5 Ways of Convincing New Subscribers to Make a First Purchase

Posted by Huw Jenkins 1 Mar 16

New subscribers to purchase

Like a freshly-baked pretzel commanding you from across a busy street, converting online passers-by requires a simple law: attraction.

Without the fruits of well-scented pastries, attractive shop assistants or shepherd sticks, online retailers need to employ a host of persuasive tools to get new prospects shopping.

Once someone has subscribed to your brand there's a very narrow window of opportunity for retailers to exploit the heightened period of engagement and lock down the holy, almighty, SACRED first sale and lay the foundations of future engagement. 

In this post we’ll explore the different ways retailers are targetting new subscribers who are yet to purchase, in a world where less than 3% of visitors convert into paying customers.

The welcome email

The first moment a new visitor discovers your online store and signs up to your newsletter is sacrosanct. It marks the first step towards a new, potentially prosperous (and lifelong) relationship - or the bitter end.

Online shopping is no place for a slow-burning, 10-year-office-crush-to-husband kind of thing. A welcome email's MO is simple, yet crucial: greet, schmooze, sell.

With average open rates somewhere between 50% and 86%, it’s crucial that your initial messaging lays the foundations for future engagement, sets expectations and pushes for that first sale  - during a period of heightened engagement.

Take Gilt for example, using its welcome message to showcase the jewels in its crown - onboarding key messages and USPs early on.

Gilt welcome message

Wasting no time - welcome messages should make real efforts to:

  • Introduce brand story
  • Have a strong 'shop now' CTA
  • Display product breadth
  • Encourage engagement on other channels (from shopping, to social, to other branded content)
  • Incentivise that all-important first sale

Essentially, welcome emails need to embody all the attributes of an energetic, well-informed and passionate (real life) sales assistant: spearheading key brand values and personality, woven together with clear CTAs and bold incentives, to encourage activity from the very beginning. 

Why we love Gilt's email: 

  • Two clear shopping CTA's encourage on-site activity from the beginning. 
  • Highlights brand sales and money-saving proposition, key USPs pushing for engagement.
  • Increasing reach with app - offering exclusive mobile deals - boosting touchpoints with prospects is essential. 
  • Homepage personalisation: tailoring content to online shoppers is the biggest opportunity - 74% of online consumers get frustrated with irrelevant websites, according to a Janrain Study. Be relevant! 


Case study: Adidas' 4-part welcome series

There’s nothing like a cheeky, time-based temptation to encourage that first sale: something Adidas employs as its central hook to get sales within its four-part welcome series.

The sports brand uses the lure of "15% off" for the first sale throughout its welcome series to trigger activity: resending to non-shoppers over the course of 14 days, slightly tweaking its messaging to instill an incremental sense of urgency.

Email 1 

Subject line: 15% off your first purchase

Adidas welcome email

Email one introduces the discounted incentive with a cheeky time-based caveat in a bid to encourage activity by instilling the sense of urgency. 

Email 2

Subject line: One more chance 

Adidas welcome email

Sent a week after email one, the tone and bold imagery of email two sets to further stir the growing sense of urgency to get subscribers shopping.  

Email 3 

Subject line: Last chance for 15% off

Adidas welcome email

The countdown is on in email three - with a direct and very specific time-based deadline looming. This email encourages shopping by pushing top-selling items (complimented by glowing social proof) and a "find your store" function to boost brand touchpoints and promote offline shopping in a bid to scoop sales. 

Email 4 

Subject line: One more chance

Adidas welcome email

Email four: the last hurrah. The friendly guys at Adidas give non-shoppers ONE last chance to claim their welcoming prize. 

download Ometria's triggered email cheat sheet

Other types of triggered email

Triggered emails present a unique opportunity, to react and respond to consumers behaviour at any stage of their lifecycle. 


Take a look at (the always beautiful) Boden who target yet-to-shop email subscribers with a highly targeted message - sent exactly three months after the last welcome message. 

The British fashion brand tempts activity with a 15% off incentive designed to give prospects that “nudge” towards the shopping button.

Boden welcome email

When a customer has subscribed, but is yet to make their first purchase (and a reasonable window of time has passed) it's wise to start dishing out some incentives to tempt shoppers onto the buy button.

However, retailers must align their incentive with their brand, so not to cheapen their image in the eyes of prospects, or needlessly chip away at their bottom line. 

Base incentives on your target audience - for example - high-end consumers would more likely be swayed by with next-day delivery rather than 10% off and homeware shoppers would be more interested in free installation than gift-wrapping. 


Research from the e-tailing group found that 41% of people said they purchase more from retailers that send personalised emails based on past browsing and buying behavior: the opportunity is clear. 

Segmenting your email marketing list into new subscribers who have yet to shop, but are displaying on-site activity, will let you deliver tailored content during an important period of engagement. Because you know something about them, you can deliver visual reminders of viewed items and deliver recommendations based on similar attributes, categories and themes - thus remaining relevant.

Consider sending triggered emails to those who browse or add items to cart and then abandon series, for example:

Abandoned cart: Wolf & Badger

Wolf & Badger's abandoned cart message clearly outlines the forgotten items with clear visuals, product descriptions and price alongside a central shopping CTA and a discounted incentive to get users back on-site and shopping. 

The promise of free shipping, free worldwide returns (and no customs fees) works well, paired with clear links to customer services to build towards that special first sale. According to this study by Compete, not only does free shipping increase cart conversion rates, but it also encourages 93% shoppers to buy more stuff - interesting! 

Wolf & Badger abandoned cart email

Abandoned browse: Reiss 

Reiss use browsing behaviour to link to their customer support in a bid to clinch a sale. 


Reiss abandoned browse email

Highlight USPs

You wouldn't buy a car without being sold the dream by an energetic, commission-hungry salesperson - so why shop online without the sales pitch?

Either by using your website to list your competitive perks or through your email marketing: highlight the benefits of shopping with your brand and don’t shy away from the details to lure new prospects onto the buy button. 

Take River Island: the fashion brand uses a carousel-style header within their email to outline their delivery perks in an engaging, attention-grabbing style.

River Island welcome email Similarly, Bonmarché (a new entrant into Ometria's email hall of fame) uses the top of their welcome message to highlight key brand USPs , perks and customer service (along with a nice tempting treat). 

Bonmarché welcome email

Custom audiences

Every little nudge along the sales decision making process is a step closer to profit - with online users 70% more likely to convert when they're retargeted - the opportunity is huge. 

In the multi-device, multi-touch point age, it's wise to target your new prospects in a variety of ways on a variety of platforms, as marketers reach to boost ROI, customer retention and higher customer spend rates.

Employing custom audiences on tools such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is wonderful to use in cahoots with your welcome email strategy to increase your digital footprint during a crucial window of a users decision-making journey. 

Take this Wolf and Badger Facebook ad, for example. Recognising my activity on-site and that I'm yet to make a purchase, they delivered this highly-targeted, time-based ad, complete with a discounted incentive, to encourage profitable activity. 

Wolf & Badger custom audiences

Custom audiences enable advertisers to target their ads to a specific set of people with whom they have already established a relationship on/off Facebook - they don't always have to include an incentive - they can simply act as a visual reminder to purchase, keeping the product and brand alive in the mind's eye of your new online prospect. 

Audiences can be defined by either email address, phone numbers, names, date of birth, gender, locations, app user IDs, Apple's Advertising Identifier (IDFA), or Android's advertising ID.

You can setup custom audience campaigns directly from the Facebook and Twitter ad platforms. Just upload your customers in groups (always remember to remove them once they have made their first purchase).

Need any help setting up custom audiences? Check out Facebook's guidelines here. 


Online shopping is a competitive world: standing out is essential to cut through the noise and scoop sales in a world renowned for low conversion rates.

Ecommerce retailers need to employ a host of persuasive tactics to tempt prospects along the sales funnel: using key brand messaging, user behaviour and important marketing channels to target users at the right time with relevant messaging to boost engagement and win sales.

Triggered email for retailers by Ometria - find out more 


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