There is a marked shift from how we used to do email marketing 8-10 years back than what we do today. During those days, you would draft an auto-responder series, slap it on your email auto-responder of choice and will then wait for results.

Marketers weren’t happy.

Marketers wanted to target their subscribers at a micro-level, hence evolved the use of premium marketing automation tools like InfusionSoft and Ontraport.

As per Marketo,  Marketing automation is a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.

In the last few years there is an onslaught of marketing automation tools, so much so that they are giving a tough time to the incumbents.

marketing-tools-comparison

The proof is in the pudding.

If Google trends data is any indication, Drip.co and Intercom have almost overthrown the existing players. I have not included the likes of Aweber and MailChimp in the comparison because Aweber is a simple auto-responder and yet to catch up with full-fledged marketing automation, MailChimp graduated to marketing automation only 6 months back in around May 2017.

Here I would like to state that Aweber and Mailchimp enjoy a great reputation among marketers. I have rarely seen my email broadcasts reaching spam folders. They are good at what they do.

The top-most job of any email marketing company is to ensure that your email lands in the inbox and not spam. Bells and whistles come next!

The subject of my review today is a very new player in the market – Convert Fox. 

convert-fox

I came to know about Convert Fox via AppSumo – a ‘Groupon’ like website for entrepreneurs offering lifetime deals on Software As A Service (SAAS) subscriptions and various digital products.

The review is being done on the latest stable builds of Windows 10 and Chrome v61.

ConvertFox is mammoth application. I have reviewed in it several sittings between my work and whenever I could elicit responses from ConvertFox makers. This is a genuine review and I am not being compensated for it.

ConvertFox is touted as an all-in-one tool. It currently consists of chat, email marketing, marketing automation. They also have chatbots and knowledge base planned in the near roadmap.

Convert Fox On-Boarding

The onboarding was straight forward. After a quick signup process you get a form to fill the project’s name and domain name.

  1. Enter the name of project and domain name. Once you can click Create, you will be redirected to Step #2
  2. Install the Java Script code manually. [I try not to install WordPress plugins for such simple purposes unless they provide additional functionality.]

Both the steps above won’t take more than 2 minutes.

Navigation is neatly arranged on the left side.

convertfox-navigation

As I navigated the interface, a consistent and weird issue I found was that most of the menu navigation items needed two clicks to perform an action and this happened randomly throughout the web app. The interface was slow to respond consistently.

Setup Guide

To make sure you have all the right settings in place before you embark on your marketing automation journey, Convert Fox has provided a Setup Guide. Let us start with the Setup tab and then we will move in the hierarchical top-down order shown in the gif above.

Clicking the Setup-Guide icon on the left side, you will find a screen similar to this.

setupguide-cf

Let us go through all the steps.

Install ConvertFox

By now, you must have installed the JavaScript code in your site. If not, do that now, otherwise none of the following steps would work for you.

Customize LiveChat appearance

You can set up pre-filled greetings and background color for your chat window. I prefer plain color over gradients.

Create your first chat prompt

Use this to set trigger conditions for your chat prompts. You can choose from several conditions.

trigger-chat-cf

Complete Profile

It’s a good idea to have your basic bio set up in your profile. People like talking to faces not robots.

Invite Teammates

Here you can invite the teammates (agents) as per the limitations set by your plan.

Import Existing Subscribers

If you are migrating from some other email marketing provider to ConvertFox, you can import your subscribers in CSV format. Instructions for importing subscribers from commonly used ESPs like Aweber are present in the help docs.

I found some limitations and issues while importing subscribers

  • The top row in your CSV file should be lower case. MS Excel Tip: Use =LOWER(<CellName>)
  • The names in top row should not have spaces in them.
  • All the dates should be in UNIX TIMESTAMP format. I hacked together an excel formula for those importing lists from Aweber. Let me know if you need that.
  • I had 21k+ double opt-in verified subscribers collected over several years. When I tried uploading the CSV file it errored out saying something to the tune of “Cannot import more than 1000 subscribers”. The co-founder was willing to help on this, he asked me to mail the list. I will update this section when the list gets uploaded.

The imported subscribers can be seen in the People tab, which will discuss a bit later.

Identify logged-in users and send custom properties

This will help you track your logged in users. This sound like a great feature for membership site owners to find out what paying members are doing within the site. You can possibly used this to target visitors the way Amazon does. This is what you viewed earlier… you may also be interested in….

Define a critical event using Event Visualizer

This would help you define events like button click, scroll depth, pages viewed etc. This is discussed in detail further down.

A basic setup of Convert Fox is done. It should now start collecting data from your site visitors.

Let us explore all the tabs available in the left navigation.

People

This screen contains a list of all your site visitors (and imported subscribers).

people-cf

Once a list is imported, you will find several fields in the top navigation.

Quick Tip: To view various fields, you would need a horizontal scroll.

I found that the horizontal scroll in ConvertFox needs some smoothening and was difficult to perform using mouse alone so I tried using keyboard. While on the Mac OS, Shift + Scroll does the job from keyboard, there is no such built-in keyboard shortcut for Windows. However, you can emulate that using one of my favorite automation tools AutoHotKey. Here are some more cool automations you can do with AutoHotKey. Here is a AutoHotKey script for Windows horizontal scroll.

; Shift + Mouse Wheel for horizontal scrolling
+WheelDown::WheelRight
+WheelUp::WheelLeft

People screen consists of lots of interesting data which will be helpful for you when you create user-segments later.
people-data-cf

Chat

The basic chat functionality works as it should work. I will not discuss the regular features found in all the website chat apps.

One of the features of Intercom (a well-funded ConvertFox competitor) I like is that the agent can continue the conversation even after the visitor shuts the chat window. This is sent as a threaded conversation, so when user replies to the email or goes to chat it shows up in the old conversation history itself. Pretty Cool! While ConvertFox does have a similar “conversation going” feature, it didn’t work for me at all. The support team informed that this is going to be fixed soon.

Agent View

From the chat agent perspective, there are features like Saved Replies and Notes. Your team can save answers to some of the frequently asked questions and then use those answers for future. While the feature is undoubtedly good, I would suggest ConvertFox dev team to have a look at Zendesk Chat, their implementation is snappy from the point-of-view of agent.

The agent can also view the complete history of the visitor. When a user initiates a second chat, the agent side interface should show straightaway whether she is a returning user or not. Again, this is bit convoluted. The conversation history and notes (if any) can be shown in the right side instead of an extra step of clicking user profile.

Visitor View

A new visitor gets an in-chat email lead tool. So that the agent can continue the conversation even when the visitor has gone away.

Desktop experience is fine however it can be more fluid. Visitors can make use of emojies and upload files during a chat session.

I find the mobile visitor interface clunky. There is no arrow button to send your message, so you have to rely on the keyboard return button. (left side shot below)

mobile-chat-hd-cf

The pop-up where ConvertFox asks for the email address, it is jumpy (for the lack of better word) and gets crowded because of the presence of ConvertFox watermark. (right side shot above)

Emails

Things will start to get interesting here. You will get to experience the marketing automation features that were only available with tools worth thousands of dollars.

You can create Auto messages, Broadcast messages and Campaigns. In all the three cases, you can target your visitors based on their actions and behavior. Also, in all the cases you can add rules to segment users. I hit a bug during segmenting.  I wanted to select Email during segmenting but by mistake selected Name. I tried to remove the Name rule but it won’t go away. Check the animation below where I am trying to click on X sign.

close-segment-cfThe email compose editor is nice. You can see the preview on the right side. The test email I sent looked good on desktop and was responsive on mobile.

One of the interesting features I found and liked was pre-header text.

pre-header-cf

A pre-header is a short summary text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox.
Among other email providers, Gmail supports pre-header text. When creating an email in ConvertFox, you can customize what to appear in the pre-header text.

ConvertFox use Sendgrid and Mailgun as their SMTP servers for all outgoing emails. The From email becomes yourname@projectname.convertfoxmail.com. I like the thought that they have segregated all From emails by using a sub-domain for every project, this however can result in a problem when convertfoxmail starts sending emails in huge quantity. Few bad players on ConvertFox may result in poor deliverability for all and the whole domain convertfoxmail.com may be flagged by ISPs for spam.

My suggestion would be to allow all users the From address from their own domain name itself and we should then use SPF and DKIM records on our DNS.

Auto-Messages

With Auto-Messages, you can create behavior-driven or event based emails. So you can now send an email to someone who a) landed on your sales page, b) clicked the Signup button but c) didn’t purchase from you. There can be several use cases, perhaps limited only by your imagination.

It can be used to send onboarding messages or may be to just get feedback from your subscribers based on subscriber’s actions and attributes. This will however be dependent upon the web-hooks and how efficiently ConvertFox can integrate with your app of choice.

Broadcasts

I won’t get into the detail since Broadcasts is a regular feature with most ESPs. One feature that stands out is this

nonopeners-resend-cf

With ConvertFox you can re-send emails to people who couldn’t open your first email. This is a extremely powerful marketing. To date, Aweber still doesn’t have this feature and you have to jump several hoops to accomplish the same task.

Campaigns

Here you can create a series of emails that can be delivered over intervals to educate and build trust with your subscribers.

Automations

This is where you can set IF THIS THEN THAT kind of rules.

trigger-actions-cf

On the left side are the triggers and on the right side are actions.

A user has completed a campaign? Send him to another one. A visitor has clicked an Order Link? Apply a tag “hot lead”.

Events

This is the place where you can do micro-automations and can target every button, link or a page on your website. If you have a developer bent of mind, you can use Events tab or if you prefer point-and-click, use Event Visualizer.

In my testing, Event Visualizer was slow to respond. Also, I could find some obvious bugs.

  • If I was trying to define an event at the bottom of a page, the definition popup was stuck at the top which made it cumbersome.
  • The black bar got hidden behind the WordPress top admin tool bar. Look out for the z-index devs!

Events Visualizer didn’t report any event for me. On checking with support I was told it is not included with the AppSumo plan. Bummer! All I can do is to track the page views on my site.

Settings

Most of the settings available in this tab are self explanatory. I found a messenger setting which deserves a mention.

messenger-whitelisted-cf

I currently use ZenDesk chat. To make it work on specific pages, I have to hack together a if-then PHP script in the header. With ConvertFox the process is very simple. Just enter the relative URL and you are set. CF messenger will only be visible on the pages defined above. Path accepts regular expressions as well.

Pricing

It is difficult to have a apples-to-apples comparison between various marketing automation tools since you won’t find a complete intersection of features.

If I still have to make a comparison, for a 10,000 subscribers plan, ConvertFox charges $149/month, Drip charges $124/month (but they don’t offer messenger) and Intercom charges $563/month. I have included the highest level plan for all the companies.

Given it’s a fledgling startup, ConvertFox may want to have a re-look at their pricing plans. My suggestion for them is to start with a lower price, increase pricing as you include more features, polish the current ones and get better visibility in market. Get your early users grandfathered in your older plans.

Summing It All

This review has already gone beyond 3000 words and I still feel I can write more! This is one of the biggest apps that I have reviewed. In case any interesting feature is still left out, I will update the review as and when I encounter it.
The premise on which this tool is made is awesome. You get the functionality of five-tools-in-one. ConvertFox provides Chat, Autoresponder, Marketing automation in a single tool and all of them talk to each other. The true power of such tools can only be realized once they open the tool for integrations and have web-hooks available. According to the published road-map, they are soon going to release meeting scheduler (BookLikeABoss little cousin :)), chat bots and web-hooks.

A major thing missing in the suite is Optin-forms. If I were to run such a company I will start with optin forms. While in-chat lead forms are good, you just can’t replace the utility of optin forms in 2017.

My wish list for ConvertFox would also include co-browsing and cross-domain tracking. Co-browsing means that you can view the exact activity of visitor on your site and interact with the visitor on their web browser. Cross domain tracking will immensely help those who have sales pages on different websites but conversion happens on a main (single) website.

Here is a summary of suggestions, bugs and issues I found in the app.

  • Most of the menu navigation items needed two clicks to perform an action and this happened randomly throughout the web app. The interface was slow to respond consistently.
  • Horizontal scroll needs to be more fluid.
  • Continuity conversation on chat should be fixed.
  • Live chat customizer needs the ability to enter hex codes.
  • Better mobile interface as described in detail above. For reference, I love the Intercom and Crisp.im mobile chat experience.
  • Rules dialog box during segmenting should get deleted when clicked on X.
  • Need the ability to directly import lists from major ESPs. The CSV download-format-import is a convoluted process.
  • Provide users with the ability to use their own From field and SPF/DKIM for better email deliverability.
  • Opt-in forms should be made available like yesterday.

I really want the team behind ConvertFox to succeed. One of the reasons is personal, I love to see good product based startups coming from India.
I will come back to this review in 40-50 days time to recheck all the issues mentioned above. I wish I can strike-off all of them by that time.

Review For AppSumo – lings

The price point at which ConvertFox is offered on AppSumo, it becomes a no brainer. However, I will keep an eye on the developments for the next 60 days. Here are things to note.

  • You get 15,000 emails per month. You can pay $5 per 10k extra emails.  Emails are hard-cost for a company and this makes complete sense.
  • 3 team members (or chat agents) are included with the plan. Given Sumolings are paying a one time cost, I feel it is fair. However ConvertFox may look at increasing this limit by a couple agents for people buying the $29 add-on.

The pricing comparison page on AppSumo doesn’t seem to be conveying the whole story. It looks like Sumolings are getting all features available with the Pro plan but that is hardly the case.

  • Events Visualizer is NOT included with the plan. This is huge. I feel the basic premise of automation is lost if this feature is not included in AppSumo plan. In my opinion, ConvertFox can limit Events the way they have done for emails and automations but they should definitely include a taste of it in the plan. They may also make the up-sell the way they have done for automation. A MUST HAVE FEATURE. [Update: After a conversation with the founders, it looks like providing some events is not feasible for them due to the way Events feature is written.]
  • MagicPeek (or MagicType) is not available in the plan. MagicPeek allows an agent to see what a visitor is typing even before he has hit the submit button on chat. It is good to have but I can live without it.
  • Automations are limited to 5 free automations and additional are available as an upgrade at $29 for 20 automations. I saw several people having this question, “how many add-ons should we go after?”. I feel for most of the people an extra add-on/site should do the trick.

Get ConvertFox Here!

Update Nov 15, 2017: ConvertFox is offering lifetime accounts at $49.  On top of this they are offering several addons depending on your needs:

  1. A lifetime ultimate add-on which consists of extra 10,000 emails per month (total becomes 25,000), 1 extra agent (total becomes 4 agents) and unlimited automations for $99.
  2. A lifetime automation addon to add 20 automations for $29.
  3. A lifetime email addon to get 100,000 emails for $29.

My suggestion is to go for the $49 core deal and the $99 addon. A marketing automation suite with similar set of features is worth several thousands dollars. Go get the bargain offer before they shut it down.

Before you Leave. Join me on the Facebook Work Automation & Entrepreneurs group for no-nonsense reviews of excellent apps offered by AppSumo, on Entrepreneurship and Automation to make your workflow easy and faster.

Over To You

Have you started using ConvertFox? What do you like/dis-like about it? How do you compare it with your current marketing automation and messenger tool?

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