The American Red Cross: Disaster relief driven by Digital Experiences
“There were three simple ingredients behind our win: mission, experience optimization, and collaboration.” – Josh Kittner, director, Digital Engagement, American Red Cross
There is one coveted piece of clothing in my house: a jacket from the American Red Cross that boasts, “hero for babies” in an embroidered patch on the front.
My wife, who has a much-needed blood type, makes a point of donating that blood as often as she can, enough to earn this reward. We understand the pressing need: every two seconds someone in the US needs blood, yet only about 3 percent of age-eligible people donate blood yearly.
The American Red Cross delivers lifesaving blood products to people in need, and so much more. This nonprofit trains millions of Americans in lifesaving skills like first aid and CPR, supports military families and veterans, provides the international community with disease prevention, and responds to about 60,000 disasters every year.
Underlying this effort is technology to make their mission-critical processes as efficient as possible. In our interview below, I dig into the digital strategy of the American Red Cross, 2021 winner of the Adobe Experience Maker Changemaker Award for revolutionizing the customer experience to drive social impact.
Supporting a mission through digital experiences
Josh Kittner, director of digital engagement, credits his highly supportive leadership team for understanding the value of investing in digital experiences.
“Where the Red Cross shines,” he said, “is with our leadership team. From top to bottom they are very supportive getting us the tools and resources that we need.”
Part of this toolset includes Adobe Experience Manager. The team recently migrated redcross.org and RedCrossBlood.org onto the same content management platform to present a more unified brand, making it easier for blood donors to sign up and save lives and positioning the organization for future innovation and growth.
“This enabled us to have some flexibility in our development and release process,” Kittner explains. “Following that digital transformation, we saw many tangible benefits, including a 16 percent increase in our testing and personalization output, a 10 percent increase in the content tickets that we were able to deploy, and 100 percent increase in content creators.”
This process not only democratized content creation across the organization, but it also increased content velocity with over 1 billion direct response contacts deployed in one year with Adobe Campaign.
Kittner explained how his team leverages Adobe Target and Adobe Analytics to understand how to best optimize their user experience, critical in the context of a disaster. “Real-time insights are particularly important to us because of our disaster response,” he revealed. “We need to know exactly what’s going on, which metrics are moving the needle, and what steps we need to take.”
These learnings are also used to drive customer experience innovations across other digital touchpoints for the American Red Cross, such as direct mail, email, text, and search.
Personalization drives powerful benefits
“Our personalization strategies have really helped us deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time,” Kittner explains.
His team recently built and tested a simplified mobile homepage experience specific for people in a disaster area.
“They need that information in the palm of their hands, and to be able to access it without any friction to get the support they need,” he said. “Someone in Florida might not get the same response as someone in New York that is not undergoing a disaster.”
This geographically targeted experience saw a 159 percent lift in visits to local site content, a 71 percent lift in visits to Find a Shelter, and a 72 percent lift in visits to Become a Volunteer.
The team also pre-populates zip codes at RedCrossBlood.org, which has helped to streamline their blood appointment scheduling process and improve conversion rates.
Success is in the journey
I was so inspired by our conversation, and it was a true pleasure to learn more about the incredible individuals behind these efforts, like Kittner. His favorite quote is from Conan O’Brien: “If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” I also found out he was a volunteer firefighter in New York when he was younger.
“I think that helped shape my career,” he shared. “It was another opportunity to provide help to people in their time of greatest need.”
Josh mapped out the road ahead for this non-profit’s digital transformation.
“This is a great foundation, but we have to continue to move forward and mature in our digital practice. We ultimately want to achieve personalization at scale and have a complete 360- degree view of our supporters, whether that’s their online or offline behavior. One day, we hope to layer in machine learning to optimize customer experiences on the site. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s one that we look forward to — with the help of our Adobe partners.”
Josh Kittner, director, Digital Engagement, American Red Cross
As he explained to me, “The mission of the American Red Cross doesn’t stop. We’ll always be there for the American people, no matter what.”
Do you have blood?
(If you’re human, and reading this, I bet you do.) Please consider the life-saving impact of a donation. Schedule a blood donation here.
Are you a software engineer?
The American Red Cross Code4Good Project is a first-of-its-kind volunteer workforce that gives software engineers and engineering leaders an opportunity to support the Red Cross mission by contributing their talents to the development of redcross.org and RedCrossBlood.org platforms. Volunteer with #Code4Good here.
Honoring the Movers and Shakers. Learn more about the Adobe Experience Maker Awards.
The American Red Cross name, emblems and copyrighted materials are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, opinion, or political position. The American Red Cross logo is a registered trademark owned by the American National Red Cross. For more information about the American Red Cross, please visit redcross.org.