Turn Dead-End Emails Into Great Experiences: A Case Study


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The following is a guest post from Matt Harris, Co-founder at sendwithus. Learn more about Matt and sendwithus at the bottom of this post.

SuperRewardsIn my previous post Just say ‘No’ to Dead-End Emails, I outlined how transactional emails that lack a clear call-to-action (CTA) are a missed opportunity — a “dead-end.” In this post I want to highlight how dead-end emails give your users a poor experience. This case study emphasizes how a consistent experience can really make a difference.

Enter SuperRewards

At sendwithus, one of our favorite customers is SuperRewards. They are a great company that helps game developers monetize more users in their games and apps. When we started working with their Director of Marketing, Derek Shanahan (@dshan), we knew he was excited to get visibility and control over the transactional emails they were sending to their customers’ end users.

Because SuperRewards interacts directly with customers’ end users, the experience for those users is incredibly important and any communication with them needs to return the end user to the app quickly. Having a great user experience is crucial to building a relationship that will span multiple sessions, and it’s important that the branding is consistent and recognizable.

When we started working with SuperRewards, they were already providing a great email experience by using SendGrid, but we noticed one transactional email that really stuck out; it was a payment receipt sent to the end user. A developer originally implemented it in the early days of the product, and it was very sparse, with just plain text. When we first looked at it with Derek, we all had a hunch that despite its seeming insignificance, there might be room for improvement.

All Emails Matter

We took a look at the analytics for the receipt email and saw that it was seeing a 20% open rate, and we could dig and see that some end users were actually receiving the email multiple times a day. We realized we had a classic dead-end email! With no call to action and almost zero branding, this email was acting as a (somewhat) boring transaction receipt. There was very little context for the end user as to what app the receipt email was from, and there was no way for recipients to re-engage with SuperRewards.

The Test

Derek told us that he wanted to try something more with this email, so we had our email design team work with him on a new HTML template that captured the SuperRewards branding. As part of the redesign, we were aiming to test if end users wanted to interact directly with SuperRewards on Facebook. SuperRewards could then announce new platform customers’ apps to end users there.

We had concerns about how an HTML template would affect engagement and spam reports, or if it would impact deliverability, so we decided to set up an A/B test. Half of the recipients would receive the original plain text receipt, while the other half would receive the new template with a Facebook call to action. Through the sendwithus dashboard, Derek could monitor the receipt template in real time, and respond to any spam reports or delivery issues that might arise.

The Results

After publishing the A/B test, we monitored the email alongside Derek, and were satisfied that there were no immediate deliverability issues. The following Monday morning, Derek received his first A/B testing report, and he describes what happens next best:

The first variant made it obvious that a call to action was a good idea. I immediately added a few variants to test subject lines, call to action placements, and messaging and had our engagement rates improving week over week.

The receipt email that “didn’t matter” was now seeing a 48% open rate and almost 10% click through rate to Facebook, providing thousands of extra engagements every day. Derek was able to then A/B test other calls to action, including other social network links and special promotions that end users now see on a regular basis. He’s been A/B testing his engagement rates week over week consistently for a few months now.

graph-superrewards

 (Thanks to Derek for sharing this graph of early a/b test results on open rates.)

Takeaway, Email Flavored

This test really proved how engaged the SuperRewards end users are, and it emphasized how important having a consistent customer experience and branding is. Personally, one of the key takeaways is how this receipt email is actually core to the customer experience. It deserved the attention of someone customer-focused. I hope more companies are willing to test something new with their transactional email, even if it’s “just a receipt.” If it’s a dead-end, your customers suffer the most.

More Tips are Still To Come…

Next time I’m going to talk about some other dead-end emails we’ve run into at sendwithus, ideas on how to identify dead-end emails in the wild, and some quick tips on things to test, so stay tuned!

sendwithusMatt’s the co-founder of sendwithus.com, a platform that gives marketers control of their transactional email. He spends most of his time helping customers like Derek discover the potential of their transactional email.


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