When it comes to sending emails to existing and prospective clients, clicks and engagement are the subjects of most discussions. And it makes sense. But what if an email can play an important role in the customers’ experiences without even being opened? It’s a bit counter-intuitive, I know. But here’s an example of such an email.
A bit of background information
Soon after my wife and I moved to the USA, we subscribed to Hello Fresh, a meal kit delivery service, and we’ve been using happily for about three years now. Meal-kit services such as Hello Fresh send the ingredients and recipes for three (or more) meals every week. The Meal-kit comes in a box delivered by mail.
For us it has several benefits such as not thinking about what to cook three days a week, bringing some diversity in our diets and cooking things we would otherwise not cook etc.
In our own case, normally the box with food came on Mondays afternoons which was (is) very convenient to cook dinner on Monday evening.
In mid-2016, Hello Fresh had a pretty bad delivery problem. For several weeks if not months, the box didn’t arrive at its usual time. Sometimes it arrived on Monday at 8 PM or even 10 PM which was too late for using it to cook Monday’s dinner. Other times it arrived on Tuesday morning.
The worst part of the disruption was the uncertainty on when the Hello Fresh box would arrive. Before the disruption, we could count on Hello Fresh taking care of dinner Monday through Wednesday, but with the delivery disruption, we didn’t know if we should buy something to cook on Mondays or not.
Eventually, Hello Fresh solved the delivery problem by changing delivery providers. After a few annoying weeks of disruption and uncertainty, the predictability of receiving the box with food on Monday afternoons returned.
The email that I don’t open
At the same time with solving the distribution (delivery) problem, Hello Fresh started sending emails with the subject “Your Hello Fresh box is on its way” every time a box left their regional distribution center. In the first weeks after the regularity of deliveries was restored, I opened the email and even used, once or twice, the parcel tracking feature to see where our box of food is and when it is estimated to arrive at our apartment. A few weeks after the disruptions in delivery disappeared, I started to not open the email announcing that the meal kit is on its way.
For me, the customer, receiving the email that I don’t open brings peace of mind. It is a (re)confirmation that the food from Hello Fresh will arrive on schedule – in time to cook Monday’s dinner. Quite interestingly, even if I don’t open the email, I delete it from my inbox only after I picked up the box.
In this case, for sure, clicks are the wrong metric.
The focus on clients’ “engagement” (i.e. opening and click-through rates) with the emails sent to clients might make the service provider myopic (even blind) to the roles played by emails in the customers’ experiences.
A naïve interpretation of people not opening the email I mentioned earlier would be: if people don’t even open the email, then it makes no sense to send it anyway. But eliminating this email would be the wrong thing to do because that would remove a cue of reliability and predictability. It would bring back uncertainty.
In order to be useful and relevant to the customers’ experience, an email doesn’t require opening or clicking on a link. It needs to respond to a need customers have.