There are few better opportunities to create a valuable, long term customer than at the point they sign up for your newsletter or email update. Statistically, an online retailer will on average earn 3x more revenue, and get double the open and click through rates, from an initial series of welcome emails than from any of their subsequent newsletters or promotional mailings.
It's all-the-more surprising, therefore, that a large number of online retailers in the UK only send a single welcome email when someone signs up, before right away adding them to their main list. Some send no welcome message at all, beyond the on-screen ‘thank you for subscribing’.
Subscribing to what? Here’s your chance to tell them. There are two very good reasons why a retailer should seriously consider setting up a series of welcome messages, and not just one.
The first, is that a new 'lead' is someone who has expressed an interest in your brand or products, so now is a perfect opportunity to educate them. The better you can nurture them at this stage, the more likely they are to convert, and become a long term loyal customer.
From showing them how you stand apart from your competitors to how good your customer service is, and what values you stand for, these are messages that get limited space in a regular newsletter, for the simple reason that these are often aimed at pushing particular products or promotions.
You get one shot at impressing your customer or your future customer: when they walk through the door. Sending a single welcome email is like saying good morning as they walk in, but not going on to say 'how can I help you.'
The second reason is that this is your best chance to learn about what sort of person your subscriber is. Having signed up for your newsletter, they are likely to be warm and receptive, so this is the time to ask them about their preferences, as well as to learn - through open rates and click rates - whether they are seriously interested or not. If nothing else, you need to carefully monitor their interaction with your offering in the first weeks after they sign up, as this can be used to determine how you market to them in the future.
I have listed a series of welcome emails that can form the basis of a welcome strategy. The messaging, frequency and length of this series can be customised, of course, to your specific offering.
Welcome 1 - Confirm
Here are two examples of great opening emails:
Your first message is not so much your warm-up act - that’s the job of the whole series - it’s more like ‘Thanks for coming. Now are you sitting comfortably?’. Keep these short, sharp and instant - real time is much better than batched, because getting a welcome 6 hours after you signed up is like the shopkeeper hollering down the street long after you have left the store.
What should you get across? Welcome, appreciation, and a hint of the great experience they are about to embark on. So set expectations of how often they will hear from you, and what you’ll be telling them about, along with your contact details, and links to your most important content or current promotions. This is the first step in creating trust and warmth, to establish a relationship. While you shouldn't try to go to bed with them on the first date, you might want to include a peck on the cheek - a nice introductory offer.
Welcome 2 - Educate
The first thing you need to decide when setting up a welcome series is how many, and how frequent. There are three issues to bear in mind:
The optimum period to capitalise on somebody’s interest is two weeks.
The longer your sales cycle, the more spaced out the messages should be, and the longer the series might last.
Ideally, you should match the frequency of your welcome messages with the frequency with which you send newsletters, so that when you switch them from the welcome series to your main newsletter, the conversion is seamless. However, if you only send one newsletter every month, you’ll want to be speedier than that. He or she will be married to someone else if you wait that long.
What you send in your second message could depend on where they sign up from. If the numbers stack up, you might, for example, want one version to go to people who have arrived from social channels, and another for those who came from elsewhere.
However, generally in this second email you could focus on top sellers, or new items or collections. You need to start to create a sense that you are giving them a preview, inside information, or a chance to get products first. You are also subtly educating them about your brand and what you represent.
If you did not offer them a goodie in your first message, you might want to offer it here. Or if you did, you will need to split the messages in two - one as a reminder of the initial offer, the second without, for those who already took advantage of it.
It goes without saying that these messages should be personalised and personal - if it’s right for your brand, you might want the owner or the team to sign them. Remember to speak to them as individuals, and not ‘Dear Customer’.
Welcome 3+ Promote and Expand
The third welcome email could be the final one in the series, or you may want to extend it to four or five. So it all depends on whether this is your last.
So lets looks at the other messages you could send.
1) The ask
The most important message you have not yet got across is the ask - for more information. This is an invitation - perhaps incentivised - to give you some preferences or demographic data. It could be full name and/or postcode, if all they signed up with was an email. It may be whether they are more interested in cashmeres or cottons? Giftware or homeware? This is the information that will help you segment the next stage in your communications - the newsletter.
2) The VIP email
Another message might revolve around special services you offer - and maybe these services are exclusive to them, as followers and fans. Free upgrade to express shipping, a hotline for preferential customer service, whatever. This could also be used to introduce them to your VIP club - which could also be linked to the ask above.
3) The social email
If you did not end up segmenting the second message based on social sources, you might want to send a social message at some point. An invitation to share with friends, participate in a competition on Facebook, tweet a product for rewards.
4) The offer email
Whether you offered a reward or incentive in the welcome email or not, it’s always a good idea of offer something at the end of the series. Again, this should be segmented by those who have not yet converted as part of the welcome series. In fact, many retailers will remove people from the welcome series and fast track them to the main newsletter as soon as they make a purchase.
5) The lunge
OK, so they haven’t opened your messages at all. Your peck on the cheek, your invitation to get involved, your question about their favourite food/underwear/light fitting - all gone unanswered, ignored, rejected. So, for this group you throw caution to the wind. One last chance to catch their eye before you consign them to your ‘playing hard to get’ newsletter bucket - the offer email on steroids.
Invite them in - make them feel special and involved, part of your brand family.
Be consistent in your tone of voice, which should match your brand values.
Speak to them personally, and direct at one person - ‘We’ve selected items that we think you will like.’
Have no more than one main message and call to action in each email - keep them tightly focused, and easy on the eye.
Make your offers and promotions time limited.
Keep subject lines simple and short, so they can be skimmed on mobile.
Test you welcome messages to find out which work best with your audience.
Make it easy to unsubscribe.
Monitor the results and use the intel gleaned to optimise your main newsletter campaign.