Are Your Subscribers Traveling First Class, or Stuck in Coach?

Posted by Bonnie Malone on

Recently, I had the good luck of traveling with a road-warrior colleague. Just before boarding our flight, my colleague generously allowed me to enjoy the benefit of his hard-earned loyalty status with the airline. Yes, much to my surprise and delight, he upgraded us both to first class. At first, it was a bit awkward, as I am well-trained in the coach way of life (tray tables up, no legroom, paying for food and drinks) and had to learn about life in the nicer cabin (real glasses, spacious seats, electric outlets, free food and drinks—even warm cookies!). As the flight progressed, I realized that this experience will forever color my future air travel perspective and coach will never be quite the same.

Considering how many of us manage the subscriber experience, I started wondering how often subscribers receive a first class experience. Are most subscribers getting the “coach” treatment? And how does that impact engagement? Consider these correlations:

  • Loyalty has its perks. We were afforded the opportunity to enjoy the first class cabin due to my colleague’s very frequent repeat business with the airline. Similarly, your very best customers should be recognized and rewarded for continuing to engage with your brandwhether that means gifts, special promotions, exclusive content, or preview privileges. Your best customers should be proud of their status and benefits of doing business with you.
  • Be proactive in anticipating needs. Providing extra luggage stowage upon boarding, offering drinks frequently, and assisting with coats before disembarking were all ways the flight attendants anticipated what was needed and proactively serviced the cabin. This same approach can work for proactively messaging subscribers prior to key lifecycle stage changes, or to encourage conversion. Leverage data and customer behavior patterns to identify your subscribers’ needsthen align your messaging strategy accordingly.
  • High touch service can be flexible. With fewer passengers to service, the flight attendant was much more visible and attentive to the first class cabin. This focus enabled personalized attentionmore interactions with those who wanted it, less with those who just wanted to work or sleep. Often in the name of efficiency, we send the same message content and frequency to large groups of subscribers (or our entire list!). However, one size does not fit all and could lead to premature disengagement. Use more segmentation factors or dynamic content to become more focused in your messaging approach and provide that same level of personalized attention to your subscribers.
  • A good experience is powerful. While thankful for my lux travel experience, it makes the previous “norm” now seem subpar. Having had the premium treatment, my appetite is whet for more, and I’m motivated to collect more of those frequent flier points in the hopes that one day I, too, may be able to enjoy the perks of first class travel. Likewise, once your subscribers have a first class experience, it changes their perspective and increases their inbox expectations. Don’t let a competitor win over your subscribers by providing that better experience. Introduce a premium approach (even if it’s in baby steps) and earn subscriber loyalty for your own program!

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself, to get started in maximizing your subscribers’ experience:

  • What reasons do your subscribers have for continuing to do business with you, rather than the competition?
  • What data points can you use to help anticipate subscriber needs?
  • What elements can you differ between subscriber segments?
  • When can you implement the first change?

To see how some of America’s top retailers use welcome emails to get their subscriber experience off on the right foot, download our new study.


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About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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