An interview with James Fuller, Katherine Peck, and Stephen Gillmore from CLEAR’s email marketing team
No matter how super-high-tech, fancy-laser-beam awesome your product may be, email is still the best way to reach customers. Ya know, until we all get those sonic implants we’ve been dreaming of…
While CLEAR does most of their customer acquisition at airports (those friendly folks many of us foolishly walk past on our way to the endless security line), they consistently send some pretty great customer emails after signup. They make the complicated space of biometric security simple to understand, and they manage to keep it friendly and engaging. So, we were stoked to get the chance to ask them how they do it.
Apparently, when you’re not selling something people can hold in their hands, the trick is to focus on the feeling your service or product generates. Remind them how what you offer gives them the warm fuzzies and makes their life easier. Oh, and offer them a cup of coffee or some candy every once in a while.
What are some of the particular challenges you face in designing emails for the security/biometrics space?
One major challenge is explaining what CLEAR is and how our service works, as biometric security is still a relatively new concept for consumers. There’s always a layer of demystifying biometrics, since that word alone can be intimidating. So we soften language and speak more to the CLEAR experience.
There’s also the challenge of striking a balance between portraying ourselves as a secure biometric company and creating a fun, light-hearted email experience that’s compelling to our audiences. To find that equilibrium, we hold our emails to a very high standard with multiple cross-team review and steps in place, including input from our legal team.
One example of finding that harmony was in our recent “your photo ID doesn’t do you justice” campaign, where we paired a relatable experience — not liking your driver’s license or passport picture — with a surprisingly tricky concept to explain — that CLEAR replaces the need for ID entirely. It was a simple, fresh way to educate an audience unfamiliar with CLEAR.
How you do explain biometrics to customers. Does that happen in one of your early onboarding emails?
The majority of our members sign up for CLEAR at the airport and are walked through the process in person by our Ambassadors. For those who sign up online, we send a dedicated email explaining how to complete enrollment, which includes adding your fingerprints at the airport.
Wherever we can, we try to reinforce the benefit of experiencing biometrics firsthand — it’s really the best way to understand how CLEAR works!
What is CLEAR is doing to get non-users excited to become a customer? Are you seeing list sign-ups based on account creation or do you have an outbound marketing email to entice more people to sign up for your emails?
We currently don’t collect email addresses from prospective members who are looking for more information about new airport launches, but we may implement this capability in the future.
We always keep our current and former members up to date on our latest airport openings by sending an announcement to all members, which we support through multi-channel campaigns and experiential activations. We try to build excitement around new airport openings, so that members will be excited to spread the word to their friends and family in those areas, which we’re very appreciative of!
What are the primary value propositions for your emails to customers? In other words, once customers have signed up for CLEAR, what do your emails do for them?
An amazing member experience is top priority for us. Our team is focused on the member and their CLEAR journey, so we’re very thoughtful about messaging cadence, relevancy, and value.
Education is a priority for us. In our welcome series for instance, we try to provide the most relevant information to help with onboarding, such as where we’re located, how to complete enrollment, how to add family members to your CLEAR account, etc. That strategy ties into our main goal of making life simple and stress-free for members. Seeing is believing, so driving members to actually use our Lanes is the best recipe for retention and loyalty.
Overall, we send a wide range of content to each of our segmented audiences — from airport announcements, to transactional emails, to surveys, to exclusive ‘guest passes’ that members can forward to friends.
Have you run any tests that you can share with us?
We, of course, do general run-of-the-mill email testing, such as subject line, preheader, CTA and template variation tests, etc. But we also try to get more creative with our testing.
For our Daylight Saving Time campaign, we tested two offers — one discounted rate offer, and one that also included a coffee gift card. That extra bump [of a $10 Starbucks card] moved the needle in enrollments with a lift in conversion rate, and the increase in revenue offset the cost of the cards — it seems like a no brainer, but we wanted the numbers to measure effectiveness, i.e. whether or not it’s worth the added effort.
It also complemented our DST campaign messaging perfectly — you can zip past security and gain your lost hour back with CLEAR, then enjoy a cup of coffee with your newfound time. And again, anything we can do to make members’ lives easier.
We’re a data-centric company, so our philosophy is to always challenge assumptions with testing, especially with a rapidly growing and diversifying audience. Testing is also a great way to introduce new and/or bolder elements and concepts into our brand.
How do you segment your list?
We typically segment based on where a customer is in their CLEAR journey — i.e. whether a member is brand-new, inactive etc. We also segment in order to send relevant information that adds value, for example geography. If we open a new sports stadium, then we’ll send an email to members in that city, speaking to their ‘local’ CLEAR offerings.
We sometimes also segment based on direct feedback we receive from members. For example, we may send a member who provided positive feedback on a survey an exclusive guest pass to forward to their friends and family. By taking direct input from customers, and then giving them the tools needed, we are able to help them grow our community. After all, our members are the best brand advocates!
What phrases or graphics have been effective in getting engagement from your customers?
We’ve seen that expanding on what our members can do with their saved time — you can spend it with friends, activities, etc. — resonates well with our audiences. It’s a more inspirational take on our service offering. And since we don’t have a physical product to market, we often rely on the ‘feeling’ that CLEAR gives you.
We love to add our own spin to seasonal messaging, and we love to amplify campaigns with a holistic experience. For Valentine’s Day, we crafted an email campaign, but we also added an experiential element: we handed out candy and cards to members in the CLEAR Lanes, and then sent a more personalized follow-up email to those travelers, saying how much we loved seeing them that day. That personalized email received a 50% increase in open rate from the general Valentine’s Day emails sent to other lists. The campaign also generated hundreds of organic social posts and buzz about the candy and cards. It all tied together beautifully!
What areas of personalization are you exploring?
We’re very focused on ensuring that we leverage personalization only when there is a strong value add for our members.
In our CLEAR Sports welcome journey, which is a free offering for sports fans, we include your ‘home stadium’ where you signed up, along with a detailed map of that stadium. It’s a simple way to create a more personalized experience for our Sports Members. This tactic is a little trickier for CLEAR airport memberships, since some sign up when traveling and not necessarily at their home airport.