Marketing

Five Triggered Emails Your eCommerce Business Should Send

Trigger EmailsAt Klaviyo, we’re strong believers in more personalized and targeted email marketing. It’s better for consumers because the content they’ll see in their inbox is more relevant to them. It’s better for you because consumers will be more likely to read your emails, less likely to unsubscribe and, ultimately, more likely to make additional purchases or recommend you to a friend.

So without further ado, here are five emails you should be sending your customers that are triggered based on their behavior:

1. Win Backs

Win backs are triggered email campaigns designed to “win back” previous customers. Because marketing to existing customers is often much easier than new customers because they’ve already had a positive experience, these campaigns can dramatically increase sales.

If you’re not yet sending these types of emails, the simplest approach is to get a list of all your customers and when they last made a purchase, choose the period of time after which you want to email them and filter out customers who have made a purchase more recently. How long to wait before sending a customer a win back will depend on your business, but a good estimate is between three and 12 months. Once you have a list of customers, you will send them an email campaign designed to motivate them to revisit your website or business. The two most common carrots you can offer are either a limited time offer/discount or a summary of new or related products.

Once you’ve sent the first campaign, you’ll want to repeat the process at least every month or two. You can also start to test different ideas around what message or offer to use and who to target. For instance, you might want to send different win backs based on number of times a customer has purchased or what types of products they typically purchase. You’ll also want to measure the effectiveness of these campaigns and the number of purchases and sales they drive. Our Campaign Analyzer is a free and easy way to measure which email campaigns lead to purchases.

There’s lots more to discuss around win backs, but I’ll leave that for another post.

2. Abandoned carts

Most businesses know they should be sending triggered abandoned cart campaigns, but few e-commerce businesses actually implement them. This can be a big missed opportunity. Studies have shown that 87% consumers abandon online carts and 75% say they intend to complete their purchase. Most importantly, 54% of abandoners who intend to buy will do so in the first 24 hours after leaving. This means there’s a small window for reaching out to those consumers before they lose interest.

To send these emails, you need to know when a consumer adds something to a shopping cart online, but doesn’t complete that purchase within an hour. You also need to collect their email address during the checkout process so you have a way to contact them. Once you have that information, you can monitor for new abandoned carts yourself or set up an automated system to do it for you.

It’s also important to think about the message you want to send. It’s easy to think the reason for a consumer abandoning their cart is price, but that’s often not the case. It might be that the checkout process was confusing or complex or that consumer simply didn’t have time to finish the transaction. The content of your email should include a link directly to their shopping cart and a clear message for how someone can get help with their struggling with the checkout process or would prefer to complete it over the phone. As with win backs, you’ll want to experiment with different types of content and different timings to maximize the number of completely purchases.

3. Post-purchase Product Reviews

We’ve discussed triggered emails before a purchase is completed and long after, but an often ignored opportunity is shortly after a purchase is made. A key to driving repeat customers is keeping the conversation going and growing their relationship with your brand or business. A good way to do this is by asking a customers to leave a product review after they’ve made and received their purchase.

Asking consumers to leave reviews not only adds great content to your website for the future, but it allows consumers to create a personal bond with your company by giving their opinions about your products. Just as politicians asking voters to pledge their vote increases the odds those voters actually vote, customers who write positive reviews are more likely to recommend your products or become a repeat customer.

4. Related Product Recommendations

Another strategy for engaging customers after a purchase is sending them a time based email with products related to the one they just bought. Larger retailers are famous for using these types of recommendation emails. This type of campaign might seem complicated, but getting value is easier than you’d think. Most businesses have a handful of very popular products. To get started, choose one of your popular products and a few related products. Then find all of the customers who bought the popular product recently, but did not buy one of the related products and send those customers an email campaign highlighting those items.

You can then repeat this process for your top products to see which combinations perform best. If you have a few products which account for the bulk of your sales, you can do this process manually. However, if you have a large number of products you’d like to try this with, you should consider finding an app or service to help you identify related products and automatically creating different customer segments.

5. Loyalty and Referral Offers

So far we’ve focused on emails that are triggered based on the time of a purchase, but that’s not the only dimension that matters. You should also trigger emails based on a customer’s overall purchase history. For instance, when someone reaches five or 10 purchases all-time, they’ve demonstrated some serious allegiance to your business. Simply recognizing their patronage with a thank you email is a great start, but you can take it even further. Once someone shows their commitment you can reward them with special VIP offers and incentivize them to refer others to your business with refer a friend deals.

This strategy is similar to a loyalty program, but it doesn’t need to be overly formal or complex. You can get started by having a set of triggered emails that are sent when customers reach different lifetime thresholds. With a few well timed emails, you can encourage more repeat purchases or turn high value customers into great affiliates.

Those are just five triggered emails we think you should consider. What are others your business already sends? Let us know.

And if you’re interested in easily sending any of the above triggered emails, you should give Klaviyo a try.

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5 Years of Black Friday Emails from Amazon (Different, yet Consistent)

Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails have become a firmly entrenched part of the collective American experience. In light of this (and wanting to see what I could learn about their email marketing), I took a deeper dive into the last 5 years of Amazon.com emails I’ve gotten each November.

While Amazon’s emails are remarkably personalized and targeted, what’s most clear is that Amazon has adapted their email strategy based on broader trends (the rise of Cyber Monday), new learnings in what’s effective (significant changes in subjects based on the rise of mobile), and offline competition (expanding the Black Friday focus) numerous times over the years.  The lesson for other companies isn’t so much specific subject lines or topic areas – but instead in how to keep email adaptive and effective.

Different: Emails have adapted extensively to external developments.

Consistent: Highly personalized, geared to making me (the customer) happy and consistent references to what makes Amazon stand out from competition.

5 Years of Amazon Subject Lines

Here are the subject lines:

Beyond the analysis I’ll do here, I’ve probably also revealed more than I ever intended to about myself (though I’ve still yet to figure out why Amazon tried to get me to buy the Large Print Edition of Heart of Darkness in 2009).  What’s undeniable is that Amazon has customized how they communicate with me – in a way that is radically different from what existed before the age of Ecommerce.

The Rise of Cyber Monday

By taking a look at the number of emails mentioning “Cyber Monday” (i.e. the Monday after Thanksgiving known for electronics deals), we see that Cyber Monday first started being mentioned in 2009, but it’s being referenced more and more often.

What this means: Consumers are likely becoming more aware of Cyber Monday as an event, and there’s likely an opportunity for software / technology companies to take advantage of this awareness.  For the first time this year, I got an early offer from a web host promising hosting discounts.

The Impact of Mobile on the Changing Email Subject Line

If we take a look at the first word in Amazon subject lines, we notice that there’s been a remarkable shift from starting nearly every email with Amazon, to an increasing use of the word Save in 2010, to a shift to less consistent titles in 2011. My hypothesis is that this trend away from consistent subject lines is largely due to a greater reliance on mobile – if people are reading an email on their smart phones, starting with Amazon doesn’t provide enough information to encourage them to open the email (especially when you’re emailing them every single day).

The Competitive Response

Finally, Amazon’s Black Friday deals started earlier and were more pervasive this year than previously.  Black Friday deals started 9 days before Black Friday and were released hourly.  Given that Target and Best Buy promised to match Amazon prices this year, this shift is hardly surprising.

Play to your Strengths

Each year, Amazon has consistently played to their advantages over other retailers by retaining a focus on why shopping online is better than offline. Their main taglines in their primary Black Friday email on Thanksgiving reliably focus on avoiding the lines of offline retailers:

  • Don’t spend Black Friday jostling for parking spots (2008)
  • Big Savings, No Waiting (2009 – 2012)

Thanksgiving Email Lessons

The key lesson here is that email strategies (described broadly as how you communicate with customers) needs to be adaptive to what’s happening in the world (And with your business), yet have underlying focus on being personalized and playing to your strengths.

A few specific learnings:

  • Take advantage of events. Whether it’s holidays or competitor actions, leverage external events as a chance to reach out to customers and build your relationship with them. The greeting card industry gets a bad rap for inventing holidays – you probably don’t want to invent Valentine’s day, but there might be a way to create consistent communications around holidays, competitive launches or milestones.
  • Adapt to changes in technology (i.e. if most people are reading your newsletter on mobile, make sure it fits their use case – not just in terms of content, but also in terms of subject).
  • Personalize your communication. Take a look at the last 5 years of Amazon subject lines and you are learning more about me then you are about Amazon. That’s pretty remarkable – and given that they are the largest eCommerce retailer in the world, is what your customers are rapidly growing used to.

Even if all of these ideas sound good, you still have to be both willing to try new things and disciplined about taking a data driven approach to analyzing them afterwards.  You send email for the benefit of your customers in the hope that that translates into a positive outcome for your business – so you better understand whether those emails are actually working. Try often, make sure you are being creative and ambitious enough that you sometimes fail, but know that you are continually improving.

Sign up for email updates for the Klaviyo blog on the right to learn more about the future of email marketing. 

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FREE!: What the Obama Emails teach us about Email Marketing

Having previously found that the Obama campaign ended 1 in 6 of their email subject lines in colons, I decided to dive into the last 30 days of election emails (available online thanks to ProPublica) to see what they might tell me about Americans and how we respond to email more broadly.

From free car magnets to exactly which friends we should tell to vote, I realized that the emails we get are about to radically change as political campaigns and businesses get even more sophisticated at poking our psychological triggers and leveraging our social networks.

Do vs. Believe

I decided to create two word clouds out of the subject line to see how the language of each campaign differed.  For each campaign, I took all of the email subject lines, took out the candidate names and extremely common words / combined words with the same meaning, and then sized each word based on how many times it was used.

Take a look at the word cloud at the top.  Which campaign do you think it’s from? Now, look at this next word cloud:

The top cloud is President Obama, and the bottom is Mitt Romney.  The most common words in Obama’s emails were share (or forward, like an email), calls and free – compared to America, help and love in Romney’s emails.  Many of Romney’s email subjects wouldn’t have been out of place on motivational posters, while Obama’s would fit better as the names on Facebook buttons.

1. Jump on Facebook, 2. Make some Calls

Diving deeper, this change seemed to be reflected in the purposes of the emails sent.  Nearly half (46%) of Obama’s emails explicitly asked the recipient to do something in the email subject line – whether that was to make phone calls, forward a message to friends, or sign-up for something – compared to 28% of emails.

Romney’s emails tended to focus on ideas:

  • “A Strong America”
  • “This is a time for greatness”
  • “We Will Recover”

While Obama’s focused on taking action:

  • “Three Things you can do right now”
  • “Forward this:”
  • “RIGHT NOW: President Obama Needs you to make some calls”

These emails represent strategic choices and differences in voter base certainly, but given the deep sophistication of the Obama campaign covered elsewhere, it’s very likely that giving people you email a direct next step in the subject is actually just more effective in many cases.

Tell Jason, Jim and Leah to Vote

One of the most interesting emails from Obama came on election day and had a personal list of your friends in swing states you should encourage to vote – all mined from your Facebook account if you’d given the campaign permission to access it.  Based on other accounts, the Obama campaign knew who the voters on the line were in swing states – and based on these emails, it looks like they also knew which of their friends could encourage them to vote for Obama. 

FREE Shipping (and $5 off!)

At varying points in the campaign, Obama was offering free t-shirts, free car magnets, free tickets to see James Taylor and Dave Matthews, free shipping – all to get people to donate.  While the idea of free stuff to get people to do things isn’t new, the prevalence of these offers in the campaigns may mean that it’s poised to take over all the marketing emails we get.

3 Key Trends in the Future of Email Marketing

  1. More and more marketing will come through people we know. By getting people to engage their friends, marketers are able to increase their reach and give a personal touch to an otherwise impersonal ad or email. From mining Facebook data to tracking your demographics and actions around the web, marketers will know who you are, who you know, and what message will be most likely to resonate with you and your friends.
  2. Direct and clear next steps will become more pervasive. As social psychologists and marketers have long known, giving people an explicit action to take significantly increases the likelihood of them doing it.  The Obama campaign emails suggests more and more advertising might include a direct call to action that is tailored explicitly to you.
  3. Marketing will become better – and harder to resist. As marketers become more sophisticated and metrics-driven, they’ll be able to stop sending you marketing that doesn’t have an impact.  If I show that I like celebrities and contests, more of my emails may include free contests to hang out with celebrities.

If the 2008 election was the first election where donations of the masses played a bigger impact than the donations of the rich, then the 2012 election might be remembered as the election where email meant that even the concept of the masses has ceased to exist. We’re entering an age when political campaigns (and business) will send us personalized emails based on who we are and what we like – and they’ll ask us to bring our friends along with us.

Follow Klaviyo on Twitter for more analyses like this on the changing role of email marketing.

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Re: “Hey:” – An Analysis of the Obama/Romney Emails

Early in 2012, I signed up for the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns’ email lists with a rarely used old email address. While I knew that this small dataset couldn’t reveal the extreme sophistication of their email strategies, I set out to analyze the emails I’d received (and rarely read) – and discovered some surprising differences in strategy (at least as it related to the emails I was sent).

The Emails in Numbers

From June 1st through November 5th, I got 35 and 37 emails from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama respectively (see chart above showing cumulative # of emails sent to me over time since June 1st).

There are two main differences you’ll notice – first, the sharp daily dose of Romney emails right after June 1st.  Second, the month-long gap that immediately followed them. This gap began June 18th – the same day that I clicked the unsubscribe button on the Romney emails from another email address (once I realized I was signed up twice). While I can’t prove it, impressively, the Romney campaign seemed to realize I might be close to unsubscribing and put me on pause for a month.

Who Sends the Emails

When we break the emails down by who sent them, the results get interesting:

Percentage of emails from each candidate by who sent them

The Obama campaign is twice as likely to send emails from Barack Obama (49% of overall emails coming from him) than the Mitt Romney campaign is to send them from Mitt Romney (23% of overall emails coming from him). While the campaigns are roughly equal on the number of emails coming from Michelle Obama vs Ann Romney or Joe Biden vs Paul Ryan, there is a major difference in the use of others – a bucket largely made up of Zac Moffatt and Matt Rhoades (other Romney staffers) and his son Tagg.

A few hypotheses for why this might be true:

  • A difference in strategy to add increased importance to emails from the candidate by sending fewer of them.
  • Less candidate allegiance from Republicans in this election (and a greater emphasis on the party).
  • Individual targeting or testing differences based on who I am. Had I exhibited some personal behavior that I liked emails from Obama but would prefer other people on the Romney campaign to Mitt? Is there someone out there who see the exact opposite of what I see?

The most interesting aspect of this finding is that it may reflect very real perceptions of what drives voters for each candidate – namely, more voters relating to Barack Obama on a personal level, and more potential Romney voters holding deeper party than candidate allegiances.

The One Word Subject Line

In a similar vein, while none of Romney’s emails had single word subject lines, about 1 in 7 of Obama’s did. Examples:

  • Joe
  • So
  • Hey (this was a common one)

The one word subject line evokes a certain casualness and personal relationship and this difference seems to parallel many of the media portrayals of the candidates.  Are the one word subject lines actually less effective for Romney? It’s hard to say, but what might be most clear is that the campaigns have developed real stylistic differences in how they talk to their constituents – and those could be rooted in the real differences of who their constituents typically are.

 The Enigmatic Colon

Very unexpectedly, 1 in 6 of the Barack Obama message subject lines ended in colons (and none of the Romney subjects). Here are a couple of examples:

  • Real Quick:
  • Urgent:
  • This Matters:
  • Deadline:

Given how high this number is, my guess is that the Obama campaign has tested (and shown) that ending a message in a colon makes people more likely to read it.  While the circumstances of a presidential campaign are obviously very unique, this isn’t a piece of advice I’ve heard elsewhere (and certainly not one that the Romney campaign has acted on in their emails to me).

The Future of Email may contain more Colons

First off, all of these analyses are based on a single person, and as ProPublica’s attempt to reverse engineer email strategies is starting to show, there are wide variations in what you’ll receive based on where you live, how old you are, whether you’ve donated, etc. As these systems get more complex, it will become more and more difficult to analyze any company or campaign’s email strategy – because that strategy might actually be 300 million different strategies.

That said, the emails will likely always say more about the particular cultures and moods of a campaign or organization at a given point in time. Would Obama letting Biden send more emails have changed how much money was raised? Would a “Hey:” from Mitt Romney have increased his chances of winning my vote?

The email strategies of the political campaigns are among the most sophisticated in the world and are a great indicator of how email will be changing as companies get better at linking the emails they send to the behavior of consumers. Just as Obama and Romney know what makes you press the donate button, companies are getting better every day at knowing how to make you purchase. In the future, it might not just be presidential candidates who are ending emails in colons and varying senders to figure out who you connect with – it might be your local farmers market stand.

 

Please tell us more about the Obama and Romney emails you’re receiving in the comments and if you want to know more about the future of email marketing, check out Klaviyo. And – go vote. 

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Analyzing the Impact of the Ecommerce Newsletter

“A lot of people will tell you that sending newsletters isn’t worth the effort. They’ll say it’s time consuming, expensive, and doesn’t provide enough of a return on investment. I disagree.”  - Opening lines from the Guide to Email Newsletters by Mark Hayes on the Shopify blog

The line above is a pretty accurate summary of the opinions on whether any business should put the time into sending a newsletter.  In a world where content and quality is very important, sending email newsletters isn’t free, but many of us have a sense that they are worth that effort.

Ending the debate

The problem is that both viewpoints make a lot of sense and each is probably right for some businesses. So what do you do?  At Klaviyo, we’ve been spending a lot of our time lately figuring out how businesses can understand the impact of their emails on the metrics that matter (look out for more on that soon from us). We’re convinced the answer is measuring the impact of newsletters on purchases (as well as opens, clicks, website visits, unsubscribes, etc though all of this is secondary).

Defining Success

A good first step is figuring out what your goal with your newsletter is.  If you’re going to send a newsletter no matter what anyways, measurement is a good way to compare which content does better than other content…but measurement is a lower priority because you can get the basics from opens and clicks.  That said, if you’re either strapped for time and debating the value or you’re store has been off the ground for awhile, there’s a good chance measurement can generate sizeable profits.

Based on what you decide, you should also get a sense for whether your goal is short term gain (meaning purchases alone are probably king) or long term customer engagement (in which case unsubscribes, opens, clicks and website visits gain in importance).  Track what you think is important.

Next steps

Most importantly, you need to stop debating, get emails out the door and then commit to listening to whatever analysis result you get back. You can always dismiss measurement based on methodology or specific circumstances – so if you don’t commit not to do this ahead of time, don’t waste lots of time doing analysis.

At the end of the day, you write newsletters for the customers.  Make them happy.

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Try Klaviyo today to measure the impact of your newsletters and other customer outreach with our 2 week no commitment trial.

 

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An Email Manifesto (for rethinking emails sent to customers)

Say this is true:

Your customer/user success and happiness  = Your success and happiness

If so, it seems to follow that you (as a company) would only send me emails I wanted to get. Yes, one more email might get me to do something today, but in the longterm I will be more likely to ignore your emails or not enjoy interacting with you.

To that end, here are the emails I personally like getting from companies:

  • Emails that give me something I want – meaningful discounts, announce new products or features I care about (not just the ones you care about), etc.
  • Personalized emails telling me what to do to accomplish my goals – did I set something up wrong when I signed up for your service? Did I never get started?
  • Notifications about my money or other things like that. Is my credit card bill overdue?  Did my idiot friend just tag me in a terrible photo on Facebook? Do you need my approval to add me to a mailing list?
  • Emails that make me smile. If your email genuinely makes me smile, I’ll forgive pretty much any other flaw with it.

A few rules follow from this list about what I really don’t like:

  • Stop emailing me if I ignore you or show that I don’t care
  • Don’t send me emails that are irrelevant. Announcing a feature that I already use? Announcing a new line of dresses? (I’m male) Telling me about the offereSkip me unless you’re telling me something new.
  • Don’t send me emails that are blatantly in your interest and not mine. Enough said.

Done right, emails are great for you and your customers – it just takes thinking about things from the customer’s point of view.

Tell me more about what I missed in the comments.

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Winning the Holidays: How Ecommerce Companies can Leverage their Unique Customer Advantages

No matter how good your templates, your products or your content this holiday season, you’re competing with record numbers of other emails coming in the door.  According to WhatCounts, there were 343 million emails sent by publishers, retailers and Ecommerce firms between October 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.  While you’ll find a ton of articles out there telling you how to optimize your email campaigns, you have a big key advantage that you can choose to leverage: your existing customers.

The Customer Advantage

Your customers understand what you offer better than anyone and are much more likely than anyone else to be willing to engage with you – but you have to make sure that your past relationship isn’t forgotten amidst the barrage of other companies trying to woo them over the holidays. To this end, sending a few targeted emails to your most loyal customers (outside of the typical holiday countdowns, Black Friday specials, and last minute deal days) to engage with them can go a long way.

3 Extra Ways to Win this Year

The goal isn’t to replace your other efforts or to figure out some big analysis – keep it simple and focus on getting something out the door.  Here are three ideas to consider:

  • Retarget customers who bought last holiday season. If a customer bought from you last year, you know that they consider you as an option.  Why not engage them early and simply to just let them know you’re still there and update them on what’s new?  By doing this early and in a more personalized manner than your typical newsletter, you have a much higher chance of having them commit to you later in the holiday season.
  • Send special offers to your VIP customers that they can send to their friends. You know that the customers who shop with you frequently are loyal supporters of your business – so why not engage them to help you market this holiday season?  The holidays are a natural time for people to share the products and brands they love, so it’s a great time for you to take advantage of it.  The key note here is just to make the sharing something that everyone will view positively – whether by discounts, beautiful content or longer term benefits.
  • Target gift buyers with follow-on content geared towards them. Once someone has bought, consider sending them content focused on both building a long-term relationship that extends beyond the holidays – don’t only continue to hit them with the plethora of great holiday campaigns you have planned.

Conclusion

The holidays are the most competitive time of the year to reach buyers, so make sure you take full advantage of the customer base you’ve worked so hard to build.  You can’t just do what everyone else does and try to do it better.  Try a personalized and targeted email to your customers and measure the impact – they’ll reward you for it.

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How Blank Label uses Klaviyo to Increase Sales via Better Customer Lifecycle Management

We recently sat down with Fan Bi, Chief Shirt at Blank Label, to learn more about how they are using Klaviyo to improve their marketing and better understand their customers – as well as to learn more about the joys of a custom dress shirt.

Tell us a little more about Blank Label…

Blank Label is a custom dress shirt brand. We exist to help men be better. Custom is for those who appreciate the fit and finish of something made for their body, not for a hanger.

What does Blank Label use Klaviyo for? 

We have two main uses of Klaviyo:

1. To better understand our customers’ behavior. With Klaviyo we are able to segment our 13,000 plus customers with almost every combination of filtering, from where they came from, how much they’ve spent, whether they’ve required customer service help, etc. From there we’re able to answer interesting questions, including:

  • Did customers who originated from Google spend more than those from Facebook over the last 6 months?
  • Did customers who received email newsletters spend more or less than those who did not?
  • Etc

2. With those various segments created in Klaviyo, we can then email them individually directly from Klaviyo. Rather than sending just a generic email newsletter, you can send a much more personalized message based on, for instance, the fact they have purchased three times in the last year but not in the past six months, or that they’ve purchased a five times in the past three months and you want to send them a thank you email.

Who are some of the key groups of customers you focus on in Klaviyo?

We have created over 20 groups of customers in Klaviyo to focus on – everything from filtering based on amount customers have purchased, the time period they’ve been a customer, and how long a customer has been inactive.

The most interesting group is perhaps one defined as “high spenders who haven’t spent with us in 180 days”. Our top quartile of customers make up a significant portion of our sales and so we can now be much more on top of them churning, and do everything possible to get in front of them before they completely turn away.

How has Klaviyo changed what you do on a daily basis? 

We were doing customer segmentation based off of a couple of variables all in excel. What used to take me 5 hours now takes 5 minutes, and I’m able to get an order of magnitude deeper analysis.

Once customers have been emailed, Klaviyo tracks how their customers behavior changes over time.

What are some of tangible impacts you’ve seen on your business and customers?

Our quantitative analysis has shown us that we’ve been able to recapture at least a couple hundred of lost, inactive customers just by using Klaviyo in the past several months.

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Try Klaviyo today with no commitment to see how it can help you better understand and market to your current customers.

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Don’t Fear what you can Measure (and an idea for improving Email)

All of us make a ton of decisions everyday, but most of us also spend a lot of time not making decisions – debating the merits of doing A or B, questioning a decision we’ve made, etc. This debate doesn’t really make sense – in many cases, just trying something out and then measuring the outcome is the most effective, efficient and valuable way to make the right decision.

Let’s take email as an example (though the same idea is relevant to many of the other decisions we make on a day to day basis).

The Problem of Email

Email is a problematic – it’s overwhelming, it’s annoying, it shows up whether we like it or not, but it’s also the most effective tool businesses have to communicate with users and customers.

The real problem with emails for most businesses is that the fear of the downside of email (becoming annoying spammers) is not justified by the risk it takes to test emails to actually know their impact and what customers like. In short, we can just take a subset of people and send them different emails, more or less emails, etc and see how their behavior changes (and even assess their customer happiness).  This isn’t how most companies do it – instead they either A.) just spam the heck out of us or B.) stick to the most basic and minimal of emails, even when more emails might be helpful to the customer.

Be More Creative, but use Analysis to see what Happened

The core idea here is that rather than companies just keep doing what their doing or doing nothing, they could just go out and try ideas and see what happens. I’m not talking about comparing slightly different message content here – I’m proposing comparing radically different approaches, such as:

  • Not sending users emails
  • Sending personalized emails individually
  • Sending only trigger based emails (you’ve done X but not Y so here’s how to do Y)
  • Sending one more / one less email
  • Sending more casual emails

What does it take to know what the impact actually is?  Not as much as you’d expect.  If you are a web app with 100 sign-ups in a week and devote 20 of those to testing new ideas, you’ll start to gain real data into what new approaches would actually do. If you see one being successful, you can expand the test, run it for longer, etc.

Stop Pointless Debates

I used to work with a large web storage company that was in the midst of a long debate about whether to collect more information about users during sign-up. The core issue was whether the value of knowing the information (which allowed targeting emails and better support) was higher than the lost customers who wouldn’t want to answer the question.

There’s no reason to sit around debating this for months when you can find out the right answer by taking a small subset of new sign-ups and treating them differently.

Get Sh*t Done

In summary, if you can cheaply and easily test something, it’s better to see what actually happens than to sit around debating it.  Email is a great candidate for this – it’s cheap, easy to target, directly reaches customers and for most businesses on the web is a huge area of improvement.

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Klaviyo is a new kind of CRM that can handle this entire process – seeing your customer behavior, sending emails and understanding their impact.  Try it today with no commitment.

 

 

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The Big Data Value Gap and What it Means for Boston

Big data is likely the most hyped term in tech of the past two years; however, amidst all the hype, we may have actually missed the point of having all of this data in the first place: to generate more value for businesses and consumers. Importantly, it’s this gap between hype and value that speaks to why Boston might be at center of what’s next in data and analytics.

Why We Have Data – Big or Otherwise

What’s often lost in the big data discussion is that data and analytics tools generate no value until they lead companies or individuals to make different (and better) decisions than they would have made otherwise.  While we do occasionally read about big data success stories (for example, Target’s marketing to newly pregnant women or Ginger.io’s health monitoring), most companies still aren’t clear on how they actually could use big data to impact their business. For data to become valuable, companies need to have a direct path from that data and analysis to tangible action.

The Unique Position of Boston

As companies start to look beyond buzzwords to value, the unique qualities of the Boston ecosystem put it in a powerful position to have a major impact on how data and analysis get turned into action.

Boston combines three key qualities that don’t occur together elsewhere:

  1. Boston has world-class data and analytics expertise. From university research groups like MIT’s bigdata@CSAIL to the more than 100 big data companies in Massachusetts, the ecosystem around Boston is uniquely endowed with deep knowledge of the technologies used for data collection, storage and analysis.
  2. Boston has a critical mass of leading marketing software companies. From more established companies like Hubspot, DataXu and Constant Contact to new companies like ThriveHive or GaggleAMP, Boston is filled with companies focused on helping marketers generate measurable business value by using their software.
  3. The Boston startup and investor scene is highly revenue focused. As the stereotypes would indicate, Boston’s investors and entrepreneurs are more likely to be focused on companies generating measurable revenue quickly than their west coast counterparts historically have been. This means that companies are more likely to solve immediate problems for paying clients.

In short, Boston’s emerging companies have the ability to draw on a wealth of technology and data expertise, as well as significant experience using software to drive immediate business value – all while being healthily pushed to find paying clients to generate revenue.

A Personal Experience

Klaviyo, the company I co-founded, is proud to be a part of this movement in Boston, and we wouldn’t exist without the unique Boston qualities described above. Our focus is on helping our clients better understand and market to their customers based on things those customers have or haven’t done – whether that’s helping software firms find users who may need more help getting setup or helping Ecommerce companies reach out to customers who haven’t purchased in awhile to offer them a discount.

In our case, the data volumes we deal with are what many would consider “big” (since we let our clients combine customer interactions ranging from emails opened to items purchased to features used in a single place), but our core reason for being isn’t the size of our data – it’s that we can generate real business value for our clients by solving the problems they were already struggling to solve.

An alternate version of this appeared on BostInno as a guest post.

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Try Klaviyo today to drive higher conversion and greater lifetime value for your existing customers through better marketing based on what customers have or haven’t done.

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