How EarlyBird Leverages Braze to Optimize Messaging and Convert Users for Life

Sunny Manivannan By Sunny Manivannan Jun 16, 2022

Founded in 2019 in Chicago, EarlyBird has rapidly begun making a name for itself in the FinTech space. When Cofounders Jordan Wexler (CEO) and Caleb Frankel (COO) became uncles and godparents around the same time, they found themselves wanting to invest in the new children in their lives in a simple and meaningful way. Conversations surrounding their options led to recognizing a gap in the market that they later joined forces to fill.

The problem they set out to solve: The absence of a streamlined, user-friendly platform for family and friends to fund a child’s future by collectively beginning to build a robust, diversified investment portfolio before the child even takes their first steps. From there, the idea for EarlyBird was born.

I sat down with EarlyBird’s COO Caleb Frankel and Customer Success Manager Ciara Grierson to learn how Braze enables the team to encourage adoption, convert consumers to lifetime users, and develop a valuable user lifecycle. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Think back to when you decided to partner with us. What made you choose Braze at that time?

Caleb: The onboarding process for a parent using EarlyBird is pretty robust, and there's quite a bit of inherent friction just having to add a child's Social Security Number (SSN) and connect a bank account to get started with investing. We knew that we were going to be relying on lifecycle comms to get people through the finish line, and we’d need a variety of touch points across the board with an extremely scalable platform—one that connected with Segment to boot. So it wasn't a super challenging or long search process to choose Braze as our solution.

What does your day-to-day usage of Braze look like?

Ciara: What we've built since introducing Braze into our platform has been the foundation of all our transactional emails, a lot of which have to do with account openings, closures, or transactions within the app. But what we're really working on now is honing in on different cohorts of users and helping to move them along their journey towards whatever conversion event comes next in their lifecycle. So a lot of what I'm doing at the moment is building out those Canvases and campaigns that we've introduced.

Then we’re also focusing on all of the new features that we're adding—crypto being one of them, as well as “Expecting Parents,” a new feature we’ve implemented that allows parents who are expecting to begin preemptively investing in their little ones, which is wonderful. Obviously, this involves a lot more communications and different Canvases to be built, so we’re starting to focus on new-feature communications.

We’re also working to build out a lot of our other kinds of smaller-scale communications to help push users forward if they’ve gotten stuck during the onboarding process.

Can you talk about any campaigns you’re particularly proud of?

Caleb: First off, we've implemented flows using the anonymous ID and creating shell user accounts essentially to communicate with leads from our website.

We have about four different channels we're using to communicate with leads in order to bump them into the funnel and get them to install the app. That could be for expecting parents claiming a gift through one of our partner programs or someone who's signed up for crypto.

We also have an entire education flow that's powered by Braze. For example, we have an eight-part educational email series about crypto that has an 85% open rate on every email. Our crypto customers are extremely engaged, and it's helping us as a company to deliver value to long-term crypto customers while we build out the full functionality for it. During this beta/early-access period, Braze enables us to act as an educational platform, which is really cool.

As for conversion, we’ve broken down different stages. There’s a big drop-off when somebody creates an EarlyBird account, sees what they can do in the app, maybe feels overwhelmed, is not yet committed to setting up an account for their kid, or isn’t sure about sending a gift to a child who isn’t their own. We don't yet know enough about that particular user to understand what their intent is on EarlyBird, so we've got a nice Braze flow that pushes them to take a first step on the platform.

Either they’re a parent starting an account for their own child, or they’re sending a gift to the child of a family member or friend. Once that person is in the flow, we see a ton of drop-off across the board, so Braze Canvas has helped us take people who started the process and hit a wall—maybe they didn't have the child's SSN or didn't connect their bank account—and push them to complete their account. We do the same thing if they complete the account but don't fund it. Finally, we use Braze to drive engagement to encourage account holders to either make spontaneous contributions or set recurring contributions based on milestones in the child’s life.

What are some Braze features that you’re excited to start using or build out even further in the future?

Caleb: We haven't started using Content Cards yet. I think there's a ton of opportunity to leverage Content Cards to distribute interesting, unique content to our in-app users in a dedicated place.

Ciara: Agreed. Something else that I've begun to introduce to our communications that are already live—or new communications that I'm building out—is conditional logic. We've always used Liquid to personalize communications, which increases engagement and open rates, but something I'm now using a lot more is incorporating conditional logic, which has allowed us to be much more specific with the copy that we're sending to users based on their in-app behavior. I'm starting to add that to a lot of different places, and I'm already seeing its impact. Plus, now I don't have to build out as many distinct campaigns because I'm able to specify who’s actually receiving what directly within the copy. That's a wonderful aspect of our usage that I think is unique to Braze.

Caleb: We also have some flows coming down the pipeline that do push the envelope a little bit, and they’re really exciting on the engagement front. For instance, we have a Canvas called “Celebrating Firsts”—for every expecting or new parent, when a child is born, we have an event that fires through Segment, like when a child’s due date hits. The user joins a Canvas within Braze, and then we have a cadence of flows based on their start date.

One of the key components of EarlyBird is that with every contribution, users also add a moment or memory in visual format, whether that be via video or photo. So not only are you adding monetary contributions, you're adding emotional capital on top of financial capital and essentially building a time capsule for the child in the process. We're trying to capture all of the “firsts” because we believe that if we as a business can be the place where parents document three major events prior to and inclusive of the first birthday—be it birth, first tooth, first steps, etc.—EarlyBird will be an unchurnable app.

We’re starting to get campaigns out there for one-off holidays like Mother's Day and Father’s Day, as well as other holidays, too. Adding custom cards will be in the works soon—with each contribution or gift, you’ll be able to select an occasion and then turn it into a beautiful digital card. We'll have various featured cards designed by different artists, and those artists will be showcased via Braze emails and push notifications so users can select the card they like best.

How does Braze help you work more efficiently?

Ciara: There are so many capabilities of Braze that just make my life efficient. Without Braze, I couldn't imagine communicating to so many users at one time. How would I even go about that and be even able to segment users out as specifically as I can within Braze?

The ability to have a staging environment within Braze is really helpful, too. I’ve found that it's best practice to test a lot of these communications within a staging environment before we actually launch them, considering that a lot of it is dependent on events that a user actually completes within the app. I’ve found it extremely useful being able to test everything within Braze before launch, and it’s so efficient. It allows me to understand what's happening in real time, too.

Caleb: I don't really know how you could build a consumer mobile app that's going to reach thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of people without a platform like Braze—or really, just Braze.

I can't imagine a world in which you’re running a successful business and you aren't able to easily deploy customized, beautiful, personalized messaging and communications to drive awareness, adoption, and engagement with users who've never before interacted with features like all of what EarlyBird offers. Within our first year, we've been able to fully communicate to tens of thousands of families in really unique and powerful ways using Braze.

What advice would you give to an early stage startup considering Braze?

Ciara: There’s a lot of functionality that Braze offers, but don’t get overwhelmed. Take time to learn about each channel offered and how they can help you engage with your customers in new, more meaningful ways to each unique user. Take advantage of the courses Braze offers and join Braze Bonfire to get into the thick of it.

Caleb: If you’re just thinking about a customer engagement platform like Braze as a tool, you’re undervaluing it. Treat lifecycle marketing as an integral part of the product you’re delivering. Braze can help you do so much more than just communicate with your customers—it enables you to deliver a broader, richer brand experience to your customers. For us, that means reinforcing the power of community by encouraging collective contributions.

Final Thoughts

Hundreds of innovative small and growing companies like EarlyBird, Doktor24, YNAB, IDAGIO, Branch, and Grover are using Braze to disrupt their categories and achieve success within their industries. See for yourself why Braze is the secret weapon startups turn to to gain a competitive advantage, engage thoughtfully with their users, and ultimately drive business outcomes like user growth, conversions, revenue, retention, and more.

From Early Bird: Invest early, grow together. From baby showers to birthdays, and every milestone in between, EarlyBird makes it easy to celebrate and support a child you love with meaningful contributions to their future. Set up an account in minutes and get $25 to invest or gift on us.** All parents, doting family members, and loving friends within the Braze community are welcome! Get started here.

**New EarlyBird account holders only. Offer expires August 31, 2022

Sunny Manivannan

Sunny Manivannan

Sunny Manivannan is the VP and GM of Global SMB at Braze, and thoroughly enjoys being a Boston sports fan in New York City. Previously, Sunny served in various marketing and general management roles at Coupa Software (NASDAQ:COUP), and was formerly a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and an aerospace engineer at General Electric.

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