Welcome emails are a crucial moment in a new customer’s journey—and set the tone for your relationship with that customer in the future.
Three out of four people expect to get a welcome email when they subscribe to a list. (PDF) And welcome emails perform very well. They have four times higher open rates and five times higher click-through rates than promotional emails—and bring in eight times more revenue. (PDF)
But they’re not all upside. Welcome emails also get two-and-a-half times more spam complaints than other emails. And if a new subscriber doesn’t open your welcome email or engage with it in any way, that’s a very bad sign—they’ll go on to read fewer than five percent of the emails you send to them in the future.
That’s why it’s so important to hook your new subscribers. If they read your welcome emails, great things can happen. If they don’t read your welcome emails, well… things don’t look so promising.
In this article, we’re going to look at strategies to hook your new subscribers with a welcome email (or welcome email series) to kick off their customer journey the right way.
Before we get into the specific strategies, here are some of the basic, fundamental elements of a welcome email or series. While you may not wind up incorporating all of these, they’re building blocks you should definitely consider.
Compelling subject line. A quality subject line makes a big impact on the success of any email campaign. Subject lines have a direct effect on open rates, and since it’s so crucial to get new subscribers to open your welcome emails to begin their journey with your brand, a good subject line is non-negotiable.
While your subject line can be straightforward (e.g., “Welcome to our list”), in doing so, you might miss out on a good chance to catch your new subscriber’s eye—and set expectations about the tone of your emails—by showing off your brand’s voice.
L.L. Bean employs some clever word play in the first email in its welcome series with the subject line, “Let’s Start with Something Light.” The subject line toys with the idea of light subject matter, but the email reveals a promotion for lightweight pullover jackets. This approach shows a tasteful level of playfulness while highlighting a product that may be of increased interest to customers as the weather gets cooler (you’ll notice this email was sent in late September, right at the start of fall in North America). This also indicates that L.L. Bean is updating their automated emails seasonally, a totally pro move.
Representative content. Your welcome email content should give subscribers with a taste of what’s to come. Show your new subscribers the very best of what you have to offer by putting your unique visual brand, personality, company culture, and (of course) products on display.
Personalization. When you think about personalization in the context of email marketing, elements like first name merge tags might come to mind. A brand can further personalize content by making it especially relevant to the customer. For example, a welcome email triggered by a first-time purchase could highlight related products or accessories.
Engage the subscriber. You may want to use your welcome email to push for a sale, however that’s not the only option. Instead, there may be more long-term value in nurturing the relationship by offering subscribers other ways to engage with your brand, whether that means something like showcasing community features, sharing how-to videos, inviting them to follow you on social media, or highlighting some top blog posts. Regardless of which path you choose, it’s important to make it easy for your subscriber to engage—and that means clear, direct links and calls-to-action.
If you send a welcome email series as opposed to just one welcome message, the different emails provide more chances for you to spotlight different methods of engagement. One email might focus just on your social media channels, another could feature five of your most popular blog posts, and another could be educational content about your products.
An introductory discount. When you offer an exclusive discount right off the bat, it can be a great way to capitalize on new customer interest and the higher open, click-through, and conversion rates that come with welcome emails. However, make sure a discount aligns with your future goals for the customer. When your first interaction with a customer is a discount, you run the risk of immediately devaluing your products in their mind, possibly making them reluctant to pay full price in the future.
An easy way to unsubscribe. Welcome emails have very high spam complaint rates—and since spam complaints can hurt your deliverability, they’re something you want to avoid. By making it very clear how to unsubscribe, you will, hopefully, redirect some of those people toward unsubscribing rather than marking you as spam. Plus, an easy opt-out conveys that you care about their preferences.
1. Establish your unique voice
There are lots of ways to inject your company’s personality into an email, from copy that highlights your voice and tone to visuals and color schemes that exemplify your branding. Your new subscribers have invited you into their inbox, so don’t be shy about putting your best (and most representative) foot forward. And since you’re kicking off a relationship with the customer, you want them to get to know why you’re unique; the best way to illustrate that is with the language and images you choose.
Casper turns on the charm with this welcome email, which features a solid rundown of their product offerings neatly adorned with clever puns and wordplay. Casper’s visual brand is on display as well; a deep blue background with a moon and stars evokes sleep, and a simple graphic of a person lying comfortably in bed nicely breaks up the blocks of text. Overall, this welcome email conveys quite a bit of information while still highlighting Casper’s unique personality.
2. Highlight exclusivity
If you decide to offer a discount in your welcome email, you can level up interest in that discount by highlighting its exclusivity. When you offer a unique discount code or other exclusive deal in a welcome email, you can accomplish three things. One, you make the subscriber feel special—they’re not getting a generic discount, they’re getting a welcome discount that’s just for them. Two, you can avoid the trap we discussed earlier where customers never want to pay full price; make it clear that you don’t just throw around discounts all the time, but new subscribers do get one. And three, if the discount is a limited-time offer, you can drive the subscriber to make a purchase quickly.
Here’s an example of a welcome discount from Ask & Embla. Their discount code isn’t something like “15OFF” or “NEWCUSTOMER”—it’s a random string of numbers and letters. That implies this discount isn’t for everyone—it was generated just for me as a new subscriber. They also emphasize that the deal won’t last forever—this email was sent on July 3rd and the discount code expires on July 18th. They’re pushing a new subscriber to make a purchase quickly or risk losing this exclusive discount for good.
You can check out our post on setting up unique discount codes in Jilt if you want to get started on offering exclusive deals in your automated welcome emails.
3. Humanize your products
In the context of email marketing, humanization is like a second cousin of personalization—while personalization focuses on making the customer feel recognized and appreciated, humanization makes the company and its products feel more relatable and, well, human. You can humanize your products by showing off the people behind them or showing off customers using them. Either way, you’ll play on a psychological sales trigger. If you show off the people behind your brand, you’ll hit on the “liking” trigger—customers are more likely to purchase if they feel like they know and like the people behind the brand. And if you show off people using your products, you’ll hit on the “social proof” trigger—it’s human nature to want to do something because we see other people doing it.
Humanization is a good strategy for a welcome email because it structures the narrative around your products. They don’t just exist in a vacuum—humanization shows how they exist in the real world.
This example from Stanley shows how a welcome email can be successful when it prioritizes strong, real-life visuals. Stanley products are shown in an upbeat and uniquely human moment: a toast. The accompanying text is inviting, describing subscribers as “new friends” and reinforcing the toast theme. Through the imagery and text, Stanley isn’t just selling their stainless steel shot glasses—they’re selling the feeling of you, on a camping trip with friends, having a drink together as it starts to get dark outside after a great day.
4. Provide clear opportunities for engagement
What else can your customers do besides shop? One approach to welcome emails is encourage new customers to interact with your brand on their terms. Some customers won’t be ready to dive right in with a purchase; other forms of engagement can have the benefit of cultivating deeper loyalty and encouraging purchases down the road.
Birchbox uses this strategy in their welcome email. New subscribers have a buffet of options for engagement: they can subscribe, shop, educate themselves about various personal care products, follow Birchbox on social media, and/or download the Birchbox app. The email’s clean layout enables easy navigation to all these options so subscribers can quickly do what they want to do.
5. Tell your story
Another approach to welcome emails is to highlight your company’s story and background. This ties in with humanization—give the backstory behind the company and you’ll stop just being a collection of products in a customer’s eyes. People are increasingly shopping with brands that match their values, so it’s beneficial to show yours off.
Food52 puts its co-founders on display in its welcome email. A cheerful image is followed by a quick, personalized message that conveys the passion and motivation behind the company’s existence. Subscribers come away from this welcome email feeling that they know a little bit more about the business and people they’re supporting.
6. Showcase your best products
Sometimes, putting your best foot forward means showing off your goods. A welcome email can serve as a digital product catalog, giving your subscribers a quick glance at the best of what you have to offer. By featuring your best-selling products, you give a new subscriber an idea of what they should buy—and, preferably, buy soon.
Here’s a welcome email from Mark & Graham that includes some of their best selling products. It’s a good way to entice a new subscriber to buy something; those best sellers are popular for a reason, so by showcasing them, the company pushes the new subscriber to immediately use their unique discount code.
7. Keep it simple
A no-frills, text-heavy welcome email can be an excellent option in specific instances. This stripped down approach can work for highly personalized messages from CEOs or brand representatives, but it may also suit brands that appeal to simplicity in some way.
Smoky Mountain Beards aims for a simple, no-nonsense message with a promise for its subscribers: they won’t be clogging up their inboxes with junk. Their target customer is a guy who doesn’t want to read lots of long, sales-y emails, and they know it—so they kick off the relationship by making it clear that they won’t be bothering their subscribers with that kind of marketing.
Welcome emails provide a unique and important opportunity for an eCommerce store to set the tone of its relationship with a new subscriber. Welcome emails achieve higher open and engagement rates than other types of emails, in part because a subscriber’s interest in a brand generally peaks when they opt in.
There are several strategies a brand can employ to take advantage of this promising but time-sensitive opportunity.
- Establish your unique voice. A welcome email should highlight aspects of a brand that make it special, including voice, tone, and visual elements.
- Highlight exclusivity. An exclusive discount can take advantage of a new subscriber’s excitement by generating instant conversions.
- Show the human side of your products. A welcome email can humanize a brand’s products by placing them at the center of meaningful human activity. This tactic can create the feeling that a product accentuates a customer’s identity.
- Provide options for engagement. A welcome email can focus on more than just trying to make a sale. Other avenues for customer engagement can be just as valuable for generating long-term investment in the company.
- Highlight the people behind the mission. It can benefit a brand to put its people on display in a welcome email. By doing so, the brand creates the potential for a deeper human connection between themselves and the customer.
- Show off your best stuff. Show off your best products to give your new subscriber some direction on what they should consider buying right away.
- Keep it simple if it suits you. Sometimes, a text-heavy welcome email is the right approach for a brand, especially if it suits their tone or if they opt for a personal message from a company representative.