Despite today's focus on personalisation, the majority of online retailers out there are still sending generic, undifferentiated marketing emails.
Why? Because most digital marketing channels have always had low variable costs (i.e. it doesn't cost much more to send 1000 emails than to send one); consequently, this approach - of carpet-bombing subscribers with the same information - became known as a 'can't lose' strategy.
But it isn't. Not at all.
Every time a customer receives a marketing message they're not interested in, they lose a bit of respect for that brand, they are a little less likely to open their next message and are less likely to click through on the next offer, even if it is more relevant to their needs.
Enter ‘customer lifecycle marketing’ - an approach to ecommerce marketing that focuses on delivering customers the right messages at the optimum time in order to encourage them onwards through the conversion journey.
Welcome Emails - Why Bother?
Welcome emails - most commonly triggered by someone subscribing to your newsletter or creating an account - are a great (and often the only) opportunity you have to make a killer impression before the interest of a new subscriber dwindles.
Although the name seems pretty self-explanatory, welcome emails perform a number of important functions (on top of being a friendly ‘hello there!’):Setting subscriber expectations - letting subscribers know how often you’re going to be in contact will help reduce the chance of new prospects hitting unsubscribe and you losing them forever.
Encouraging subscribers to connect on other channels - you can only send a certain number of emails before you start to seriously annoy subscribers - encouraging them to connect with you on other channels (most notably social) helps you market to them in a more holistic way.
Get subscribers back to your store - it’s important to harness a subscriber’s initial enthusiasm for your brand before something else grabs their attention - including a strong ‘shop now’ call to action can help win that all-important first purchase.
Make a strong first impression - achieving subscriber ‘buy in’ to your brand story early on in the relationships is likely to keep them engaged and opening your emails.
Welcome Email Best Practice
So we’ve established that customer lifecycle marketing is all about planning campaigns that catch customers with the right message at the right time. The remainder of this blog post will be dedicated to offering some best practice advice about how to plan a welcome email strategy, when to send welcome emails, and what the contents of these emails should be.
Planning a welcome email strategy
So before you start thinking about when and what to send new subscribers, it’s important to get a broader welcome campaign strategy in place.
Step 1) Decide on the key actions you want new subscribers to take
This is likely to be more than one! Here are some examples:
‘Here’s what to expect from our emails.’
‘Follow our social accounts.’
‘Learn about our brand story.’
‘Use this coupon code or offer.’
‘Update your subscription preferences’ and/or 'Personalise the content you want to receive.'
‘Whitelist our email address.’
‘Read our latest piece of content.’
Step 2) Single email vs welcome campaign - decide on your campaign structure
It’s important to create a coherent story with your welcome email(s). Decide how you can arrange your emails in a way that prioritises important calls to action (e.g. ‘shop now!') over secondary ones (e.g. ‘read our latest blog post’) and makes sense to recipients.
In order to avoid information overload, many online retailers find it valuable to create a series of welcome emails rather than trying to cram everything into one message, as this enables them to control the delivery of key messages.
Step 3) Consider creating context-sensitive versions of your welcome email campaign
There’s often more than one way of making it onto an online retailer’s mailing list - entering a competition, making a purchase, subscribing to newsletter updates, for example - and the messages that you convey to each of these groups may be different.
A simple way of segmenting welcome campaigns may be:
- New newsletter subscribers (who have never received emails from you before and are likely to have limited exposure to your brand)
- First-time purchasers (who have never received emails from you prior to their purchase)
- First-time purchasers, who were already on your email list (and have already received your newsletter signup welcome series)
Step 4) Set up smart email workflows
Creating campaigns that are reactive to recipient behaviour is tricky to implement, but very important if you want your emails to be relevant to individual customers.
A simple example might be turning off a welcome series that revolves around the recipient using a promo code. If they make a purchase, make sure they don’t receive any emails reminding them to claim their discount.
A more complex example might be creating a workflow that reacts to whether a new subscriber opens or clicks through from the first email, and what content in the email they engage with.
Step 5) Test everything!
A/B test everything from calls to action to messaging to the number of emails you send. This will help you continuously optimise your welcome email experience : )
The new subscriber party is one you don’t want to be turning up to casually late. Here are some pointers on welcome email timing:
Send your first email the second someone signs up - strike while the iron is hot and interest levels are high. Even a delay of half an hour may be enough to lose the attention of new subscribers.
If you’re sending a welcome series, get the frequency right - this is a prime candidate for testing, but a good starting point is to send emails in a welcome series at the same frequency as you’d send your regular customer communications, to get new subscribers used to you popping up in their inbox.
Know when to switch your welcome series off - Don’t keep reminding people to take actions they’ve already taken! If you’re offering a new subscribers a discount, it’s fine to remind subscribers about that discount in subsequent emails… but not if they have already bought using that discount!
Create a smooth transition into your regular newsletters - Research suggests that it may be overwhelming to plunge new subscribers straight into receiving your regular broadcast emails. Many retailers find it beneficial to only start sending subscribers these broadcast emails once they’ve completed the entire welcome series (though some choose to still send through major promotional emails during this period). Either way, don’t leave too much of a gap between the final welcome email and the first newsletter that they receive.
You can send perfectly-timed welcome emails, but getting the their contents spot-on is the final piece in the customer lifecycle marketing puzzle.1. Set subscriber expectations - news, offers, promotions - outline the kinds of emails you’ll be sending subscribers, and how often.
AQ/AQ welcome email2. Make it clear who your welcome emails are from and what they’re about
Online subscribers expect to receive welcome emails - make sure your sender name is identifiably you and that you keep your subject line welcoming and simple (but remember to retain your brand tone of voice).
3. Personalise your emails using the info you glean in the signup process
Use what you learn in the signup process to make your emails more personal and relevant (though remember asking for too much can lead to them abandoning signing up in the first place). This could include personalising by:
- First name
- Location (e.g. telling them where their closest store is, or even displaying the local weather forecast)
- Pre-signup browsing data (feature the products/categories they browsed before signing up)
4. Make sure your welcome series conveys the breadth of your product offering
Use your welcome email to ensure subscribers are aware of your entire product proposition. A good way of doing this is to replicate the navigation bar on your website in your email.
Good Welcome Email Examples
Finally, here are some examples of welcome email best practice - you’ll find these and more in our CLM email marketing playbook, which you can download by clicking here.
Outdoor Voices welcome series (x2 emails)
Boden welcome email (part 2 of series)
ASOS welcome series