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Why_Welcome_Emails_Work

First impressions count. It’s true in business and in life, but especially in email. That’s why welcome emails get more clicks – and sales – than almost any other kind of email.

According to research from Experian, welcome emails get 86% more clicks than regular promotional messages. They also get 336% more transactions and earn 320% more revenue per email than other email messages.

welcome emails outperform almost any other kind of marketing message

Nice way to start a relationship, right? But while those statistics promise big rewards, a few strategic tweaks to your welcome emails can get you even better results.

Wanna know which tweaks? Thought so. Here they are:

Deliver value from the start

The big question most retailers have with welcome emails is not “should we be sending them.” Most of you have that down already.

Of the 25 email lists I signed up for at ecommerce sites while researching this post, 84% of them sent a welcome email. Compare that to Return Path’s study, How America’s Top Retailers Set the Tone with Welcome Emails. They signed up for every email list from Internet Retailer’s Top 100 Retailers list. 75% of those retailers sent welcome emails.

The real question is, what to say in that welcome email.

Fortunately, we’ve got some data on that. Return Path’s study counted which types of welcome messages retailers sent.

types of welcome emails

 

It’s a helpful start, but doesn’t entirely answer the question of specifically what to put in your welcome email. You want to go beyond just “you’re subscribed” and “we won’t sell your name”. As Chad White, Director of Research for Litmus says, “Generate value right away”.

Here are a few ideas – and a few samples – for how to do that.

  • Simply say “thank you for subscribing”. Being human still works. J
  • Tell them what to expect from your emails in terms of content and frequency. Here’s a simple welcome email from Factory Direct Craft that does just that:

 

sample welcome email

 

  • Ask them to follow you on social media.
  • Ask them to invite their friends.
  • Encourage them to download an install your app (I’m seeing this one a lot recently).

 

footer of a welcome email
Wayfair’s welcome email has a standard welcome message near the top, followed by a listing of best sellers. Then it closes with a call to invite a friend (and an incentive to do so), a call to download their app, and a few social media icons.

 

  • Ask them to whitelist your emails.
  • Mention your in-store pick up program, like Sierra Trading Post does near the footer of their welcome email:

 

offer special features in your welcome emails

  • Want an extra bit of marketing magic? Welcome returning subscribers or customers with a special message, like That Fish Place did here. I used to be a subscriber (and a customer) but unsubscribed awhile back. Getting an extra-enthusiastic welcome email that recognized that old connection got my attention.

 

welcome email that recognizes an old customer

Obviously, you can’t fit all those options in one email. So either choose (or test) which one works best for your list – or send a welcome email series. More about that in a moment.

Wondering how well do each of those content pieces work? Well, to answer that, my friend, you’ll need to test. There is one thing they are sure to respond to, though: A discount. Which brings us to the next suggestion.

Include a coupon

Aside from simply saying “thanks for signing up”, the most common thing ecommerce welcome emails have is a coupon/discount.

There’s a reason for this: They work. According to Experian’s research, welcome emails with coupons get 2.5 times higher transaction rates than welcome messages without coupons.


add coupons to your welcome emails

Return Path was so interested in welcome email coupons and discounts that they actually counted how many of each type showed up in the welcome emails from the Internet Retailer 100. Here’s how that count breaks out:

types of discounts used in welcome emails

The takeaway here is that coupons are worth trying. They might be especially effective if you roll them into another killer tactic for welcome emails – the welcome email series.

Send a series of welcome emails

This appears to be the cutting edge tactic. According to the research, it’s highly effective – but few retailers are using it. Of Return Path’s group, only three retailers out of the 75 that sent welcomes sent a welcome series. That’s 3% of all the retailers they signed up for sending a welcome series.

I saw slightly more. Three of the 25 retailers I signed up with sent a welcome “series”, in that more than one message mentioned I was a new subscriber. That’s not statistically valid data, but based on both studies it’s clear most retailers are not sending a welcome series.

dynamic content in a welcome email series
This is the second welcome email Williams Sonoma sent me. Note the welcome section just below the header. This may be dynamically inserted, just for new subscribers, while the rest of the email goes out without the welcome section to everyone else.

 

So is it worth sending a series of welcome emails? According to Return Path’s study, the answer is yes. A big yes.

Here’s why: the more welcome messages a new subscriber opens, the more they tend to engage with consequent emails. They order more often too – and when they order, they order more. The cumulative effect is actually pretty impressive.

send a series of welcome emails

Use welcome emails for progressive profiling

What’s progressive profiling? It’s basically a way to gather information about your subscribers, but without making them fill out a lengthy form at signup. As you probably know, the longer a form is (i.e., the more fields it has), the lower its conversion rate tends to be.

Progressive profiling is a way to keep that opt-in form nice and short – thus getting you more subscribers – while still gathering up all the information you need to create laser-targeted, personalized emails.

So how do you do this with a welcome series? First, pick one or two of the most essential things you want to know about your customers. These need to be options, like menswear versus women’s wear (not values, like a zip code or a mailing address).

The options also need to be simple. Most welcome series are three emails, and for good reason – any more than that gets complicated.

Here’s how Zulily gets their subscribers to show their interests. This is the very first welcome email they send:

progressive profiling in a welcome email
Zulily’s fun but very clever welcome email immediately starts building a preferences profile for its subscribers. Note the prompt to get their app, too.

 

You’ll recognize that type of choice – it’s asking people for their content preferences. This is close to what retailers used to ask for in an email preferences control area.

Here’s another example of a progressive profiling option that’s got just a few options, used to be asked on profile pages, and whose answers could really effect your results: Frequency. This is a section from one of Klayivo’s emails. It could be used in a welcome email, too

another way to do progressive profiling in a welcome email

Keep your welcome series simple

Before you get too excited about this and start planning an elaborate onboarding plan, remember to keep these welcome emails simple. In fact, if you’re starting out, it might be smart to send just one progressive profile welcome email. All the other welcome messages can be focused on other elements (like we mentioned above).

Why send just one? Well, keep in mind how complicated this can become. All those emails will need landing pages, for example. And you may want to customize each subsequent email based on the answer from the first. That Zulily email looks really cool, but it represents a lot of work.

Of course, any sophisticated email marketing service provider (including Respondr) will let you automatically move people to a special list or tag them based on which links they click in a particular email. This means you can customize or personalize the emails you send them forever after that first click. And the whole thing can be automated.

It also means that you can continue to build a profile of your subscribers based on how they interact with your emails at any time over the customer lifecycle.

Used properly, this ability to personalize and automate is all but a license to print money – it can easily triple or quadruple results. Just be sure you’ve got a customer intelligence system that’s up to the task. Otherwise, managing all the data can be tough.

Conclusion

Welcome emails are one of the most effective emails you’ll ever send to your customers. They represent a way to cement a new relationship with your customer that will last far beyond the first email.

It’s certainly helpful to send a useful, interesting email up front – especially if it’s got a coupon or a discount. But the real edge seems to be in sending a series of welcome emails. This is usually a series of three messages, sent over the first week or less. Add in a bit of careful progressive profiling, along with a coupon and some personalization, and you could practically make a customer for life in that first week.

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