How Successful SaaS Companies Use Nudge Emails

Kalo Yankulov

Kalo Yankulov

Co-founder and marketer at Encharge.

40 to 60% of the users that sign-up for your product will log in once and never return. The solution? Nudge emails. Nudge emails are powerful action-triggered emails that take people back to your app and guide them in the right direction. They are all about proactively helping people where they are in their customer journey. Check any successful SaaS and you will notice they send at least one or two nudge emails in their onboarding.

Read on to learn what nudge emails are, why we need to send them, and how to implement them in practice.

What inventory management and nudge emails have in common?

To better understand why nudge emails work so well, I’d like to look at the difference between Just-in-time vs. Just-in-case inventory management.

You might be asking what inventory management has to do with email?

I’m going to take a step back and share with you a great entrepreneurial story that I learned from Wes Bush, as I was watching one of his webinars. The story is about Toyota.

Today Toyota is the largest car manufacturer in the world, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the days, the company had a serious inventory problem — they were producing more cars than they could sell because of inefficient sales forecasting.

To solve the problem, Mr. Sakichi Toyoda (the founder of Toyota) went to the grocery store. As he was looking at the shoppers walking down the isles, he started to think about what triggers someone to go to the grocery shop in the first place. More specifically, what are some of those triggers or signals that a company could look for to predict if someone’s going to go to the store today versus tomorrow vs. next week.

He then started to look for the triggers in business that could help in order to decide if they should create a new car or cease production. That’s how Mr. Toyoda came up with the concept of Just-in-Time manufacturing.

In manufacturing, if you stock the supplies you might need in the future, then you’re ready when you need them. However, you end up with a bunch of useless resources laying around, as well as the opportunity cost of money tied up in inventory. That’s Just-in-Case manufacturing.

On the other hand, Just-in-Time manufacturing means low overhead, fewer resources, and generally a lean way to run your business, as you only create things when you need them.

Now, when it comes to user onboarding, your onboarding emails probably resemble more of a just-in-case approach — you send a time-based sequence of emails, regardless of what someone does or doesn’t do in your product. You send emails about features “just in case”, hoping that people would find them useful:

Screenshot 2020 04 29 at 4.19.45 PM

A time-based sequence in Encharge

Don’t get me wrong, this is still better than not sending any onboarding emails at all, but at some point, you’d want to level up your onboarding and implement the “just-in-time” approach.

Just-in-time onboarding would mean sending the right emails to the right users when they do something in your app. Most importantly, t would mean sending the right nudge emails when people don’t do something in your app.

Think about the critical signals in your app. What are those signals or triggers that predict when someone is likely to churn from their trial? Apart from signups and logins, you want to track activities that are closely tied to reaching the value moments in your product.

Don’t know what your value moments are? Read my guide on identifying your critical value moments.

Once you know these signals, you can start building reward emails and nudge emails.

  • Reward emails → Send them whenever someone who signs up for your product, activates a mission-critical action in your app, to encourage the next action, and help them be even more successful with your tool.
  • Nudge emails → Send them to inactive users that have failed to complete a mission-critical activity.

3 types of nudge emails you want to send to your users

Now  let’s explore some examples and see how you can implement nudge emails in your email onboarding.

The Signup Abandonment Nudge email

Your users are constantly distracted by an endless galore of cat Gifs and phone notifications. Chances are if you have a two-step signup process, a lot of the users will never get to finish it. Either because they got distracted by that cute video of a midget cat or because they got scared by the upfront credit card requirement.

This is a nudge email that you want to send at the very top of the user journey — when a user completes the first screen of your signup (usually the one that asks for their email) but leaves your website before finishing the rest — like entering their credit card details.

For example, Netflix has a 3-step card-upfront signup process:

Executing a Signup Abandonment Nudge email in Encharge is pretty easy once you have the Signed Up event flowing from your App to Encharge.

First, create a segment of signed up users that have dropped off after the first step. You want to segment all people that have performed the event “Signed up” but lack an event property like “Subscription Plan”, “Billing details”, etc. When creating your event tracking plan make sure you ask your developers to send that event property to Encharge, as the data in that field will indicate how far along the signup process is the user.

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 2.00.02 PM

Then, you can use that segment to send the email. When a user signs up, wait for 3 hours, then check if they’re in the segment, and send the nudge email.

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 2.08.50 PM

Chris from SaaSEmailMarketing was able to get a 12% higher signup conversion rate for Followerwonk using the Signup Abandonment Nudge email, by addressing the upfront card objection, and sending the email at the right time.

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 3.48.39 PM

Feature Activation Nudge email

Users sign up for your tool for a reason — whether that’s to get a clearer picture of their traffic, organize files, improve team communication, or whatever. The challenge is that new SaaS tools are usually extremely difficult to use. There’s a learning curve that new users need to conquer.

It’s your job to take them by the hand and help them be successful with your product.

So how do you do that?

You make sure to guide them in completing the most critical actions in your app and eliminate any unnecessary distractions along the way.

Let’s say you run a tool like HotJar. A user is not going to get any value out of your tool unless they upload a script to their website, and the tool starts recording the visitors.

The feature activation nudge email is a great way to catch people where they are in their user journey and remind them proactively what they need to do.

Flatfile, the embeddable import widget app, sends a number of push emails when you leave their website without completing an action. In the example below, they encourage me to import my first CSV — a mission-critical action for their onboarding, without which a user won’t be able to understand how Flatfile works.

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 10.58.01 AM

Another great example comes from Wistia. The Wistia team is focused on getting people to upload and share their videos. After all, if you don’t share your video, you won’t be able to access most of the value of the product that comes from the advanced video analytics.

When you upload your first video on Wistia, you will receive a congratulations (reward) email. However, if you later miss to share the video, Wistia will nudge you to go back to the app and do that.

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 3.51.16 PM

Premium Feature Nudge Emails

Nudge emails could also be used with active users or users that have shown interest in upgrading but failed to upgrade.

Mindmapping software Mindmeister pushes its users to upgrade once a user shows interest in a premium feature. If you click on a locked premium feature or visit their billing page, you will receive a nudge email with a small discount that urges you to upgrade today:

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 4.04.03 PM

In Encharge, you can use events or “Page Visited” trigger to send an Upgrade Nudge Emails. Also, make sure to eject people from the flow if they upgrade!

Screenshot 2020 05 13 at 4.19.03 PM

More resources on onboarding emails

Ready to convert 24% more users to customers?

15-min review of your onboarding emails