Customer.io Review: Your 24/7 switchboard for automated customer messaging

23rd August 2021

TL;DR

Customer.io is an advanced switchboard for timely on-demand messages. These take the form of data-driven emails, push notifications, and SMS text messages, triggered by actual user actions or attributes. A truly scalable way to deliver the perfect product experience for every customer, even as you sleep.



Loved

  • Scalable
  • Visual builder
  • Multiple messaging types
  • Fluid segments

Loathed

  • Limited templates
  • Very technical documentation

The Story

What is Customer.io?

Customer.io turns targeted messaging into an art form. The automated messaging tool puts you in perfect sync with user actions and intent, based on made-to-measure messaging flows. With advanced features and a visual workflow builder, Customer.io acts as a complete multi-channel engagement kit in a box. Use it for everything from transactional emails to welcome journeys and customer feedback – all with a personal touch.


Colin Nederkoorn

Meet the Maker:
Colin Nederkoorn

Customer.io’s CEO, Colin Nederkoorn, started the company in New York in 2012. The ephinany came when working at another startup and struggling to respond quick enough to user actions in the app. Concerned with speed and spammy correspondence, Customer.io aimed to bring the technical and marketing sides of a startup closer together, empowering marketers to create thoughtful messages with better data. The rest is history, with the platform now serving 3,000 corporate customers – and counting!

The Product

How we tested Customer.io

I’m non-technical marketer with 10+ years’ experience working with marketing automation software for my marketing agency clients.

I researched Customer.io with one of these bigger enterprise clients in mind, as they were looking for a more sophisticated and scalable solution for their fast-growing customer base. A small team with big ambitions.

Customer.io has a 14-day free trial - no credit card required – so that’s what I did. Thanks to recent reviews of Autopilot, Userlist and HubSpot I had a fresh perspective on some of their main competitors.

There are no affiliate links within this review.


Getting started with Customer.io

Customer.io promises a fast campaign building experience, however with so many features there’s a lot to process. During the first 30 days of onboarding, Customer.io assign you a dedicated success manager and full access to the deliverability team. Both are essential if you want to make the most out of the platform.

I found the documentation to be overly technical so the extra help is appreciated. You’ll also need to be comfortable with APIs for live data exchanges and to get everything you want out of Customer.io. Alternatively you can rely on good old-fashioned CSVs or one of Customer.io’s integrations.

Once set up, you’ll be creating workflows in no time - message-by-message, brick-by-brick.

Features you’ll love

  • 🎨 Visual workflow builder

    Where the magic happens. The art of correspondence has never been more beautiful.

    Customer.io’s visual workflow builder allows you to cook up automated message sequences on an open canvas. You can make them as simple or complicated as you like. From simple event-triggers to multi-split branch campaigns, with timing delays and follow-up actions. You’re in full control.

    Customer.io visual workflow builder

    Drag-and-drop builders are a non-technical marketer’s dream and have become the standard amongst automated messaging tools. So, no surprises there.

    However, for all the messaging potential of an open canvas, what marketers really want are ready-made templates. Make it easy for me to create the campaign I want! Customer.io only has four sample campaigns s o you’re forced to start from scratch each time, although you can copy one of your campaigns across as the basis for a new one.

    Some collaboration tools, such as Autopilot’s emoji stickers and annotations for teammates wouldn’t go amiss either.

  • 🗂️ Fluid segmentation

    Segments are named groups of People who share characteristics or behaviors. But attributes evolve over time and new actions are taken. Customer.io keeps up with this with fluid, data-driven segments based on everything you know about your users.

    Segments are assigned and re-assigned in real-time as users take actions within your app, open their wallet or need a gentle nudge towards an outcome. Customer.io makes it incredibly easy to create new segments on a vast array of conditions and you can utilise the Customer.io API to confidently target the right audience every time.

    No more guesswork. No more generic campaigns.

  • 🧔 Customer profiles

    Really get to know your customers one-by-one by jumping into individual profiles.

    Sometimes you need to isolate a specific person or a set of people by key attributes. Easily view their full log of event and attribute data, where they are engaging, what messages they have received, and more. You can manually edit all of this info too, should you wish to.

    Customer.io’s Collection feature turns this insight into personalised snippets in emails. This could be product suggestions, tempting offers or the next learning modules in a course.

    Customer.io customer profile
  • 📧 Email, push notifications and SMS

    Keep the relationship moving wherever your customer is.

    Customer.io’s messaging options include email, push notifications, SMS and social retargeting. For anything else you can dream of, webhooks can deliver data instantly to your channel of choice.

    Customer.io email templates

    You won’t quite be working from scratch with emails as Customer.io has a small collection of email templates (or ‘Layout Starters’ as they call them), each focused around a particular email type: Basic; Call to Action; Newsletter; Announcement and the catch-all Menu. These are editable but you’ll need to know you code to fundamentally alter the layout.

    Customer.io messages can be put to use on all manner of campaigns, including: gathering and responding to feedback; upselling; onboarding; re-engagement; renewals; rewards; broadcasts; and much, much more. All these can be A/B tested too.

  • 🔛 Hundreds of integrations

    Customer.io has a huge number of integration partners. You can trigger campaigns from Basecamp, Eventbrite, GitLab, even Google Docs. Assign predictive scoring via Faraday. Trigger in-app messages via Gist. Send subscription events from Recurly to Customer.io. And do just about anything else with Zapier.

    If you’re already using Segment , mParticle , Hull or RudderStack your integration is only a couple of clicks away.

  • 📊 Metrics & Analysis

    It’s all here.

    Get a birds-eye view of campaign performance in the Customer.io dashboard. Or dive into more granular detail about individual campaign and its messages with the Metrics page.

    Customer.io dashboard

    Highly visual, it’s easy to grasp KPIs at glance for each, such as delivery and open rates, completions and conversions. The ‘Leaderboard’ module ranks individual messages by their performance, although it counts all clicks within a message, rather than telling you which links are most popular.

    All the key info you’d expect to see is here, including reminders of the campaign parameters, journey workflow and any A/B tests.

Things to consider

  • Turn Segments into Ad Audiences

    With Google due to stop supporting third-party cookies, advertisers will have to bring their own data to the party.

    Customer.io uses Google’s Customer Match to create ad audiences, based on their email addresses. So, when users enter or exit your segments, Customer.io automatically adds or removes them from the ad audience. No manual work required.

    This means you can far more targeted and efficient with your ad spend, ultimately lowering CPA.

  • Deliverability success

    Your emails are useless unless they actually make it to the user’s inbox.

    Customer.io maximises your odds of success and maintains a strong sender reputation by providing 24/7 monitoring of all email campaign. You also get a custom email deliverability plan to combat the issues identified as holding you back, such as bounce rates, spam rates, and blacklisting activity. Customer.io take your deliverability very seriously, as they should.

Customer.io Pricing

from $150 per month

Up to 12,000 profiles

Never missing a messaging beat comes at a price. Customer.io is aimed squarely at larger ecommerce and enterprise organisations with advanced functionality and a price tag to match. The Basic package has a 12,000 profile limit, so most will want to pay $995 for 102,000+ profiles and unlock a dedicated Customer Success Manager, Managed Deliverability & Dedicated IPs and Premium Technical Support.


Customer.io Alternatives

Focused, fast and highly customizable, Customer.io isn’t for workflow automation newbies. This is a seriously scalable and powerful platform.

Twilio and ActiveCampaign are on a par, although smaller startups will want to look at Drip, Userlist or Autopilot. Autopilot is startup-friendly marketing automation and customer journey software that helps companies acquire, nurture, and grow leads into high-paying customers. It’s highly intuitive and comes with the added bonus of lead management, making it a solid option for anybody looking to take their user onboarding and engagement to the next level.

Customer.io Support   👍  or   👎

I’ve waxed lyrical about Customer.io’s support before. The platform is aimed at advanced users, so you’ll be relying on your dedicated Customer Success Manager to battle the steep learning curve. Other perks, such as 24/7 Managed Deliverability, your own deliverability plan and supportive technical support means help is never far away.

The Verdict

Surges score

85%

There comes a point when multi-channel messaging is impossible to manage manually. Step up Customer.io.

This enterprise solution acts as an advanced switchboard for event-based messaging. Able to handle tons of different workflows, personalisation, fluid segmentation and real-time data exchanges with your own database, you’ll get out of Customer.io what you put in. It’ll need development support to get it going, but the open canvas will make you positively dizzy with possibility.

It’s a few features short of the full set for my liking. I’d want more ready-made workflow recipes, more email templates and non-technical documentation alongside that for developers. However, in the right hands a tool such as Customer.io can be transformative for your business. The UI is a breeze to navigate and once you’ve set up workflows they’ll compound in value without any extra effort.

So, if you find yourself forever chasing shadows, sending broadcast messages and barely scratching the surface of automated messaging, this is certainly a tool you can grow into. The art of conversation becomes the art of the possible, whatever your size.

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