Focus on Subscriber Experience: Learning a Lesson from Evite

This past Sunday the New York Times Magazine ran a column by Virginia Heffernan ranting about Evite. Her complaints about the party-planning service were many, but one sentence really jumped out at me:

“And why, for the love of both partying and efficiency, aren’t the details of an event — the time and place — in the subject line or at least the email itself?”

The reason, according to Heffernan’s column, is that Evite wants to drive page views, which translate into ad dollars, by forcing recipients to click through to the party details page. In this case, what’s good for the business isn’t good for the consumer. They get away with it because they are perceived to be the only party in town. But they are leaving a gaping hole in the consumer experience that a competitor could easily drive a truck through. Make the party planning experience just a bit better and you could be a winner. Maybe Evite should consider adding party information to the email and making up for any lost page views by including ads in the email.

So, gentle readers, time to take stock: Consider the many ways you might sacrifice the experience of your subscribers for the good of the business. And then ask yourself if the short-term gains are worth the long-term erosion of your list and competitive vulnerability.

Here’s some questions to consider, based on your audience:

Publishers: Do you “tease” the reader with headlines, thus forcing them to click through in order to read the news they are interested in? Conversely, do you include long articles in the email when a short synopsis might be preferable? Finding the right balance between too much information and not enough can be tricky, but it’s crucial to creating a good experience. The important point is to view it from the subscriber’s perspective.

Travel marketers: Do you blast your entire list with the same fare sale notice, even if that means the majority of recipients will find the email valueless? If you know where I fly from, can’t you just send me the flights that I can actually take? Customizing emails geographically is a must for creating a great experience for travelers.

Retailers: Are you forcing your customers to remember a coupon code in order to take advantage of a discount? Would it be possible to have the links embed the code so that the discount was automatically taken?

Social networkers: Have you created a closed message system where subscribers need to log in to your site in order to view messages from others on the network? Are you then compounding the annoyance factor by sending emails that say “Come to to view a new message!”? The best experiences online are created when you consider how people are going to use your site and how it will integrate with the other aspects of their online life. Most people have a primary email account where they work, live and play. At most they have two – one that’s strictly business and one that’s personal. In either scenario adding another message system makes life worse, not better.

I encourage you to review your program with an eye toward the user experience and how you can improve it. If you need an objective view from an expert email strategist, sign up for our Email Strategy Report Card. Our Strategic Services department will review your program and give you actionable advice for creating a better experience for your subscribers.

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