Harvard business review deconstruction

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Harvard Business ReviewDeconstructing the media giants user engagement

What is a user engagement deconstruction?We analyze a brands user engagement and marketing tech stack over a period of 2+ weeks pre and post signup.During and after the analysis we come up with constructive evaluation and feedback.Our deconstructions are primarily based on B2C brands like Spotify, Harvard Business review etc.

About Harvard Business Review

Who are they?Harvard Business review is a management magazine which releases 6 issues a year. Apart from their magazine, they have a major share of online audience on their website, HBR.org.

What do they cover?

HBR's articles cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to various industries, management functions, and business demographics. These articles focus on topics including leadership, organizational change, business negotiation & strategy, operations, marketing, finance, and business management.

Global AudienceHarvard Business Review has a readership of over 100,000 magazine subscribers and 11 million monthly online viewers. The viewership consists of people from all corners of the world.

The StoryHow does HBR convert one-time readers into full-time subscribers.Harvard Business review customer engagement is a 3 step approach - attract a customer, show them the value-proposition and then convert. Our deconstruction studies user engagement leading up to the final step.


We read the first article on HBRs website. We simultaneously signed up with them to increase our monthly read limit.


We have consumed 6 out of 8 articles and have only 2 articles left on our registered account.


We dug deep into their user engagement channels. HBR only interact with user via emails.


After a thorough examination and analysis, we ended our deconstruction.


We publish our observations and suggestions.How did we deconstruct HBRs user engagement efforts?

Peaking their interestThis is where HBR ties down a reader to their funnel. After reading 4 articles, you have to register a free account on HBR to read more. The registered user can now read 4 additional articles.Lets show you how HBRs customer funnel looks like

Free Tier for all usersExpand audienceTo expand audience and give them an experience of what HBR is all about, they provide readers 4 free articles of their choice, a month. This plan is automatically activated for anyone landing on their website.

Free registered account

Paid Subscription accountIncrease conversionOnce the registered user has has hit the read limit, he or she have to subscribe to a paid plan that gives access to everything that HBR has to offer. This completes their 3 step conversion funnel.


Malfunctioning automationHBR sends a lot of emails over the course of the weeks. There are majorly 2 kinds of email sent to you. We found out that a lot of emails were duplicate mails sent to us on the very same day.Observations

Week 1Intuitive OnboardingHarvard Business review has one of the nicest onboarding experiences for its readers. A lot of emphasis is given on what kind of articles and news pieces you are interested in, as we will discuss later. Their first batch of mails consists of a welcome series.

Week 2

Week 3All comes down to conversionsEven when we had consumed all our free articles, there was no major push from HBRs team for paid subscription. An email stating the benefit of a paid plan could be useful here and could push a user to convert.

HBR - Onboarding ProcessHarvard Business Reviews onboarding process is really good. Their landing page has a simple form with a section on the right indicating the benefits of signing up for a free account with them. The benefits listed are -Jump in monthly reading limit from 3 to 8 a month.20% off for any registered user whenever they decide to subscribe to HBR list.Top articles are directly sent to your email addresses.

Types of email HBR deploys to engage with its readersHarvard Business Reviews email are short, brief and to the point. There are 2 kinds of email sent over the course of our deconstruction.Blast emails - These are generic emails customized to the data we entered while signing up for HBRs user account. These are sent on weekdays except public holidays.Promotional emails - HBR publishes a lot of management books over a calendar year and they use these emails to promote their email. They also promote their magazine subscription via this channel. These are sent 1-3 times a week.

Analysis of the emailsWe analyzed all their emails and came up with a constructive feedback. In the section youll see -A few real life email examples, that indicates how they approach engagement.A takeaway section based on every single email we got over 2 weeks.

Some real email Examples

The daily Alert is HBRs newsletter sent on weekdays.

HBRs emails consist of the post title and a subheading with the name of the author. The headings are to the point and conveys the message. We feel there is room for more detail. One can rework the structure to add prowess to these emails.

Each days email consist of the same layout and same sections.

The intro emphasises on the featured article of the day and other trending article that is based on our reading selection.

They also send a weekly Hotlist email, which promotes their long-read articles as well as books published under the HBR banner. The structure has a direct Headline, with a small subheading and description of what the piece is about.

Email Takeaways (1/3 )Emails have a decent structure and are brief, direct to the point. A user is encouraged to click on the link to read more. Our suggestion would be to add a description of the article as bylines to peek the interest of the reader.A welcome email that explains the structure would help the users understand the emails better in the future and let them know what to expect.Daily Newsletters can pile up in any readers inbox. We suggest that HBR could only send out a weekly edition of their newsletter with the trending articles. This is suggested, considering that our inbox is already flooded with a lot of newsletters.

Email Takeaways (2/3) One way to do this is, adding an option for to select the email frequency that they receive.Another way would be to check with the reader about their reading preference, if they see a prolonged period of inactivity.Subject Personalization can be a tad more direct. All the emails subject lines are direct with not even a hint of personalization. A recommendation section in the email can be taken as an example.

Email Takeaways (3/3) No A/B testing was evident over the course of 2 weeks of analysis. Promotional emails are incoherent and are not targeted based on readers geographical or demographical data. If executed better, it will have a higher open rate. For example, deliver the emails at the time when the user is more likely to open the emails.These implementation can help bring down poor user engagement and lower unsubscribes.

What stood out? (Pros of HBRs user engagement)Harvard Business Reviews user signup process is extensive. Though a little long, but the sign-up process yields better content to its readers.They only engage with customers via email and their email are smartly automated based on your interest and engagement on the website.Email is personalized based on your reading habits and selections, so you will always stay on top of the latest article.Free tier is way to peek into what HBR has to offer.

What needs improvement? (Cons of HBRs user engagement) (1/2 )Harvard Business Reviews welcome series was triggered 4 days after we signed up with them. Not only that, it malfunctioned, with the same email sent 4 times in 2 days.No smart on-screen content optimization for registered users. A on-screen recommendation engine can cater higher engagement for regular reader.Their cookie based tracking is easy to bypass for free tier users, leaking to funnel leaks. Anyone with a new private window can read more articles.

What needs improvement? (Cons of HBRs user engagement) (2/2)A lot of emails are sent and therefore, chances of user losing interest is high. Monitoring such incidents and taking action accordingly can reduce such an occurrence.Emails can be structured better with more in-depth descriptions and better email templates.

Overall HBR User engagement deconstruction takeawayHBR has good, discreet and to the point emails. There is scope of making it more informative for the users, which might drive higher engagement.Email content is personalized based on their onboarding process. You are majorly served content from topics that you chose to learn about.We suggested that a welcome series on the emails can be great for users, readying them for what to expect.A few bugs like the repetition of the same welcome mails should be dealt with right away, as it brings down the user experience.Push can come in play once they fix their app for mobile devices.

Thank you!Thank you for reading. You might wanna check out our other deconstructions.You can also join the wave and share it with your colleagues and friends using the hashtag #BTDeconstructionWe would love if you have any feedback, feel free to get in touch with us on our website, or social media accounts. And, if you want Boomtrain to deconstruct your user engagement strategy, drop us a Hello here.


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