There are times when it feels we’re like a golden age for user-centered technology. I mean, how easy is it to download a personal quantification app that a friend recommended to you, or to bookmark a great new productivity web site to investigate when you have some downtime? Easy-peasy, my friends!

But if you’re anything like me, it’s also awfully easy to forget those downloaded apps and saved bookmarks. Maybe I’ll log in once, then get back to whatever I was working on, thinking to myself that I’ll check out this great tool a little later. Or perhaps I’ll get intimidated by a complex setup process for which I just don’t have time at the moment. Or, worst of all, the basic workflow for a site will be lost on me, and the payoff for figuring it out seems to just not be worth the effort.

Unfortunately for the teams behind these apps, each of these scenarios is a potential death-knell for my engagement with their products. Every time I delay taking a step with an app or service, it becomes decreasingly likely that I’ll become an active, paying, and profitable customer. That’s why the onboarding experience is so crucial—the first few moments with an app can make or break an entire customer relationship.

Welcome On Board!

Onboarding is a multi-faceted occurrence that encompasses a range of functional and qualitative experiences. It spans the very first welcome screen, account creation, introduction of features, and alerts that prompt specific tasks in a workflow. When done right, each of the steps represents an opportunity for increasing user engagement—but if poorly implemented or introduced with little forethought, they become hurdles that risk turning a customer away for good.

No wonder, then, that product teams put a good deal of thought into optimizing each aspect of the new user experience. The most successful apps find a balance that makes it easy—seductive, even!—for users to incrementally increase their engagement in a way that feels natural and self-paced, all the while capturing data and other indicators that feed behavioral models that identify profitable audience segments.

While there’s no magic bullet to solving the onboarding challenge, there are best practices that have emerged over the past decade and that reflect a combination of expert insight and empirical evidence.

One of the best of these best practices is the onboarding email. Once relegated to a simple transactional message that essentially said “hey, you joined, here’s a confirmation of your username,” the onboarding email has since matured into a fundamental piece of a product team’s toolkit. Today, the most successful onboarding emails are designed as a series of carefully-timed and triggered messages that help to accomplish several key goals, including:

  • Serving that original functional need of confirming account creation.
  • Reminding the user of key steps required to complete registration.
  • Validating the user’s email address (and, by the way, enabling double opt-in for email marketing).
  • Introducing key concepts in the features or workflow of the app or service.
  • Encouraging active engagement with and investment in the site or product.
  • Establishing brand voice and personifying the relationship a user has with a product.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be honing in on each of these aspects of the onboarding experience and featuring emails that do a good job of meeting each need. Until then, what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for your product team’s onboarding efforts? I’d like to hear from you.

—Brent
@brentsleeper

Email Marketing News Digest

The latest Google Analytics and Adwords updates have a focus on multi-channel attribution and providing marketers with better clarity on what’s driving conversions. These features and the increasing emphasis on both cross-channel and multi-channel marketing strategies highlight the increasing complexity of getting the attention of customers.

The Key to the Inbox is Subscriber Love

The key to the inbox? Strong permissions and relevant emails. ISPs measure user feedback based on how many people are hitting the “this is spam” or “this is not spam” button. Here are four factors to examine when trying to determine why you are not making it into the inbox:

  • Permissions
  • Relevancy
  • Frequency
  • Behavioral Targeting

Of course if you want to hear directly from the ISPs themselves and pepper them with questions, there’s always our all star ISP panel at Interact 2013 – The Digital Messaging Industry Conference. If you have a burning question on deliverability in your mind, register today!

Email design change driving a 61% click increase

Or is it? The DMA recently tested two different email designs in a split test and found that the skinny design had 61% more clicks. But wait – there’s more to the story. While on the surface the mobile optimized version seemed like a clear winner, it seemed that the copy and call-to-action from one particular link was driving the increase since the copy was not standardized between the 2 versions. In a second test where the copy was the same, there was no discernable click rate response difference.

Email Split Testing

Boom Times Still On for Emailers

Experian’s Quarterly Email Benchmark Study shows that email volume in the seond quarter was 17.9% greater than in Q2 2012. Unique open rates rose 7.2%, while unique click rates declined slightly by 0.2%. People who opened only on their mobile device averaged 10 cents per transaction while those that opened on mobile with another device averaged $1.28 per transaction. The results of the study present much food for thought when it comes to multichannel attribution. In the words of Bill Tancer, GM of global research at Experian Marketing Services,

“The path to the consumer is getting increasingly complex… We’re just now at the tip of the iceberg in knowing how to get from the initial contact to the end of the transaction.”

4 Easy Questions: Understanding Engagement to Survive and Thrive in Email and Beyond

How do you define engagement? A one-off spike from a seasonal campaign or ongoing long term interaction from subscribers? Margaret Farmakis from Return Path says it should be the latter. Here are four important questions to ask when evaluating how engagement applies to your email program:

  1. How do you define engagement? Goals need to be clearly stated and the difference between an engaged and disengaged subscriber should be clear.
  2. How do you measure engagement? Define metrics such as those from social, user-generated feedback and those from surveys as well.
  3. How do your engagement metrics compare with the competition?
  4. What is your strategy for improving engagement?

Email: Wanted Dead or Alive [Infographic]

Email Wanted Dead or Alive

Find out more about cross-channel banking and how to make shifting customer behavior work for your bank in our webinar!

Cross Channel Banking Webinar