TL; DR: As the innovator behind extended email experiences, Boomerang expands how Gmail and Outlook users communicate. The nearly 10-year-old company was the first to popularize the idea of snoozing incoming messages and scheduling when new emails are sent — the latter feature having been used more than 155 million times around the world. With a thoughtful approach to customer privacy and security, Boomerang instead turned user data into an AI-powered tool to help senders create better, more actionable messages.
Before becoming a Co-Founder and Chief of Product at Boomerang, Aye Moah worked as a designer who slowly saw her time seeping away.
“We spent very little time actually doing work,” she said. “We were spending more and more time managing our email.”
Now, her success is measured by the minute. The Boomerang email productivity platform helps users combat the never-ending flood of messages thaty has swelled to more than an estimated 293 billion emails sent or received in 2019.
“Every minute I can save you is more time you can spend working on things you’re actually passionate about,” Aye said.
Compatible with Gmail, Outlook, iOS, and Android, Boomerang enables users to easily set reminders for follow-ups, get read receipts, and track or schedule responses. Respondable, released in 2016, even grades your message for clarity and effectiveness.
“We’re not the ones building rockets, going to Mars, or curing cancer,” Aye said. “But we’re the ones building the tools that enable all of that to happen, the tools that mean you don’t have to spend three or four hours on email, losing track of things, and derailing a project. If you’re an architect, you need to be designing your masterpiece.”
Pioneering the Concept of Snoozing and Scheduling Emails
When Boomerang launched in 2010, email extensions were essentially unheard of. The tools that did exist only adjusted the email client’s frontend interface, not any of the backend functionality. Boomerang became the first to do both via the Gmail API.
“It wasn’t exactly clear that we could actually make it happen because no one else was doing it,” Aye said. “There was a lot of trying to kind of bending the technology to make sure it works the way we wanted.”
Then and now, other email productivity apps often require hours of setup and interrupts the user’s typical workflow. Boomerang, however, aims to be an intuitive, natural solution that doesn’t require extra work from the user.
“The other programs were all circling around the same problem, but none of them had the right solution without having to change your workflow and operate normally,” Aye said. “We were unique in that we added things that fit very naturally within the Gmail interface and introduced the concept of snoozing or scheduling your email.”
At the time, senders would either have to set a timer to return and send a delayed email, or leave their computer connected to the email service so the message could send. Overall, though, the day-to-day volume of messages was much more manageable.
As Boomerang hit the extensions market, however, the number of incoming emails was beginning to get overwhelming for many. The company enabled users to schedule a message and simply walk away.
“It’s sometimes better to defer an email to a time that’s more convenient, as opposed to right when you receive it,” Aye said. “We were one of the originals when it comes to putting your email inbox on your time.”
Respecting Privacy and Security Rights of Both Senders and Recipients
With such a lengthy tenure in the email extension and productivity space, Aye and Boomerang have witnessed the growing pains and improvements in the industry. When the company first launched, it was the first email extension to charge users for its product. In addition to a limited free service, monthly plans range from $4.99 to $49.99.
“The extension market was full of free products, which of course got users excited, but they were making money by selling their data,” Aye said. “It’s hard to compete with big products because they are not disclosing that they’re selling users’ data, and who knows what they’re doing with it. We charge you because this is a business. To be able to provide the features and support you use, we have a very clear and straightforward business model.”
Not only does Boomerang not sell user data, but the company goes a step further in data security and privacy. Aye said the company takes a unique approach as people are more aware of the various concerns.
“Usually, when companies work on their products, they only think about their users,” she said. “They don’t really think about the recipient of the email their users are writing. For us, we’ve always respected the privacy of the whole email ecosystem and the security of everyone involved. We have never sold users’ data.”
For instance, few tools allow recipients to opt out of email tracking or read receipts. Boomerang enables users to request the information while giving recipients the option to decline.
When the service is enabled, Boomerang does not include personal information like the recipient’s location or device. Instead, the platform supplies approximate times and a count of how many times a message has been viewed.
“We find that to be a very huge invasion of your privacy,” Aye said. “Just because I read an email you sent to me doesn’t give you the right to know where I am or what device I’m using.”
Respondable Leverages New Technology and User Feedback
Despite the company’s status as an industry veteran and leader, Aye said Boomerang employees regularly seek out and respond to user feedback. The whole team, from the CEO on down, handles customer support and responds to every message a user sends in.
“That gives us a very good, direct line on what users are looking for, how they want the product to work, and what features they want,” she said, adding that the team balances the information with larger industry trends and new technologies when identifying and creating new features.
Respondable, for example, uses artificial intelligence to help users write more actionable emails. Added to the platform in 2016, the tool measures a message’s perceived effectiveness in eliciting a response.
The inspiration for Respondable came after the company analyzed internal data to understand the factors that influence the probability of getting a response. After distributing the information to users in a year-end marketing email, Boomerang received enthusiastic calls to make it a more permanent feature.
As the user types, Respondable rates the message’s subject field length, message word count, reading level, positivity, and politeness, among other components.
“Those things are hard to tell as a human, sometimes, like, if you’re coming across as too aggressive,” Aye said. “It’s a pretty complicated system, and there wasn’t really anything like it out there at the time. The technology was there to do it, the inspiration was there to make it happen, the users wanted it… we combined all of that to create something one of a kind. We’ve shown people that these are the kinds of things you can connect to email and innovate on this 40-year old technology.”