How GreaterGood used personalized email to boost sales and charitable transactions
The charitable giving company leaned on a trigger-based email platform to increase sales and transactions by over 60%.
Online charitable retailer Greatergood.com introduced click-to-give micro-donations over two decades ago. In the click-to-give model, users click a (virtual) button for their charity of choice and an advertiser or sponsor donates to the specified charity. GreaterGood’s cause-focused websites have raised over $70 million for organizations supporting people, pets, and the environment.
“With our many types of cause areas combined with the different ways consumers can interact with us, there was no way to scale and provide a cohesive customer experience without leveraging technology,” said Jessica Frost, GreaterGood’s Chief Brand Officer.
GreaterGood’s ability to shift focus as customer behavior, commerce trends, and technology have changed over the past two decades has contributed to their longevity. They now have over a dozen brands and cause areas which include a variety of different donation approaches.
Frost explained the company’s approach as multifaceted. “We have our ecommerce arm, our direct donation arm, and our micro-donation arm which doesn’t require users to give anything. It democratizes philanthropy in a way that’s accessible to everyone. We also have a publishing and petition arm. All of this falls under a family of websites that include GreaterGood,” she said.
Increasing charitable donations during a crisis
When COVID-19 hit, GreaterGood wanted to drive charitable shopping and monetary donations, but they also wanted to increase daily click-to-give activity. GreaterGood’s click-to-give program is free to customers who can click on a link to support their charity of choice. Funds are provided to the charity by GreaterGood Sponsors. For example, GreaterGood’s Click-to-Give campaign for charities that fight hunger and poverty is supported by sponsors like Upwork, as shown in the following image.
GreaterGood knew they had to be sensitive with the language and messaging they were using with donors since some customers were no longer able to shop-to-give or make direct donations, but they could continue to participate in free click-to-give programs.
To address this challenge, they partnered with Bluecore, a marketing cloud platform that specializes in the digital retail space. Originally launched in 2014 as email automation platform TriggerMail, Bluecore rebranded in 2015 and added more personalization functionality across the broader digital shopping journey.
For their COVID-era campaigns, GreaterGood used the platform to identify customers who were most likely to donate. They then tailored messaging based on a customer’s preferred form of donation, ultimately creating personalized experiences around donation opportunities relevant to specific individuals.
Responding to disaster during a disaster
When the pandemic hit, Frost and her team had to work quickly to change how they communicated with their customers including what kind of language they used within their messages, all while dealing with pandemic restrictions and shutdowns among their own employees. The scale of this task was enormous.
“We have millions of supporters. We knew we were going to have people who were going to want to give more and we were going to have people who needed to be on the receiving end, people who used to donate but aren’t able to because they lost their jobs,” said Frost.
GreaterGood had been working with Bluecore for over five years prior to 2020, but the focus before the pandemic was with automated email, the Bluecore Communicate™ feature of the platform. They’d just completed year-long test of the Bluecore system against their previous marketing automation tool, so the timing was right to engage with the platform for a larger-scale campaign that went beyond email.
“That initial year-long test was extremely successful,” said Frost. “It showed very clearly that we were able to provide a better customer experience and a higher ROI through leveraging customer information and predictive technology within the Bluecore platform. The testing period ended in May of 2020, so we were able to quickly move all our initiatives into the platform at that time.”
One key challenge was letting customers know they could allocate more donated funds from GreaterGood’s sponsors gthrough the free click-to-give programs simply by clicking more often.
“For the first time since 1999, we increased the click-to-donate opportunity from once a day to four times a day, then eight times a day, allowing opportunity for the folks that wanted to help more but maybe didn’t have the personal finances to do so,” said Frost.
Using a personalized messaging approach, GreaterGood notified specific customers about this increased opportunity to donate via the click-to-give feature.
Massive personalization equals massive results
Increasing click-to-donate activity meant that GreaterGood could better fund much-needed programs. For example, they donated over 4 million masks to medical and eldercare workers, the Navajo Nation, and schools.
“We’re still donating masks,” said Frost “Early on there was a real need for masks and because we’ve worked so long on having healthy, productive, and collaborative supply chains, we were able to get masks in very quickly and help these organizations.”
GreaterGood created customer segments based on patterns of click behavior tied to donations. Thus, they were able to identify if someone was a regular clicker and stopped (for example), or pinpoint users who indicated that they wanted to increase their click activity.
It wasn’t just click-to-donate activity that increased. Hyper-personalized email campaigns drove a massive increase in all fundraising activity. GreaterGood went from personalizing only 10% of its emails to personalizing 86%. As a result, it’s seen:
- Seventy-seven (77%) more clicks via reminder-to-click emails, which translated to 87% more site pageview sessions and 84% more clicks on the micro-donation button;
- A 22% increase in total email revenue;
- A 63% increase in transactions (sales and donations) for returning visitors.
Bluecore met with Frost’s team weekly, working with them to solve problems as they arose.
Frost notes that although they’ve been working with Bluecore for a half-dozen years, there was a training phase involved in moving all of GreaterGood’s marketing initiatives into the Bluecore platform. They assigned core leaders to go through the platform then rolled out training to other team members. Their email marketing team consists of 17 members who handle every aspect of campaign planning, design, and deployment.
“When you have a dozen brands and three or four major ways that people can affect those brands, doing that kind of customization requires a lot of data and a lot of effort,” said Frost.
Results in real-time
One of the most empowering things about working with an integrated marketing platform focused on retail is that GreaterGood can view their campaign results in real-time (and thus respond quickly). It also facilitates team collaboration, something critically important during a time when Frost and her team were working from home.
“When people talk about digital transformation, there is a huge emphasis on technology and it makes sense because the upgrades in technology do provide instrumental changes for a lot of brands,” explained Frost. “But there’s also organizational change and one of the most effective things we’ve done at GreaterGood is we’ve thought about people and process, not just technology, as part of that shift in investment.”