This Q&A with Kelly Hickey, the Senior Manager of Email Marketing & CRM at Raise, is part of a series highlighting the people behind the amazing retail and media brands that work with Marigold Engage by Sailthru. Click here to read our Q&As with RevZilla’s Andrew LimThrive Market’s Lindsay McGovern and Conde Nast’s Sabrina Daryanani.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Commerce Department reports that retail purchases are down 8.7% from the previous month, the largest decline in decades. With increased economic uncertainty and stay-at-home orders extended, foot traffic is even down at essential retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy. What does that mean for a brand like Raise, an online gift card marketplace which serves as a mobile wallet in those three stores among countless others?

“Luckily, we’re in the fintech and ecommerce industries, and our value prop is all about saving our members money everywhere they shop,” says Kelly Hickey, Raise’s Senior Manager of Email Marketing & CRM. “That is really important to a lot of people right now.”

We had a chance to speak with Kelly. Read on to learn how Raise is marketing differently, what the brand is doing to stand out in the inbox, and its customers’ most surprising spending habits.

With business operating so differently over the past few weeks, how is Raise marketing differently as a result?

We’ve had to shift our campaigns from focusing on travel brands, which usually sell well during the spring, to brands that people are relying on in quarantine: entertainment brands like Best Buy and Nintendo, and everyday essential and home brands like Walmart, Target and The Home Depot.

We’ve also been working on a “Raise Local” project that aims to help small businesses through gift card sales. We’re partnering with as many local brands as we can and trying to get those folks to sign up with Raise to increase visibility. Right now, we’ve got more than 250 merchants and restaurants local to Chicago and New York City, and we’re hoping to add more each day.

How has your mobile strategy shifted given people are likely spending way more time on their phones, but not at stores?

Even within the past month, we’re continuing to see our website outperform sales on mobile. However, we’re making sure to mirror our email campaigns through push notifications and in-app messages, while focusing on launching more personalized lifecycle campaigns that also include push.

We’ve also been heads down working on our brand new mobile payments app, Slide. When a user connects Apple Pay or a rewards credit card to the Slide app, they can use it to pay at their favorite stores and earn 4% cash back instantly, which can be withdrawn via PayPal and Venmo. The Slide app is currently in private beta, but we’re planning to release it to the App Store in about a month. You can sign up for the waitlist at

How else are your channels working together now?

Lately, we’ve been trying to promote our new customer offers everywhere we can. That includes on our onsite Overlay, within our homepage carousel, on our sitewide promo banner and within a banner on our app. Once a member signs up, we’re also promoting that offer within our welcome series via customized email and push campaigns.

What have been the most valuable data sets to gauge changes in your customers’ behavior?

We’ve been keeping a very close eye on daily pageviews and sales per brand. That helps us keep a pulse on what categories people are buying or looking to save on. Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s Realtime Dashboard is an essential tool for not only marketing, but also our merchant partner team, who works directly with brands to source inventory. We’re also monitoring our monthly unique buyers and new buyers on a daily basis, adjusting our strategy and campaigns based on if we’re pacing to our goals.

With such decreased foot traffic, retailers have been doubling down on email, resulting in even more email than usual. What kind of tactics are you using to stand out in the inbox?

We’re trying to stand out by being as relevant as possible. In the past week, we’ve sent a mix of hyper-personalized campaigns — including our highest performer, the “Quarter in Review” — and inspirational campaigns, like our “Work Hard & Play Hard At Home” send. The “Quarter in Review” featured personal 2020 statistics, including total savings and favorite brands, as well as a promo code encouraging people to “KEEPITUP.” The “Work Hard & Play Hard At Home” campaign focused on merchandising key home office and entertainment brands, offering tips and suggestions on products people could buy to improve their at-home experience.

For almost every campaign we send, we A/B split test our subject lines. We then use Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s functionality to send the winning version to the remainder of our audience. We also use recommendation algorithms; our winning combination is a hybrid of the popular and interest-based algorithms. That gives dynamic content based on what people have looked at or what’s trending at the moment.

Are there any surprises as far as which brands or categories are surging in sales at the moment?

Believe it or not, cruise cards, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have been making a comeback within the last week or so. According to The Los Angeles Times, cruise bookings are up for 2021 compared to 2019, despite the pandemic’s effects. I think we’re getting to the point in quarantine where people need something to look forward to.

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