How to Use Digest Emails to Help Users Build Habits

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YogaBuddy is an easy way for yoga teachers to host classes anywhere and students to find them. In fact, I actually tried yoga for the first time ever through Kristen D's class a few weeks ago (It was in the park — just like the splash screen!). It's a great way to blow off steam and relax my body during lunch.

As a psychology buff (and a fan of Kristen’s class and YogaBuddy), I’m always trying to find better ways to integrate a new hobby into my routine and develop a habit.

What can help me solidify this habit?

So, when I first started boxing, I watched instructional videos outside class, and got critique from my coaches when I was in the gym — this created a feedback loop that allowed me to nail down the fundamentals and make quick progress early. And getting better felt great; humans are hardwired with a reward system that releases dopamine whenever we make incremental progress. So boxing became fun… and a habit. 

When starting a new hobby, the beginner phase is fragile and requires the most hand-holding, because every day progress is stalled, it becomes increasingly more difficult to build that activity into a habit. 

As beginner at yoga, I’d love to see a few basic techniques in emails. I don’t have the time to seek out instruction, but if they came in my inbox as a low effort way to learn, like an animated gif, I’d watch it. It could come as a “pose of the week" along with a few personal stats. 

The instructional email could look something like this:

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While watching others perform an action, our mirror neurons fire and nudges us to imitate it. The cool thing is, the action gets performed in the brain regardless of whether you actually perform it physically. Now that yoga is on the mind, following up with a list of classes in the area is a great call-to-action. 

If that is successful, we can get more advanced….

We can segment people who hasn’t attended class in a week or more and send them an email with a different pose. They should get an email with an “office friendly” pose — stuff that people could do in street or office attire that won’t involving lying on the floor or crazy stretches. It should also come with a different personal message. 

The re-engagement email could look like this:

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Knowing the people behind the app thought about me shows a great deal of empathy… and I’d probably feel warm and fuzzy. I’d also be more likely to practice a pose that fits my context. This is a great way to re-engage users without being too obvious about it. 

We could even go further and also experiment with a “Featured Instructor of the Week" email. An important aspect of yoga is being part of a community, and I think this is a great way to humanize and show the personality of instructors. For something like this, the mere exposure effect will also comes into play and subconsciously build comfort with users. 

The community building email could look like this:

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Heck, if this is successful we can even do an email with featured students!

Again, a strong component of Yoga is community and it’s great to know you’re part of a something bigger. For the students who were featured, it’s a cool story and they’d probably want to share it with their network, but for the longer term, they’d be tied to the consistency principle and more likely to be an ambassador for the brand. 

In closing

I think starting with a “pose of the week” email is a great idea.

As an intermediate level boxing hobbyist, I see advanced techniques as something to aspire to, but it’s also refreshing to see the basics and brush up on them. This sort of email would appeal to all skill levels, and following up with local classes is a natural call-to-action — I’d love to see something like this get done. 

These are just some of my thoughts on using digest emails to help users build new habits. Although I used YogaBuddy in this example, this can really be applied to anything. 

You can learn more about building great digest emails from Derek Skaletsky, our in-house email guru. 

I also want to thank Fiticle for giving me the idea of teaching proper form with animated gifs… because I totally ripped that idea offa them.