I’m a fan of integration tool Zapier. I really am. I use it for my business in all sorts of ways. But it’s not the be-all-end-all solution for your data integration needs. When it comes to using it for your tour operation eMail marketing, and more specifically your FareHarbor email marketing I have to draw a firm line. Here’s why.

Zapier is a “frequently” low cost data integration service that can be used to connect all sorts of apps. While it does require some sort of technical acumen, it can be fairly easy to use depending on what you’re trying to do. And it can be fairly low cost depending on how many “Zaps” (integrations) you need to create, and how much data you’re passing through the connection each month (called rate limits). Zapier charges based on both of these factors and it can get pricey.

Zapier is best used when your integration is straightforward, but it’s not best for everything. Here are four reasons why it’s not the best solution for eMail marketing with FareHarbor.

It’s Not Fit for True eCommerce eMail Marketing

First off, what is “true eCommerce eMail Marketing”? This is where you’re able to segment your eMail marketing data in the best way possible by storing and utilizing order data in your EMS of choice. As a FareHarbor customer, this is all about your booking data. Tools like Drip started out life as an eCommerce solution. You can segment your subscribers based on what they purchased AND when, and trigger campaigns based on the bookings coming in. Even though we’re talking eCommerce here, it turns out the solution works very well for Experience Providers, given a little help.

To do this, you must be able to load the order (booking) information into the tool. Not just details about the booking, but the booking itself. In this way you can easily answer questions like, “Who ordered snorkeling trips in Maui in 2023 but did not order any kayak rentals?” Or, “Send a campaign automatically to those about to snorkel that did not also order the photo package.”

Here’s the point. You cannot create an order in Drip, MailChimp, or any eComm EMS that I know of using Zapier. The multi-line nature of an order, combined with the product management involved just does not lend itself to an easy-to-use, plug-and-play integration solution like Zapier.

The Nuances of the Tour Operation Business

While eCommerce email marketing does lend itself to the tour business, there’s also some differences to be aware of. For instance, when sending a package from an eComm site you’re never really concerned with sending campaigns 15 days before the item arrives, 10 days before, 3 days before, etc. Sure you have tracking info, but that’s operational and quite different.

But tour operators DO want to do this, especially if you’re a destination tour. You need to market to your customers in what we call the “sweet spot”, before they leave to go home. And often times these cross sells and upsells are best sent before they visit, but not necessarily right after they book. It gives your customers time to consider and better figure out they’re whole itinerary.

Even if you could transfer a booking in Zapier, the logic behind sending these date-based campaigns is daunting if not impossible for most operators.

The Nuances of FareHarbor and Rebookings

FareHarbor handles it’s rebookings in a unique way. In essence a new bookings, or at lesat a new booking ID, is created each time. To an email marketing system this can look like a brand new and separate booking if not handled correctly. Not only can this create what appears to be duplicate bookings that are not, but it also means a lot more info being sent.

Remember those rate limits we talked about, where Zapier charges more based on the amount of info sent? FareHarbor send the data each and every time the booking is changed, which can impact those limits and drive up the price.

FareHarbor Custom Fields

We love those FareHarbor custom fields. They allow for so much flexibility and are what make FareHarbor the most flexible booking software out there. But this variability in features and customization can also make for pretty complex data integration, again, depending on what you want to do. It is, as they say, a trade off.

Let’s take a simple example. You ask the question in your bookings, “What’s your relationship with NYC?”, and provide the options in a dropdown box, “I’m an NYC Local”, “I’m Not a Local But I Visit Frequently”, or “I rarely visit NYC”. Ideally you’d want to to tag your customers in your email tool with that answer. But this may not be as straightforward as it seems in Zapier. In many cases you need to find the ID number associated with that answer and match or “lookup” to a list from another location which ties the ID number to the actual text.

While lookups are possible in Zapier, they are not at all straight forward.

The Shameless Plug

You knew it was coming. I didn’t write this article just to keep you from using Zapier. But I do firmly believe in what I’m about to say.

You can use, or continue to use Zapier to connect FareHarbor with your email marketing tool. You can move the email address over, the name, and even tag your customers with what tour they took. You may have moderate success. But this is not the best way. There’s an entire new world out there called eCommerce eMail Marketing and it suites itself very well to experience providers given the right help.

Introducing TourAdvantage, a FareHarbor Platform Partner providing data integration, training and templates for FaerHarbor eMail Marketing. With TourAdvantage you can:

…and much more.

We currently work with the email marketing solutions Drip and Mailchimp, which are purchased separately. Check out our demo videos here, and feel free to schedule a quick Q&A if you have any questions.