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Making emails better: the MixPanel for email (getvero.com)
80 points by jylamont on June 18, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments

Wow. I've been working on a presentation[1] for a conference in Tokyo[2] that uses this exact same image/diagram to visualize this concept. While it's fairly obvious to use a ven diagram to visualize this, it's still strange to see the exact same visualization that I used coming from someone else's brain too. It's a nice validation.

Showing the open rates makes it even more effective.



I had not seen your presentation but it's got a lot of really detailed, useful information. I will certainly revisit it.

Likewise, very interesting to see the same diagram come out of someone else's brain. 'Great minds think alike' as they say.

I should have mentioned that I enjoyed the post. Sorry - I rushed the comment as I was running out the door.

You guys get it and it's great to see you working on this. Definitely, ping me if you'd like to discuss some more.

Wasn't aware of that conference but it looks excellent. Thanks for the link - I'll be there.

Is intercom.io legal? It requires publishers to send customer PII (email address) in a JavaScript to a third-party. It would be trivial for Intercom to join that PII to an ad network tracking cookie, for example. Seems like a huge no-no.

Completely legal - in California all you have to do is post a privacy policy on your page if you collect this information. Almost everyone is collecting this and it applies to everyone regardless of whether they are a 3rd party or not.

Though, by the looks of it, intercom.io may benefit from a privacy policy =)

Related post on user retention/lifecycle email marketing as a service for those interested in the space: http://paulstamatiou.com/startup-user-retention-lifecycle-em... (and HN commentary on that post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3378583 )

Basically a call to action for more companies to tackle this .. and it looks like a bunch are. Exciting times for a big problem.

Absolutely. Great posts from both yourself and eoghan, definitely worth a read for anyone interested in this area!

As the comments show, there's a clear need for this that lots of great folks are going after (Vero, Intercom, etc) - but it all treads the fine line between usefulness and annoying for the end customer. If I look at some of the key examples on the Vero site, some seem to fit the obviously non-annoying bucket (email people if they haven't logged in in two weeks) while others are more dubious (send a user an email when they buy ten widgets).

Two solutions to this: - Doing some meaningful analysis that compares successes/failures within the same cohorts to identify really important inflection points (i.e. a user needs to complete setup within 48 hours or they never will)

- Talking to customers to really understand the onboarding process so that you can use these event triggers to provide even better customer service.

These tools are definitely better than nothing, but I'm left thinking that we (as a community online) might be able to do better. Is the answer to better customer service on the web really more sophisticated automated emails? Or is it actual personalization + meaningful analysis?

The stock answer to this is that "actual personalization" doesn't scale. But I think that's BS. It comes from people who think of web business customers as datapoints—heartless automatons traversing A/B test optimized sign-up funnels.

Today's and tomorrow's high-margin businesses do and will invest in real humans. It's truly mind-blowing that Apple can find and very comfortably pay nice, smart, real people who can understand the problems of any customer who walks in off the street and fix them, one by one. But they do.

I think that the future of support / customer service / customer development / marketing involves more humans and less automation. I'm part of the Intercom team and we've designed the first version of our product to fill the gap between now and that future—we have a great amount of automation and a great amount of one-to-one communication features, integrated tightly together. By design, we don't allow our customers to send automated messages that can't be responded to because we know that the real value happens when real people get involved.

I think you've raised some fine points here. eoghan has made some great points in responding.

In building a platform we're aware that there is a large piece around education and ensuring our customers use the system effectively and respectfully. It's in our interest that they do this as it means they'll see happier customers / better conversions and continue to find value in Vero.

Further to that I think there will always be a need for true customer support and one-to-one customer service depending on the situation. We've got a few features to help with this, one example is being able to see what emails your users have actually received in order to better understand their needs when talking to them one-on-one. We'll be adding more over time!

This has definitely got legs - well done to the Vero guys.

If you take shopping cart abandonment emails (which I'm most familiar with), you see a set of quite tired, overpriced providers (see e.g. https://www.barilliance.com/pricing) - so there's definitely a big opportunity to shake the transactional CRM market up.

Question: as a generator of customer events (I run SnowPlow, an open-source alternative to MixPanel, https://github.com/snowplow) how can I integrate SnowPlow events into Vero - do you have an API or similar?

A bit off topic - how are you finding SnowPlow?

I love the idea but I worry that it is no where near ready for the mainstream (more because of a lack of skill amongst web analysts then anything to do with the product)

Hi rfergie, you're right, on the analytics side, there's a lot to do to educate analysts on how to perform customer-level analyses at web-scale. Hadoop and Hive are a new toolkit for sure - we're writing a load of Hive analysis tutorials (https://github.com/snowplow/snowplow/wiki/Analysts-cookbook), but ultimately we're going to need to "go up the stack" and start building some UIs. Web analysts in particular expect GUIs (general business analysts in BigCos are more comfortable with SQL, R etc).

At the moment our early adopters are more on the technical side - people who want to embed SnowPlow into their adserver/social game/analytics tool/whatever. SnowPlow is kind of the only game in town for this (because it's webscale and costs scale predictably - they're just AWS costs).

If you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an email - alex@snowplowanalytics.com

Thanks for the kind words.

I'll send you an email with some thoughts on integrating custom events and where we'd like to go with it!

This looks very interesting; I've requested an invite.

One meta question: why not link the Vero logo to the main Vero site?

I saw it was 'fixed' below, but it's an annoying side-effect of everyone using "blog.*" as a blog address, and all default blog software assuming that 'home' is /

WP4 will probably have a step in the install software saying 'should we link the default home to /, or if not, where should we link to?' and everyone will praise it as innovative, and sadly, given the state of blog software, it will be. :/

You hit the nail on the head...that is exactly why it was heading to "/".

One of the co-founders here. Thanks for putting your email down, you'll get an invite soon!

Just fixed the link on the header logo (did the same for the logo in the sidebar), good suggestion.

You might also give your main page some love. On my iPad it looks like a mess.

I love the idea though. I send out several newsletters per week through MailChimp, and while they've started offering transactional emails as well, their implementation is definitely not as ambitious as what this looks like. Can't wait to try it.

I know these two guys for a few years. They know how to hustle and the problem they are solving is huge. Its a no brainer for companies who want conversions to use their system and utilize user triggered emails.

Great idea, I have been thinking of something similar for a while.

Quit annoying your users with unsolicited email.

We actually agree with you. There is fine line between sending emails that are an annoyance and emails that hold value.

Email is an extremely effective tool for both marketing to and communicating with your users. Our aim is to make event-based emails as targeted and personal as possible. If a user receives an email pertinent to their personal situation it's much less likely to be received as an annoyance or spam.

You need to respect the inbox but that doesn't mean you can't use it at all!

I find that personally I don't mind if I get some kind of initial email, as long as I'm able to opt out (easily) and they inform me of my ability to do so, just like the example from Buffer in the blog post.

This type of user engagement is what Sailthru, one of the fastest growing NYC startups, powers for several well known startups and larger companies - check the client list:https://www.sailthru.com/clients (Disclaimer: I work on product there). Our idea is to focus on user retention rather than user acquisition - and we help people do this by making their messages actually meaningful, and on the users' terms.

Part of this is triggers, which seems to be the focus of a lot of the discussion here, but an even bigger piece is personalization. The idea with personalization is to show the user content that is relevant to them. That involves a big analytics and prediction component in terms of figuring out their context, and their interests. We've seen some pretty crazy results in terms of jumps in engagement that emerge from personalizing emails to users, and also engaging users at the right points in time, in the right ways. This is relevant to the triggers conversation as well, in terms of being able to identify and personalize the triggers for each user. We haven't run explicit experiments on that aspect in terms of magnitude, but a trigger system in a vacuum won't give you the same type of power as a personalized/automated one.

Even things like personalizing WHEN you send an email to a user have a dramatic effect on open/click rates. One of our clients experienced a 10% increase in revenue (they were already making substantial revenue) by leveraging Horizon Send Time (Our product that sends an email to a user when they are most likely to open based on that users previous open habits).

The right combination of personalization to users, and appropriate event-based triggers, can really improve the perception of users (oh wow the content being sent to me is actually valuable!), and increase their happiness, and subsequently their life-time value.

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