The Rule of Three

Rajeev Raman
February 12, 2021
Retail has known for a long time that it takes at least three tries before a customer hears you. And the line between helpful and annoying is very thin.

Walk into a Nordstrom and someone usually greets you as you enter, and at some other point someone will ask you if you need help, and finally, someone will ask you if you found everything you came for. Happens all the time, right? This is the rule of three that retail understands so well that digital is barely waking up to. Numerous studies* have shown that it takes between three and seven times before the customer "hears" you.

So why then do most websites say the same thing to everyone and, worse yet, just once? It's because the Internet grew up in the world of Google and Yahoo where people know what they are looking for and were happy to type it in. It's worked adequately in a transactional world where, for example, you are booking a trip. But it has not worked for subscription websites and apps. Mainly because members have only a general idea of what they are looking for and rarely if ever, type anything in. We can only hope that what we have on the home screen is what they are looking for.

What we need is a way to watch and guide the user to the things they don't know about your service - may be some new content, or could be a feature that they have not tried. We also need a way to not have to scream everything from the rooftop (the all-powerful popup), and most importantly, a way to match the way you are guiding with the message you are trying to deliver. It is the message and the messenger.

Sometimes the user just needs a little nudge, a strategically placed text phrase, that has next to zero cognitive load and shows them you are trying. The really important part here is that it has to be relevant to them personally. Why tell me about your great feature when I have already been using it heavily?

Next, you have to carefully consider the implication of the user not acknowledging your message. Is it really important to you that they acknowledge, well then it may be time to take up a bit more space on the screen to deliver the message.

Of course, if the message is time-sensitive or urgent, scream away!

An example of an interstitial popup

Now think about a way of combining all three into a sequence. Start gentle, and end with being certain you got the message across. Take the case when a user's card failed to charge for the subscription. You want them to update the card but you don't know if they intend to cancel or it's just an oversight. The first step is to isolate people with failed cards that are on the site or in the app at the moment, then further isolate the ones that are making reasonable use of the service and choose that subset to be the group you walk up to and say something.

  • Start by suggesting they take a look at their card setup
  • Follow up the next time you see them if they have not updated their card advising them of the shows they care about that they will lose access to
  • And if that does not work follow up the next time with an incentive for them to update their card information. An extra free month maybe?
Redfast Sequences allows you to configure and deliver personalized, step-by-step guidance

Would it surprise you to learn that our customers recover nearly 15% of customers that would otherwise have churned with this approach. It's really that simple to double your revenue in 9 months! With the right tools of course 🙂.

For a step-by-step playbook and benchmarks login to Redfast and look for the Sequence playbook in docs.

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