#StateOfEnrollment: Key Findings: Maximizing Enrollment through Digital Best Practices and Testing

By Sam Schoenburg

Strategy: Conducting tests in email and on GetCoveredAmerica.org to learn how to engage the most consumers

Where and when it was used: Get Covered America’s website and email program during the first open enrollment period

Notable metrics

  • Emails featuring stories decreased click rates by 22 percent compared to other messages sent at the same time.
  • Consumers were 2.5 times more likely to connect to their marketplace when given an affordability message than when given an emotional appeal.
  • A simple change to button copy was responsible for a 23 percent increase in email sign-ups.
  • Homepage testing graphics versus photos increased clicks nearly tenfold.

Best practices to replicate:

  • Simple testing can help you continue to improve engagement on your website and in your email program.

Consumers are at the core of every decision made in our digital program: What information do they need? What are the best message frames for explaining their options? A persistent test-and-learn approach to site design and messaging guided the campaign to maximizing the enrollment opportunity. Here’s what we learned.

Sharing stories is less effective than providing individualized help

Our initial research indicated that telling health care stories would be a key motivator for uninsured consumers. However, as the first open enrollment period progressed, and additional research was conducted, it became increasingly clear that stories were not the strongest way to move consumers to action.

  • Emails with straightforward subject lines like “Free, in-person help with your health insurance application” and “How to choose the right plan before Dec. 23rd” received 40 to 50 percent higher click rates than emails from the same period emphasizing personal stories.
  • Emails featuring stories decreased click rates by 22 percent compared to other messages sent at the same time.

The emotional appeal proved to be a poor performer even when using the email recipient as the subject of a hypothetical story.

  • Testing three themes: a pocketbook benefit (health insurance is affordable), a pocketbook threat (there’s a penalty for failure to sign up), and an emotional appeal (getting health insurance is important for you and your loved ones).
  • Consumers were 2.5 times more likely to connect to their marketplace when given a pocketbook message than when given an emotional appeal.

There are better ways to convey “affordability”

Survey results indicated that affordability was one of the most important drivers of consumer action. So we began testing “affordability” messages online immediately.

  • Including specific dollar amounts consistently outperformed all other messages in driving email open and click rates, as well as action on the website.
    • “Gail R. from Pennsylvania got covered for $1.11 a month.”
    • “More than half of uninsured Americans could get covered for under $100 a month.”
  • Messages referring to “super savers” like Gail R. from Pennsylvania translated into action rates 20 to 40 percent greater than generic references to affordability.
  • Combining a consumer story with a specific affordability message consistently beat all other affordability messages.
  • Messages with overtly sales-oriented phrases like “savings” or “free help” underperformed alternatives.
    • One test showed that emails were clicked nearly 25 percent less when “savings” was included in the email.
  • Even specific examples from consumers that “saved hundreds” performed far worse than the above examples.

The penalty is a positive motivator

Deadlines consistently prove to be strong motivators to get consumers to take action. What was unclear was whether the penalty would be severe enough to have the same effect. Get Covered America began introducing the penalty concept in March and found positive results.

  • Language referencing a “fine” in email subject lines increased open rates by 15 percent.
  • Including “fine” language in email copy increased click rates by 36 percent.
  • Providing the details of the fine ($95 or 1 percent of your income) was not necessary.
  • “Fine” outperformed “penalty” and “fee,” suggested language:
    • Avoid paying a fine
    • Sign up by March 31st to avoid paying a fine
    • You have less than X days left to sign up for affordable health insurance — or you may have to pay a fine.
    • Get started today, and make sure you don’t have to pay a fine!
  • In emails leading up to the March 31 deadline, consumers presented with the possibility of a fine were more than twice as likely to connect to their marketplace.

Additional testing will be necessary in the next open enrollment period, but it would appear that the increased fine will likely be a significant motivator to drive enrollment.

This is not a political campaign — it is a consumer marketing campaign

One key mindset guided our thinking throughout the digital program: Consumer marketing techniques — not traditional messaging familiar in nonprofit or political campaigns — were best to engage consumers who may respond to enrollment help.

  • “Commit” style language common in political and non-profit campaigns was thoroughly outperformed by phrases like “Get started” and “Learn more” that are more typical in consumer marketing
    • “Get started” drove 24.5 percent higher clicks than “Commit to coverage” on ad landing pages used to collect consumer email addresses
  • A common fundraising drive from a political or non-profit campaign includes “days of action,” in which a goal is set to garner as many contributions as possible during a single day. We tested a “day of action” with a goal of getting 4,000 consumers to sign up against a typical deadline + fine message. The deadline + fine message drove a 60 percent higher click rate.

Your website really, really matters

We launched GetCoveredAmerica.org with the express purpose of being a simple and easy-to-use website for uninsured consumers to find the information they needed to get covered. Continuing to improve the site to maximize results was critical to the campaign’s success — and simple testing helped us do just that.

A few examples:

  • A simple change to the text that appears on a “submit” button below a form was responsible for a 23 percent increase in email sign-ups.
  • Switching to a graphic-based design on our homepage (versus a photo-based design) increased clicks nearly tenfold.
  • Reducing copy length and optimizing the core message of the page used to connect consumers to their state marketplace resulted in a 12 percent increase in conversions.

The information in this blog post is also detailed in a memo compiled by Enroll America’s Digital Department. View the memo here.

For more ideas on how to take your outreach and enrollment efforts to the next level in the coming months, register today for our national conference, State of Enrollment: Getting America Covered, in Washington, D.C., June 16-18.

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