For over 10 years, Bitly has been the Internet’s go-to tool for shortening a link. What you might not know is that apart from saving us from character limits, the company also developed an entire link management platform that provides a sophisticated way to track links across channels and measure performance. The platform is key to Bitly’s growth, and they’re using Intercom to help make it happen.
Amid success, Bitly looks to the future
In 2015, Bitly was at turning point. They reached profitability, crossed $1M in MRR, and counted half of the Fortune 100 as customers. But success didn’t keep them from looking ahead. In a post about the state of the company, CEO Mark Josephson shared that their “number one challenge [was] balancing our free product with becoming the enterprise Link Management Platform that marketers are telling us they need.”
To address that challenge, Bitly had an ambitious plan to rebuild their platform. For free users, the goal was to offer a freemium product with an improved interface and tools to shorten, share, and measure links. The free product served to increase awareness around the analytical insight links can provide, a strategic move that would be important for Bitly’s long-term success. For enterprise users, the platform would address the increasingly fragmented mobile ecosystem and data silos created by the sharp rise in social networks and mobile apps, providing a more complete and powerful view into the content consumption patterns of individuals.
The project would span two years and require an enormous effort to engage, learn from, and successfully migrate their entire user base. From the outset it was clear that Bitly would need a flexible product to communicate with their users. One that could segment with precision, track behavior, and store real-time data, all while executing a wide-range of communication activities.
Dan Touchette, Director of Mobile and Enterprise Product at Bitly, was in charge of finding the customer communication product to meet these requirements. “We needed a flexible product that could deliver an exceptional user experience, and scale with our growth.” Dan found Intercom to be just what they were looking for. Intercom could handle communication at key points along the customer journey, including onboarding, retention, product updates, and account management. Moreover, Intercom could track numerous user behaviors and custom attributes that support an intelligent, yet thoughtful customer experience.
Bitly’s new user onboarding message
Amid success, Bitly looks to the future
Bitly rolled out the new platform in phases. At first, they only migrated new users signing up for the free product. This batched approach let them to get feedback on the new platform with limited risk. Over the course of the next 6 months, group by group, all free users transitioned to the new platform. “We were essentially building the platform as we were releasing it. Intercom let us easily communicate with our users to make sure we built the right things and iterated quickly,” explains Dan.
Apart from requesting feedback, Bitly used Intercom to message existing customers during the migration to make the experience as smooth as possible. Dan noted the challenge they were up against. “Anytime you rebuild or re-release something, there's a good chance there’s going to be a dip in user engagement. Some people won’t like it, and other people take a while to get used to it. Our goal was to have zero loss in engagement.”
Throughout the rollout, Bitly would send out surveys through Intercom, getting detailed feedback from a representative cross-section of their user base. They would ask about workflow, use cases, and features. These surveys helped shaped Bitly’s approach to building the platform, from the most fundamental elements of the product to the more complex enterprise features. And to keep each team closely connected to the users as they built the platform, Bitly’s created multiple inboxes in Intercom for teams to engage, listen, and continually learn from users.
Nearly two years after the first version of the platform was shipped, the final enterprise customers were brought over to the new platform. A platform that the customers themselves helped shape. Not only did user engagement and customer retention during the migration hold for each segment, but Bitly actually increased engagement and retention by 15% in the following quarters.
“We've had incredible user growth on both our free platform and paid platforms. A big portion of that is the engagement driven through Intercom.”
Seizing new opportunities for better customer communication
Apart from launching and migrating their user base to the new platform, Dan and the team at Bitly use Intercom to optimize all aspects of the customer experience including email verification, billing notifications, and promoting features like link customization and their Chrome extension. For new users, Dan explains that they set up a series of welcome campaigns for onboarding. “We have a number of auto messages that explain the core functionality of the platform. They ensure that our customers and free users get all the value they can from our platform as quickly as possible.”
Email sent through Intercom encouraging Bitly users to customize links
Intercom also lets Bitly manage the complexity that comes with a large user base. Case in point, when a person signs up for the free platform but their company already has an enterprise account. Within minutes of the user signing up, Intercom will display a message letting the user know their company has access to additional features, and gives them the option to be added to the account.
It’s Intercom’s ability to solve those specific challenges that Dan and the Bitly team find so valuable. “It opens up opportunities that previously weren’t possible. The flexibility of Intercom lets us continue to refine the customer experience for all our users and think more creatively around how our communication can benefit the business.”