Episode 275 Featuring Alex Bond

Gamifying Email Creation with Dmitry Kudrenko

Gamifying Email Creation with Dmitry Kudrenko

Dmitry Kudrenko is the Founder and CEO of Stripo, an email editor platform that offers an intuitive email template builder featuring drag-and-drop and HTML editing tools. Stripo also has embedded tools for interactive content, modular email architecture, and plenty of other features so you can build emails lightning-fast.

On this episode, Dmitry and I discuss gamification strategies, the impact they have on the e-commerce industry, how brands can better engage with their customers through customization, and much more.


What is Stripo

[00:01:00] Dmitry Kudrenko: Stripo is email design platform. So it's place where marketers create email and then expert to any systems they use for sending. You can do very advanced email, professional email very fast without any technical skills. 

[00:01:18] Alex Bond: That's great. So there's not very much of a barrier for entry. It's not like you have to have a certain base level of education or skill in writing code or anything like that is what I'm hearing you say.

[00:01:30] Dmitry Kudrenko: Yes, it's easy to say, to be honest. Stripo is my fourth attempt to create the best editor. So I have about 20 years experience doing tools for marketers. And from my understanding, that it's a highly complicated area for marketers because marketers are not programmers.

And the world want to transform marketers into programmers because they have to understand how to write a code for Outlook and iPhones and Gmail and how to do some Google annotations or some additional languages, extensions, interactivity, but they're marketers.

They have to think about the message. They have to think about product, audience, and how to bring value. And it's only when we do speak about designing email, but also marketers do all kinds of automation, integration, and it makes them like a different person. Who is a marketer? And what I know from about developers, because I'm a developer, they're very bad marketers.

They're the worst marketers I ever ever heard of. And I think the same with you. If you would ask programmers to create email, they do exactly what you ask. They create email with message. I don't know, something like email. And they're ready to send this. Because formally, it's email. I try to do the product when marketers do marketing work.

When they think about message. When they don't need to understand how about all the complexity behind the immigration. And I want to bring them all powerful, interactive email, AMP emails translation email, dynamic emails, all this clever things without deep technical knowledge. 

From Programmer to CEO: The Journey of Founding Stripo

[00:03:28] Alex Bond: Well, and now it's interesting because being like the founder and the CEO, now you're a programmer and in charge of the marketing. So apparently you're doing something, right? 

I'm interested in your story a little bit. You've mentioned already a little bit about your experience. I'd love to know what led to your founding of Stripo. And if there was any sort of like personal experience, usually in these cases. A entrepreneur deals with a problem or keeps getting requests for something. So then they solve the problem. So if you don't mind, what led to your founding of Stripo and was there any personal experience in that story? 

[00:04:07] Dmitry Kudrenko: I see it's a long story. I will try to keep it short. And initially I thought that my call to this world is to do software, to be a programmer. And all I did was for this, I created the applied mathematics I have for PhD a degree. 

So I did mathematics and created a company who did outsource programming for other companies. And we worked for software as a services we created different for US companies. In one day, I decided that I clever enough to create my service.

It was one of the biggest, I don't know, mistake to think that if we can create the software, it's enough to create a business because of development is not the entrepreneurship. It was my biggest transformation from developer into entrepreneur. We tried several products, not very first was successful, but one of the, our success or like success story, we created marketing automation platform.

For our local market, I'm from Ukraine initially, and our team is from Ukraine and a group of our companies up to more than 300 employees. And they have different products. Stripo, one of our products, I am lead. So in Stripo, we have about 80 employees, developers, marketers, support team. So we created first, our product was marketing automation platform.

It's a very complicated product, and we very soon realized that what we did is not what the market needs. So we wanted to create a very clever programming system that can do all kinds of personalization and automation. But these days, it was about 15, 20 years ago. And we had only a few ways to do it.

First, change the audience to understand that we are for the best doing the real personalized communication. Then change our product for sending like bulk and blast strategy campaigns. And the third is just return back, just give up. We choose the most complicated way to change the audience. We did the seminars, we did a lot of educational stuff.

And in some day we became number one for e commerce solution. In our country, in Ukraine, and one day I understood that it's a big problem that marketers have to understand a lot of technical skills for automation. I understood that it's okay, they can create great designs, but it's really hard to create abundant cards, recommendation blogs.

They need to write a code in your mail. And it was in the day when already for web, it was solved. If you do something in, I don't know, in WordPress, you don't do a code, you can get any design and adjust for your site. You can separate design, data, and logic. And for some reason, it didn't work in email.

And I decided to update our editor, but we already had thousands of customers. very hard for them just to update the editor. And we decided to create a standalone application, just completely different, that can be embedded into any other solution, like to our marketing automation or to other email service providers.

It doesn't matter. But what we wanted to create, we wanted to create a service where we can have a feedback from all the world. And we don't want to understand what has to be our next step based on enterprise requests, when it's always special, very unique. We wanted to be driven not by customer interviews, but mostly based on data.

And at the moment in Stripo, we have more than a million users who use Stripo during this year, and we get a lot of data and we understand what is challengeable for them. We measure everything. We use this data to simplify all processes we can. To be honest, when they only started this product, I thought that it would be just type product just to have a first feedback, just to create edit.

Maybe it'll be project for one year, but in one year I realize that I have a plan for the next five years to do, and now we, when we already do it with pretty big team for seven years, I think that they have planned for the next. 10 years because of it's so much thing can be improved in the user behavior and in the pattern how they do the design.

So shortly, I am a programmer who became entrepreneur and people think that I am a marketer because of I do a product for marketers and I speak from stage. I cannot say, okay, use our product. Yeah. I only can say, You can do something to improve your business, mostly for e commerce. And it's why a lot of people think that I am a marketer, because I work with marketers.

Revolutionizing Demo Experiences: The Stripo Interface Inspired by Squarespace and WordPress

[00:09:32] Alex Bond: I'm glad that you mentioned the web design piece because I actually played with a demo last night. You know, I got onto the website and was kind of fiddling around with like a live demo. You can just click one of the templates and start playing with it. And I thought that was really cool. Usually programs and platforms like yours.

If I want to do a demo, I have to reach out to someone. I have to send an email and then they have to email me back and then they have to send one. And it's kind of this back and forth thing that I'm not totally into the ability to get on your website and kind of just start playing around was extremely impressive to me.

And I noticed when playing around that the Stripo model it reminded me of Squarespace. You know, I had a Squarespace website when it came out for my business at the time. And the combination of these build modules and the ability to use code instead, just really reminded me of, of, and you mentioned WordPress yourself, how much of an influence was common web design interfaces like Squarespace or WordPress on Stripo's interface. 

[00:10:36] Dmitry Kudrenko: Huge, huge impact. And I think it's one of the most interesting and changeable thing. If you would look on the market, it's not very, very competitive market for us editors who focus only on one thing in a creation. You know why? Because of usually there are several roadmaps. First, when you decided to create editor and it works, you have your first customer.

Okay. They pay me 10. Yeah, I can get increased my revenue per user in 100 times if I will send emails. So they're adding functionality for sending emails. Then they, okay, for sending emails, you also have to analyze the user behavior, the element, some segmentation, and then get the data from different data sources.

Then it's a problem with deliverability, then with analytics, then another challenge. And you became a huge platform. You can sell only for enterprise. And you're not focusing on email creation anymore because of email creation became even more competitive thing. The ESP, smart information, customer data, programs, they don't compete with the editors.

It's not a unique proposition. Good enough for users to stay with the system. Another way, when agencies who every day work with email creation, they understand the problem and they're trying to create their own product to improve their routine work, but they're not, they're not programmers that think in completely different way and they creating something really complicated and not scalable for global.

My experience was very unique because of, I already had marketing information. And I understood how, and we have a team who still works there doing huge work every day. And I understood, I want to focus only on one problem, but 100 percent of my time thinking only about problem of email production and communication between the different roles, between designers, coders, marketers, auditors, translators, and integrators.

So a lot of stakeholders and it, when you focus on the one thing, it change your way of thinking. And my experience as a programmer, I always, I just know how it works on different areas. You know, where you usually you can create some new things when you apply knowledge from one area to another area.

And this is what I met, that a lot of marketers maybe started to do their profession in marketing. And they're good marketers. I started my profession in data science and in math and in programming, and I look to the industry and think, okay, why don't do this? Because of how in this area, they always use, like, if you know, model view controller pattern, when design data and logic just separated, why you never do this in email?

And it's only one example. I spoke with hundreds of different agencies and they see how they support multilingual things. They just do this because they do it from year to year. It's hard for them to think it can be easier. It can be replaced. It can be. And now when we have a generative AI, how many things can be improved?

For content production and email is a content. So, yeah, I think the secret of, I would say success of a Stripo. Then third, we focus only on one thing, email design. And the second, we have a complimentary background with deep from different areas that we're trying to adopt into marketing, into design. 

From Mathematics to Marketing: The Power of Gamification in Email Creation and Marketing Strategies

[00:14:30] Alex Bond: Well, and it's interesting because your story resonates with me. You know, I went to college for mathematics, my plan was to be an actuary and along the way I got into production instead, but you know, your habits, Dmitry, like being a programmer and studying mathematics. 

They don't change just because your occupation and your interests change, you know, it's still when I'm taking a project on, it is still always, you know, identified the problem, identify the solution, implement the solution, my version of the scientific method, which is, you know, there are multiple ways to get to the solution, but there's only one solution that's the right one.

And I imagine that your brain kind of thinks the same. And most people kind of look in disgust when they hear the word mathematics. Some, my colleagues and stuff like that. They're like, really mathematics. But what's interesting, I think about the way that we might think is the gamification model.

That is a very important foundation you've explained off mic about Stripo. So I'd love to hear a little bit about how important that gamification of email creation and marketing is, and why that is so important into the grand business model. 

[00:15:44] Dmitry Kudrenko: I see. Gamification is, for me, it's just a different way to to communicate, and now they're so used to a lot of different things, different communication channels, different informational streams, and it's like boring.

It's always just a routine. It's very hard to have fun in our everyday, daily work, but we all love fun. Nobody of us dream, I don't know, when we get up early morning, okay, I want to do boring things. I want, even if I'm very serious man, I kind of a serious man as well, but I love fun, any kind of activities.

So why our communication is so boring? And it's very easy answer to this. Because of email, when you do any kind of, I don't know, interactivity in email, it's hard. Almost when you do email campaign, for example, for e commerce, and you have 1 million audience, so not the huge, and you spend one week to create some interactive unified thing.

You have to think about the idea. You have to adopt to your brand voice. You have to code this. You have to test, send only once because of campaigning email works only once. And then it would never return investment if you do it only once. And here I would like to share with you my idea about this complicated communication.

What is common between Space X, Falcon 9, yeah, and gimmified interactive is a reusable modules. So creating one launch, extremely expensive. You have to invest a lot, just only for one launch. And when you do this, you'll get the benefit and then you have to create it from scratch again. What SpaceX did, they doing reusable module. They just need to refuel the same rocket and reuse and reuse again. And every second start became easier and easier. 

But okay, we need to create those records in email. So when marketers can use already created module and configure for themselves, adopting their ideas into production easily. So it's what I'm trying to do and before answering to this, I would like to answer what is a gamification email gamification in in business communication is way to use gamified components for non gamified activities.

What kind of game activities? I mean for example, it could be like bonuses or revenues, or it could be rewards, competition, teams, different levels, leaderboard, some point systems. There are so many game like components that we're using for non gamified activities in order, it's important to keep people motivating and participating in two parts.

It is a goal of any communication to keep people motivated to do something you need to do and do it in fun way. It's what gamification does. We try and I would also would like to mention that there are two directions here. First, I would say it's like from business perspective. So how it's good for business when you do communication.

And another, it just from idea point of view, how to create game good enough. Because of, you know, Wheel of Fortune is not a game, it's just game component. But how to use this for your gamified activity, to engage people, and to make it, like in your context, to create from component a real game. It's one direction.

And another direction, how to make it cost effective. How to create it faster, cheaper, more advanced. So, how to create it. return more investment from your activity. And if it would speak about the first direction, like a games how to improve a game for recipients. And here I read several books and have like a framework, how to use the mechanics, improve mechanics into a real game.

You have to add feedback system. You have to add like a goal, rule some community communication, communication. So a lot of things. If it's okay, after our discussion, I will send you a link to a book to be prepared with my team where we have all the CPS, how to improve game recipients and also for businesses.


Fostering Engagement: Exploring the Dual Nature of Gamification in Business and Potential Pitfalls

[00:20:31] Alex Bond: I think the other piece of it that's interesting too is it's generally pretty good for morale. You know, I think that's a bit of closer on the business side of the past you're referring to is people thrive under competing with each other. There are plenty of, say, even apps that I've downloaded that are very simple that don't really require any sort of like competition, you know, the card, like card games, like spades or poker or something like that, where you win a hand and then the game ends.

So what incentivizes me to keep playing? And that's to play with my Facebook friends and see who can play better, you know, I mean, even stuff that is so simple it makes sense to gamify because it incentivizes habitual use at the same time too. I don't want to step away from it because my competitor who's who even could be friendly competition might not be stepping away because they want to beat me and it kind of works in that effect.

Do you see? It having any sort of detrimental effects to where people maybe can't walk away from it or they take it too seriously. I mean, that's kind of the side of gamification that I haven't really talked to anyone about. But you're extremely knowledgeable about it. If there are any obstacles or misgivings that you might have been aware of.

[00:21:53] Dmitry Kudrenko: Yeah, you know gamification is not necessarily games. It's not necessarily about games. Of course. But it's using game mechanics. You don't even understand that I used it. Like you said, leadership. Like I don't know if I use grammarly when I write the text to improve my English. It tells me that you are better than 96%, but you still have to improve something because of you work than maybe last month.

I don't know. So you did less mistakes than last month. It's not necessarily competition with somebody, but it also can be competition with yourself in the past time. Or how to improve game. It's what you said. Get involve the community. I can give you one example. We did this activity here on the Christmas.

Last year, so we as Stripo, what we can offer as a Christmas gift for our customers who already have a subscription, who already have a resource for all our materials, we can, we have millions of them, we cannot bring them I don't know, some real like cups like this, I don't know. So what we did we created a small game, it's like a square, 12x12 when you can choose a color and using like a pixel design to draw a Christmas card for us. 

We created a Christmas card for them and said, okay, it's an empty space for you, just if you want, you can write something for us. And we received so many thousands of Christmas cards with the wishes and there were a lot of, I don't know, like pictures or present Christmas tree. I don't know. We had a lot of penguins. I don't know why people do penguins for Christmas. Penguins.

I don't know. Every fifth Christmas card we had is a penguins. I don't know why, but a lot of Christmas cards. And then we noticed that we have them even from customers. We didn't have us as a customer that it was shared between people it was like a viral effect. And after that, we sent another campaign where we said, okay, we received so many Christmas cards.

It's an example we got and we choose some best and have some, I don't know, one year subscription for some of them. Thank you very much. And it's a kind of interactivity and user engagement that what else we can do, but we have a real feedback. We have loyal audience, they were like, smile, at least smile, we smile, our recipients smile. So it's kind of good reaction, it's like a chemistry. 

Elevating Marketing Strategies: Leveraging Gamification for Memorable Brand Engagement

[00:24:34] Alex Bond: And that's very good added effect, you know, when you make people just feel good at the end of the day. I was curious about that, the Christmas card bit, because you mentioned, you know, in some of our communique that when holidays come around, a lot of marketers kind of go with your very typical, what you called nice poem and a coupon.

And that is pretty basic. I think that's a very succinct way of putting it and how it doesn't exactly cut through the noise. So I'm curious if you have any other sort of gamification strategies or, or maybe even just best practices so that people know how to use it properly. So brands and users can further take advantage maybe with Stripo or with their own, maybe macro strategies in their own ecosystem.

[00:25:26] Dmitry Kudrenko: Yeah, there's a lot of mechanics could be, by the way, I already mentioned how to improve mechanic into a game. There are like eight different ways what you have to add step by step into improve mechanic into a game. And one of them is discovery. Discovery is when your customer interact with your email, they don't know what would be if you click something.

So in this case, they engage very simple. If you have like a scratcher car. We have a module, also I will share, we created like a tool where you can create a game and copy paste into your mail, for free, it doesn't matter which system you use for sending. But, scratching, you just, you don't know what is there.

And you scratch to have at least your promo code, you do some activity and you have something very simple. You don't do some mathematical calculation or you don't need to do some extra work. Just do something to get beneficial response. So scratching card. Other thing is like a wheel of fortune. Usually, usually you cannot give like a big discount for everybody.

But if it's random and fair, and they understand how it works, your recipients, and they understand that they can have a small, like a price and the big price, they have to participate, they click on the email, it rotates and shows you have a discount 30 percent on something, or you have this kind of deed.

And you just have a surprise every time when you have a surprise, you're already involved. And you maybe you wouldn't want something big, but you will remember it's much better if you were just saying offer without discovery phase when he have to do something he don't know. It's what I found before we started to think about gamification, I'm not very big fan of email of emails, I said email, about games.

I don't play a lot with children, but I had like a mobile game, several mobile games, and I realized that they use so many mechanics. If you don't do login today, you will lose something you gathered for previous week. So I have to do this. Really, I don't need this in the game. It's just a game. It's time killer for me.

But okay, I have to log in, then I can get something. They have in the game something like, okay, you have to check in two hours your gift gift box. into ours. Okay. Now I have to remember that into our, and after that in one week, I understand that I cannot live without this game because if I always want to check something, to do something, to compete with something, let's look on the, you know, Duolingo you know, it's a global service for teaching languages, for learning languages.

And they have a lot of gamifying elements inside. It's not a game, but when you do it every day, you have some extra. If you skip one day, you can freeze it, but freeze it not more than twice per month or something like that. So you always think, okay, I have to log in and do my exercise.

It is five minutes per day, five minutes. It doesn't cost me a lot. The same I found for one e commerce solution. They sold the belt to keep in a good shape, your body. And what they realized that they have a churn rate after third day because of people use the belt and don't feel the result. But the result really they have in the seventh day.

And they did the communication that keeps them motivated to use the belt at least during the first week, when they feel the result that became to use it every day in a regular base. But this first week is a critical for them. And they use a lot of, like, gamified activities that, oh, you're almost there, that you're very organized, keep this and you will have something, advice, or maybe you can have a lot of things to improve.

So it's all about the gamification. And again, gamification is not a game. It's a game component in your non gamified activities to motivate people to do what you really need from them. 

Dispelling Misconceptions: Unveiling the Truth About Email Template Builders and Creation Myths

[00:29:53] Alex Bond: And I'm interested in how while we're on the topic of maybe obstacles or misconceptions, what are some common misconceptions that people, whether users or brands, have about using an email template builder?

Because I know from mine personally, when I first started on like Squarespace or something like that, I thought they were an extremely like finite amount of options. And I was worried someone's going to see my website and know that I made it on Squarespace. And I'll have a very similar looking website to someone else.

And maybe that's true. Maybe that's not, I don't think it is. I'm curious if there are some, some common misconceptions that you get when it comes to the email template builder or anything email creation related. 

[00:30:40] Dmitry Kudrenko: You know the first about sharing ideas, if somebody would see some, yes, a legal point of this stuff, you never, nobody would see because of, I don't know, we have billions of users, why we have to look to something and use somewhere, but, or use some templates that somebody already use.

And maybe I will be complained that they use something like, I don't know, it never was a problem for me. And I would even say when I do any product. The first thing I do is to share the idea with my target audience. What I plan to do, or maybe just train to do some MVP, and share the result with everybody.

Because for me as a developer, the cheapest way to not do the wrong thing is to have a feedback in the very, very early stage. And if we would look to our, like, competitors who will see something and reuse this, I understand that they're so busy with ideas they have, that if they would take ideas from the market and competitors, they would not go their way.

And never would be in time. They would always like compete, compete, compete without understanding the main idea. And to be honest, it's what we've found because of when we started to do modular design in emails, we think about modules, not like reusable piece of code, but like something that have extracted data into different layer when you can change the design. 

But leave the content, change the content automatically with the same design or update hundreds of email in one click, just because if you decided to redesign some blog header or footer, there are a lot of additional ideas and as a conceptual things, what our just competitors did.

It's like, oh, modules, it's a great idea, and they implemented our MVP without planning our helicopter view, because when we do the next step, they have to rebuild what they did earlier, and we planned it in the very first day. I don't believe in the stealing ideas. at all. I don't believe in the stealing designs or code. I'm very, very for open source and like transparent area for creativity for everything. If it is an answer for your question, if I understood you correctly. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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