providing alternative contact information expands your potential audience by catering for those customers who prefer some human contact before splurging $2K or more on a stay. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that providing contact information is imperative in all of your booking recovery emails.


8. The risk reversal email

Speaking of expensive purchases, these two emails attempt to reduce the risks involved in spending money on a hotel by offering a price guarantee and free cancellation. This use of risk reversal allows the customer to secure their reservation while continuing their search – minimizing the risk of both losing the room or finding a cheaper deal.

Risk aversion is a well-known psychological tactic already used extensively in the eCommerce industry. Humans are naturally averse to risk, especially when it involves spending money. Offering guarantees and free cancellations overcomes this barrier and encourages bookings because, well, there’s nothing to lose.



9. The scarcity and urgency email

The problem with spending so long researching hotel bookings is that it’s common for rooms to sell out. This email addresses this issue directly by pointing out that the customer’s selected days “won’t last long!” Even better, this subtly implies that OTAs will have even less availability – prompting a direct booking. 

The use of scarcity and urgency in recovery emails works well because it generates loss aversion. People don’t like to lose things – whether it’s an ice cream to a seagull, ten dollars down the sofa, or a room that they haven’t even booked yet. By creating a fear of missing out, scarcity emails invoke urgent action that results in recovered bookings.


10. The funny email

This email injects what we all need more of in our inboxes – humor. The combination of the bed-jumping photograph and the suggestion that Matt is going to be letting loose and doing the same can’t help but provoke a smile. 

As the famous saying goes, laughter is the best medicine and that applies even to your booking abandonment problem. Humor makes you human – helping you to stand out from your competitors, build a connection, and get the holiday fun and happiness off to an early start.


11. The “Reminder of Benefits” email

A continental breakfast atop a rooftop terrace – sometimes when conducting a long holiday booking process customers forget about the benefits that matter. These emails are doing two things: 1) reminding the reader of the cost benefits of booking with them directly, and 2) reminding the reader of the luxury benefits of staying with them. 

The power of positives is a well-used sales tactic that works extremely well in booking recovery emails. Not only does reminding readers of the benefits arouse the senses, but it also highlights features that may have been overlooked (such as a “short stroll to town”) and overcomes any concerns about booking directly (such as a “best rate guarantee.”)




13. The combination email

These booking abandonment emails are the perfect example of how you can combine two or three of the tactics explored above into one supercharged recovery email campaign. Here you can see the combination of strategies such as support and risk reversal, and benefit reminders and incentives – used to overcome barriers and encourage bookings. 

Combining strategies in this way gives customers multiple reasons to return directly to your website, as opposed to booking through an OTA.

Risk Reversal + Scarcity 


Reminder of Benefits + Incentives


Support + Risk Reversal


14. The subject line

And last, but definitely not last in your booking abandonment email campaign is the subject line. The subject line is the key to your booking abandonment email being opened and a well-structured subject line can boost open rates by an impressive 40-70%. 

To achieve this, we recommend tailoring your subject line according to the timing of your recovery email.

Email #1 – offer support

Your first email subject line should be one that offers assistance and highlights support.

Oops, did something go wrong with your reservation?

We’re holding your dates at {HOTEL NAME}

Still planning a trip to {LOCATION}?

Email #2 – inject urgency

Your second recovery email subject line should create a little urgency that prompts the reader to open. 

Are you Still Heading to {LOCATION}? Don’t Miss Your Chance to Book!

There’s Still Time to Experience the Best of {CITY}

We’re booking up fast! Reserve your dates today!

Book your room before its too late!

Email #3 – be persuasive

Your final booking recovery email can be a little more persuasive and to-the-point. 

We Saved You a Room in {CITY} – Book now for a $25 Mini Bar Credit

Don’t Miss Out! Save 20% in {LOCATION}

Come Back and save 10% at {HOTEL NAME}

Complete Your Booking to Get {DISCOUNT} Off

You’ll also notice that these subject lines are all to-the-point, personalized, and addressing the reader directly – all necessary components for standing out in an inbox full of emails. 

Key takeaway

And so we reach the end of out booking abandonment email examples. As you can see, a booking abandonment email campaign is an excellent way to capture customers who checked out of your website before they even checked in, to drive more direct bookings. But, the key message here is that a booking abandonment email is only as effective as it’s content and the tactics used within. Happy emailing!