Welcome Email: Why 3 Is Better Than 1

17 June 2016
welcome email series mailup

When we meet someone new, first impressions count. But it’s the second and third impressions that reinforce our opinion of that person and that pave the way for the type and frequency of interaction we want to establish with them. These simple matters of common sense apply as much to people as they do to emails.

We all know the importance of the welcome email when starting to build up a relationship with those who subscribe to our e-commerce. But are we sure we know how to make the most of this phase to turn a new subscriber into a loyal follower or, better yet, a buyer? All this can be easily implemented using the automatic email feature.

In this post, we share the basics of email automation and some best practices to make the most of this high-potential mode. Today, we step deeper into examining a simple, yet effective type of automatic email: the welcome email series.

More contact, more interaction

The first phase of contact is often likened to a honeymoon period between the individual and the brand: the very fact that a person has taken the step to sign up to the newsletter or website is a testament to their interest or curiosity towards what we are saying or selling. At this point, the likelihood of buying is also very high: knowing how to intercept this to achieve conversion is one of the key tasks of the initial emails we send to recipients.

It is critical for your very first welcome email to be able to introduce the recipient to the website’s microcosm, requiring great attention to detail. In all senses, it is the first business card we provide to those who know little or nothing about us. But what if, for a thousand and one reasons, the user does not see or open this email? What happens is that we’ll have missed an extremely important contact opportunity.

This is why sending a welcome email not with one, but several sequential emails is often the right move to make sure you engage the user and convey everything we think is important for them to see. Likewise, it is important to ensure that the user is able to “become attached” to what we are offering them, by stimulating engagement and guiding the website experience. Thanks to email automation, you can easily create a “guided tour” to accompany the user to exactly where we want them to arrive, multiplying both the space and time in which they are exposed to our content.

Welcome email series: the aims

What are the aims that the first email communications should set? According to Aristotle’s theory, the human mind is sensitive to three levels of persuasion: emotional, rational and rhetorical (i.e. based on authority and persuasion factors). To transform a generic contact into a buyer as soon as possible, the first communications should appeal to all three levels:

  1. Emotional: striking empathic cords to create intrigue and engage the user. You can thank them for signing up, include strong branding elements (logo, team members, etc), and provide links to social media to introduce the user to the community.
  2. Rational: providing the information needed to access the services (login credentials, etc) and reminding them about services, benefits and product categories.
  3. Persuasive: strengthening trust in the brand (e.g., by including prestigious client logos, awards, customer service recognitions, etc.), and encouraging purchases through incentives or ad hoc discounts.

On a practical level, the three levels of communication can be summed up into three marketing goals:

  1. Emotional → Strengthening brand identity
  2. Rational → Building customer loyalty
  3. Persuasive → Achieving conversions

In fact, it is very hard to reach all of these levels of communication and achieve all of the goals in just one message. Unless you build an oversize welcome email, it is inevitable to have to give something up. iCloud, for example, prioritizes the functional and rational aspects in their welcome email, giving a long and exhaustive list of the features it offers.

welcome email icloud mailup

The newsletter subscription confirmation email for another e-commerce, Lord & Taylor, focuses on the persuasive level of communication. Cheerful graphics show in the text all of the benefits of signing up, ending with a strong call to get shopping. Plus, strong focus is placed on a very powerful trust factor – free shipping.

welcome email lord taylor mailup

1, 2, 3, convert

As always in the world of email marketing, there is no single fix to meet the needs of all businesses. The flow of triggered emails can be structured based on variable timing, content and purpose, and can be standardized for all new subscriptions or triggered by specific actions. Presented below are two possible flows, depending on which users sign up to a newsletter or e-commerce website. After the last message of the welcome series, the user will finally be placed in the normal flow of emails.

A. Flow based on newsletter subscription

Triggered message #1
Time from subscription:
Immediate (or within 24 hours)
Email content: Thank-you for signing up, short teaser about the blog content, links to social media

Triggered message #2
Time from subscription: Two days
Email content: List of 5 Must Read or Editor’s Picks pieces of content/blog posts

Triggered message #3
Time from subscription: One week
Email content: Invitation to download long-form content or take part in an event, webinar or seminar

B. Flow based on e-commerce subscription

Triggered message #1
Time from subscription: Immediate (or within 24 hours)
Email content: Thank-you for signing up, first introduction to the main product categories / best sellers

Triggered message #2
Time from subscription: Three days
Email content: Small welcome discount to incentivize the first purchase

Triggered message #3 – Version A
Time from subscription: One week
Trigger Action: No purchase has been completed yet
Email content: Slightly higher welcome discount to achieve immediate conversion

Triggered message #3 – Version B
Time from subscription: One week
Trigger Action: The user has made a purchase
Email content: Invitation to share the experience with friends, providing a further discount on their first purchase

Wrap up

Having one welcome email is OK, having several is better. Structure the sequence in order to provide the user with diversified offers and content, and to stimulate conversion or engagement. Start with the assumption that people do not know what they want: they must be guided, encouraged and convinced that your content is worth subscribing to.

This article was written by

Maria Giulia Ganassini

Maria Giulia Ganassini

As content creator at MailUp, my mission is to make email marketing strategies accessible, useful and interesting for everyone, newbies to experts. Behind every 'send' button there is a complex world, and my goal is to unravel it for marketers. I am an avid reader, a restless traveller, a self-confessed grammar nazi and a proud cat owner.

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