Customer.io Actions – Why did we do it this way?
Marketing tech — and especially messaging / marketing automation — is hyper-competitive, with buyers struggling to differentiate between solutions. If the marketing tech industry was the restaurant industry, people would all claim to serve “pizza”. Instead of pizza, you’d get Bagel bites out of a toaster or pizza-flavored Combos. Occasionally someone who says they serve pizza actually gives you pizza. Unfortunately it’s really hard to tell the difference from the outside since everyone says the same thing. That’s the world Customer.io operates in. A strategy that shows clear differentiation is one of the biggest challenges of our business. With our recent release of Customer.io Actions, I wanted to share a bit about how we think about our business and our future in the market.
We learned from our early customer conversations in late 2011 / early 2012 that people didn’t want us to build an analytics product (our original goal), but they did like the idea of using analytics data to encourage behavior change. Hearing this a few times was our “eureka moment”.
When we launched Customer.io, we weren’t thinking about “emails” alone. We were thinking about Customer “inputs” and “outputs” (Get it? Customer.io?). Inputs would come though website or app activity from a customer (behavior data). Outputs would be reactions to that behavior data. Customer.io is the place where a business orchestrates their interactions with a customer.
Over the four years we’ve had our email-only solution in the market, we realized that the list of things people want out of a tool like ours is infinite. But one resounding thing we’ve heard from businesses that have a website and an app is that they love the way Customer.io handles the logic for email — and wanted to be able to use it for other types of messages they were sending. One of our customers who did an evaluation of every mobile push product on the market said that nobody does it how we do it and his business was comparing all other solutions against the hypothetical that we would some day do push.
It was validation like that that made us want to invest in Actions.
First, what is Customer.io Actions?For the first four years of the company, we’ve enabled people to automate highly targeted emails. Email was what was on the menu. At a high level, Customer.io Actions makes it possible for people to use the same segmentation and rules platform for sending those emails to trigger any message. Actions allows our customers to send more than email and create omni- / multi-channel experiences, leveraging all of the rich behavior data that they’re sending into Customer.io. (Thanks to everyone who continually asked us for this!) To fill in more context about my pizza analogy, let’s take a quick look at marketing tech as a space.
The Marketing Tech Space in 2016The number of marketing tech companies has ballooned since we started our business in 2012. We were on the early side of the wave of new marketing technology companies. ChiefMartec.com tracks companies in the Marketing technology space and estimated ~ 1000 companies in 2014, ~ 2000 companies in 2015, and ~ 3,500 companies in 2016. In our four years, we’ve seen competitors enter with big war chests and then flame out. We’ve seen others enter who were never able to gain traction. A subset of new entrants gained traction and are still around today. Given how competitive the space has been, our approach is to out-survive the competition. We’ve done this to date by taking minimal funding — just enough to get to the next milestone and by focusing on what we do best.
Focusing on core strengthsWe recognized that our strengths are:
- Segmentation: looking through rich behavior data and identifying people and groups who are similar.
- Rules & Triggering: Real-time workflows that turn the data our customers share into action.
Actions builds on our core strengthsI tweeted that I’ve been wanting to release actions since 2012:
I've been wanting to do this for 4 years. https://t.co/wmWupmkWPI— Colin Nederkoorn (@alphacolin) August 2, 2016