Like many other apps, the people behind JSwipe, a Jewish dating app, were sending push notifications to communicate with their users. But it wasn’t enough. In order to inspire people to log back in, they hatched a plan: Users inactive between three and five weeks were divided into two camps. Half of them were sent emails with interactive content and the other half received the existing push notification drip.
When the first batch opened their emails, they saw an interactive email newsletter with four potential matches. The users could like and reject matches right within the inbox and their actions would be recorded not just on the email but also on the JSwipe servers. After interacting with each of the potential matches, the users would be directed to the app. Bryan Welfel, Co-Founder of JSwipe, says that this exercise increased their interaction rate by 26% and “18% of people who interacted went on to open the JSwipe app”.
At a time when interactive, digital content is everywhere, adding it in an email doesn’t sound like a big deal. But experts believe that this minor tweak – where users open an email and see live data that they can interact with – is a fairly new change.
The JSwipe’s email solution was powered by a NY-based email marketing and analytical startup called Rebel. Formerly RebelMail, the company has raised an undisclosed seed round funding this year in May. It already had a seed funding of $3 million by Vazira Investments, Boldstart Ventures, among others.
Resilience of the Email
Every year there’s speculation about the numbered days of the email but businesses continue to rise and survive through it. When Joe Teplow, the founder of Rebel started the company in 2013, he was told, ‘Really, you’re going to build a company in email? Email is dying, it’s over,’”
But every year, marketers are astounded by its resilience. It is repeatedly pronounced dead to be resurrected by studies such as these: email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. In fact, e-mail advertising spending in the U.S. is expected to increase from $270 million in 2015 to $ 350 million in 2019.
However, a lot of features that we take for granted on the web are not easily replicated on email. The difference is that emails arrive in people’s inbox as opposed to the web where people actively seek out more interaction through their search queries or downloads.
But with the expansion of email marketing, emails are turning on the sophistication. It’s not only good to have a stylized email that looks good on mobile phones, tablets or desktops, it is essential.
Along with the possibility of multi-screen usage, different email clients such as Outlook, iOS mail, or Gmail, render the same mail differently. While many email service providers focus on the email design so that the clients can focus on the messaging, Rebel wants to do slightly more.
You’ve Got Interactive Mail
Email has been a one-way platform, but Rebel wants to change it. The startup wants to ensure that the sender doesn’t have to hope for a click through but gets to engage their user through the very mail. It wants to go beyond opens and clicks and leverage the time a user spends on an email. This means that instead of clicking on something to be redirected to another page, users can browse a slideshow, add items to their cart, touch each tab for a new piece of content, or answer a quiz directly inside their inbox. The effort, in some ways, is to move from quickfix templates to functionality.
One of Rebel’s first emails included feature elements like photo galleries and dropdowns which would allow users to “learn about products, select options (size, color, or quantity) and add a product directly to their cart”, all within one email. The thought of people shopping in their inbox also presents to companies data that a user merely opening and closing an email doesn’t give them: such as every photo viewed or every dropdown expanded.
While Rebel enables companies to build their own email templates, its customized offerings have been increasing. Recently, it developed an interactive calendar which can be used to “select dates for departures and arrivals or confirm appointments in email”. It now has plans to alter this design to make a seating chart to reserve tables or movie tickets.
In another example, Rebel designed a visual in-email preference for subscribers of a beauty brand newsletter – so that the user could select her complexion and product interests.
But, arguably, its biggest idea has been of bringing e-commerce to the inbox. Through its Rebel Shop product, users can not only add products to their cart but complete the transaction right through their email. Rebel, thus, can engage a user more than a traditional email would. It is also utilizing the time people already spend on an email and saving them a few clicks.
But it’s not just the “buy” button flashing in a Rebel email. Founder Teplow started Good St in 2015- a charity email newsletter where members receive a daily email discussing a cause and two “vetted” charities that they can sign up to donate 25¢/day to.
While Rebel may have amassed clients such as Ebay, Nextdoor, Diane Von Furstenberg, or WeWork, it is not easy to convince clients to look beyond opens and clicks.
There are plenty of technical challenges too. Rebel has to ensure that the style of the email remains elegant on each app and device. While the startup claims that “70% of emails are opened on clients that support our interactivity,” it has to degrade its email to a static fallback for clients that don’t.