Founded in 2016, European micro savings and investment startup Oval helps its half a million customers build healthy financial habits.
I spoke with Claudia Pravettoni, Product Growth Specialist at Oval, to learn how she and her product, engineering, design, data, and BI colleagues leverage the Braze platform's customer engagement and cross-channel messaging capabilities to nurture relationships across email, push notifications, and in-app messaging.
She shared how Braze has helped their small business adopt best-in-class customer engagement strategies, empowered Oval to accomplish more while utilizing fewer resources, enabled Pravettoni to become more efficient at her job, and how Oval plans to advance content and community growth with Braze in the future.*
*This conversion has been edited for length and clarity.
How would you describe Oval and what it makes possible for its customers?
Oval is a micro-savings and investment app that helps consumers build healthy financial habits by saving on a recurring, automatic basis according to what we call “Smart Rules,” which are fun ways to set aside money on a weekly basis to support your savings goals. You can start investing with as little as 10 euros or pounds and then just add to that in small ways over time to help you save up to buy that new car or new house or to just set aside money in an emergency fund.
Oval was founded in 2016 and we launched on the app store in 2017. We have around a half-million registered users in Europe, with the largest number in Italy, the UK, and Spain.
Are there internal tools or processes you’ve instituted that help you collaborate effectively with other teams?
Our web team actually made something really interesting, which I think we should be proud of as a startup. I can put my hands on HTML but I don’t know how to create templates from scratch and write HTML myself. So when I wanted to play around with our email design and improve the look and feel, I was a bit limited. We initially came to the web team with a request to create two or three extensive templates that then I could move around or delete certain elements—basically creating one big template with everything I could ever need, that then I can play around with. They said, “let’s make something even cooler.” So they created what we call “Oval Mail,” which is a template builder that fits within our internal design system. Through APIs, we can import those templates to Braze.
It improves the handoff between the design team and our UX engineers, benefitting our marketing team—if something in our design system changes, our template builder content blocks are automatically updated, meaning the templates we upload to Braze stay aligned without manually changing the HTML code. We also use Figma, so our copywriter and designers can visualize how a particular template or email will turn out on different devices before they are created on Braze. The idea behind all this was to make the marketing team as independent as possible, whilst keeping everything aligned and consistent, since now I don’t have to bother our web team every time I need a new template or block. It makes our process a lot more efficient. We’ve put a lot of effort into this tool, and we’ve really seen our emails step up compared to the tool we were using before Braze.
In terms of your campaigns, what’s your process for planning, executing, and optimizing them over time?
Well, we’re still very much a startup, so often there isn’t a strictly defined process. It’s common for someone to come up with an idea and then we all work hard to make it a reality. But in an ideal world, we’d start out with our specific business and product needs, look at our KPIs and figure out what we should focus on. So, is it a product marketing need, like launching a new investment product? Or maybe a lifecycle marketing need, like there’s a part of the customer journey we haven’t covered yet? Knowing that helps you better understand the goal you’re trying to achieve and what steps are necessary.
If I’m creating a Canvas with Braze, for instance, I’ll work with our BI [Business Intelligence] team to understand where we’re seeing drops-offs in our funnel, how to adjust the timing of the push notifications built into that customer journey, or even just who we should be targeting to get the best results. We’ve been doing A/B testing and have seen with our weekly newsletter, for example, that emojis work and that there’s an engagement difference between listing numbers as numerals or writing them out, for instance, which is really cool.
Can you share some examples of how Braze has enabled you to be agile and efficient?
As part of our onboarding process, users have to create an investor profile and then add their address and complete an investor profile survey to see if they're eligible to invest.
Back in the autumn, after releasing our new app design, we started realizing that fewer users were completing these final funnel steps. We realized it was because we changed the banner on our homepage and so people weren’t prompted to create their investor profiles as easily. While the product team worked on fixing this on their end, we inserted a whole Canvas flow of push notifications guiding users to complete these steps, which helped us quickly improve conversions.
Another example is our use of in-app message pop-ups. Working with a banking provider means that occasionally they go into maintenance mode for a few hours during the night. In order to warn our users—who may try to use certain in-app features during that window—in a non-invasive way, we just put a Braze in-app message so that any user logging in during that time can see it without product development having to get involved. Easy wins like that have been helpful.
Any specific Braze features that you love?
The first thing I asked when we were having our call with Braze was, "Can I add a rate limit to push notification sends?" because our previous tool just sent them all out at once. For example, to send a notification to 30,000 people, I had to split it up into batches of 5,000 push notifications at a time and literally press send, wait a couple of minutes, and then send the next batch. As you can imagine, this wasn't a great use of my time at all! The rate limit feature has changed my life because I just press a button and it goes.
Being able to automate based on user events changed the amount of things that we can target our customers with and makes things a lot less manual. In our previous tool, I was literally uploading manual CSV files to update attributes sometimes.
For me personally, Braze is efficient and has freed up so much of my time for more important, useful and valuable activities and helped me bring more value to the company as well. We've also stepped up the look and feel of the content that we send out to our customers.
I also love the built-in retention analyses that Braze has. And I'm using Liquid [personalization] for the different languages for my multilingual campaigns with multiple currency options. With Liquid, I can build them all into one campaign, instead of splitting it out. I like seeing all the data in one campaign because some segments have a lot less users, so this way I have those summed up all in one. I place Liquid into the URL and the photos as well.
What has helped you get the most out of Braze?
What's helped me get the most out of Braze has been knowledge of the product and our user events system. Knowing everything inside out has really helped me understand how to build out campaign logic more than anything else.
To learn the product, I took the LAB courses, and also joined the Braze Bonfire Slack community, which has been useful. And of course, I've contacted Braze support a few times to understand where things aren't working, and have had Customer Success sessions as well.
If I want to test out an actual user journey, I use a fake demo account just to go through and see the timing of Braze messages in real life and go through the flow that a user would go through. I've learned a lot from trial and error through that.
How do you plan to use Braze in the future to fuel your company's growth?
We have a whole section about financial education, which we're redeveloping right now and want to bring forward because that's part of our overall mission. A lot of people who invest through us have never invested before. So we're going along with them on this journey of financial education, but people are at different stages of their journey. The best way to get them the correct content that they need to really help them out is through Content Cards because of the segmentation that we're able to do with Braze.
Overall, using Braze lets the marketing team work independently from engineers. I think not having this dependency will really help us grow quickly and efficiently.
Hundreds of innovative small and growing companies 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.
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.