Change.org has a particularly appropriate name in this year of the pandemic.
The UK-based tech platform sends out 1 billion emails per month for people launching petitions for change worldwide.
The company thought it had its email under control, based on programmed frequency rules. But it had to throw out that rule book this year, said Kimberly Kay, marketing lead for Change.org, speaking during Movable Ink’s digital (re) Think conference last week.
Change.org now has over 207 million users across the globe, and was signing up new ones at a rate of 2 million per week. Email drives about 45% of its revenue and 55% of its site activity.
Users put up petitions for everything from gaining knighthood for Tom Moore, who raised money for the UK health service by doing laps in his backyard (he has been knighted) to seeking a law to make hooting on the street against women a criminal offense.
The platform’s email journey may sound familiar to veteran practitioners. It started with a batch-and-blast approach.
“We would test, well, not even really test, but set up five email campaigns a day and send them out to everyone on our list,” Kay said.
In the next stage, the team started to segment based on themes — say, animal rights. “Not everyone cares about every aspect of social change,” Kay observed.
From there, the group recognized that there are “different thematic interests and also different engagement levels on our lists,” Kay continued. Finally, there has been a move toward automation via algorithms.
“We’re treading really carefully toward automation, making sure we’re creating really safe and valuable experiences for our users there,” Kay noted. But she added, “we’re not fully there yet.”
At this point, Change.org began a “testing down the line model for emailing," Kay said.
The group had identified five engagement levels:
Under the new model, Kay and company noticed that the power users were skewing results, so they focused on the middle segments, doing a deeper dive into their propensity for engaging with emails and signing certain petitions.
The new approach worked -- with positive results:
Change.org couldn’t help but be pleased.
Then March arrived. Between the pandemic and calls for racial justice, the game had changed.
Change.org went from average of 20 petitions to as high as 2,000 per day. And it moved from an average 20,000 new users per week to 250k per week.
Victories doubled to up to six per day. Moreover, sign rates increased from 0.05% to 1.6% and open rates from 14% to 38%
Not bad for an entity struggling with new user acquisition for some time because of fears over GDPR.
Kay and her colleagues aren’t taking it for granted that this will continue, although spikes have been seen right into October.
You can’t blame Kay for boasting, "Email is the channel for us that drives so much of our social change."