Email Marketing: How to Win the Welcome Series

Get these initial emails right, and they can help create a relationship with your customer, resulting in more sales and building higher levels of customer engagement and loyalty. Get them wrong and your emails will be sent to junk without a second glance. So what are a retailer’s biggest mistakes?

You only ever get one chance to make a stellar first impression, and this is certainly the case when it comes to email marketing, our research reveals. The first emails you send to a new prospect put you firmly in control of how they see and interact with your brand.

BounceX’s recent research revealed that 45% of consumers said they receive too many emails, with 44% suggesting they would unsubscribe if emails felt like spam. A big gripe among 58% of consumers was that emails felt irrelevant and impersonal, while a quarter (25%) confessed they simply gave out a fake email address to avoid messages completely.

This is why the welcome series is so important. Powerful email marketing can only result from a cohesive strategy, and the welcome series is the opening salvo; introducing your brand, educating your customers and giving shoppers lots of compelling reasons to maintain high levels of initial engagement.

So, what should your welcome series look like? Here’s six things you need to remember when planning your welcome email strategy:

  • Ensure that the first email in the welcome series arrives immediately after sign-up, so you don’t lose engagement and don’t lose the customer.
  • Your welcome series needs to be more than just one email. A three-step approach is a lot more effective. You can introduce and educate your customer about your brand, tell its story and show how it’s different from your competitors. Our research shows that 27% of customers expect exclusive content, while 31% want detailed product information. Many retailers also provide an introductory offer that links back to their site.
  • Use a killer subject line that will grab your recipient’s attention and leave them wanting more.
  • Include a strong call to action. Each email in your welcome series should tell your reader what to do next, directing them to further content or inviting them to view relevant products and encouraging them to make a purchase.
  • Ask customers to add you to their “safe senders” or contact list. This is a great opportunity to boost your delivery rates and make it easier for customers to find your emails again in future.
  • Ask subscribers to refer a friend. Referred email subscribers tend to be far more engaged than subscribers from other sources. That’s because a recommendation from a friend usually carries far more credibility. The numbers of new prospects you receive doing this may not be massive but they’re likely to be higher value.

Three emails are just a benchmark for a welcome series, and there are always exceptions. If you have a long-tail lead capture process, for example like on a bridal website, you could send up to 10 emails in your series. For higher-value luxury brands, the welcome series is often about educating customers about the brand and justifying the cost of purchase. For luxury brands the spotlight is on heritage, the manufacturing process and high-quality materials, so when a customer comes to purchase they understand and accept the elevated value proposition.

The level of complexity and granularity you bring to your welcome series is limited only by the time and resources you want to dedicate to it. Here are some advanced ways you can boost engagement rates:

  • Create personalised email content. Making sure content matches what you already know about the recipient is a sure-fire way to boost relevance. Increased conversion rates of around 8% are not unusual thanks to personalised content. Our research also shows that 37% of customers are more likely to make a purchase if the receive an email about a product they’ve previously looked at.
  • Don’t stop at email. Increasingly, consumers like to be contacted via social media, so it makes great sense to extend your welcome series to custom audiences such as Facebook and Instagram. This way you can also use targeted, incentivised ads. But ads are more expensive than email, so it makes sense to use this tactic with prospects that aren’t engaging with your emails.
  • Be smart with email workflows. Creating campaigns that are reactive to recipient behaviour is important if you want your emails to be relevant to individual customers. A simple example might be, once a customer makes a purchase using a discount, turn off the welcome series that revolves around the recipient using a promo code. This ensures they don’t continue receiving emails reminding them to claim the discount that they’ve already used. 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.

As the welcome series progresses, it’s also important to ask prospects what kinds of email content they would prefer to receive. This can help to segment, tailor content, keep messages relevant and ultimately ensure the prospect remains engaged and has a high lifetime value.

This is an ongoing process, and later in the relationship you can look at an individual’s email open rate and ask if they’d like more or fewer emails. Recalibration is also important because our research shows that 32% of shoppers would be more likely to convert if a retailer didn’t bombard them with emails.

Whatever welcome series strategy you adopt it is critical to set key performance indicators and continually monitor effectiveness, so you can adapt and improve success rates.

Here are two measurable goals you may want to achieve during your email welcome series:

  • Securing the all-important first purchase: It’s important to harness a prospect’s initial enthusiasm for your brand before something else grabs their attention. Try including a strong ‘shop now’ call to action or a promo code, as these can help win a first purchase.
  • Encouraging subscribers to connect on other channels: Encourage shoppers to connect with you on other channels (most notably social), as well, so that you can market to them in a holistic way.

When compared with the other tools now available to modern digital marketers, the humble welcome series may not seem half as shiny or sexy, but it would be unwise to underestimate just how important they are when building a solid foundation for your ongoing email strategy.

These initial emails are the opening rounds of your campaign; get them right, and you will establish your brand as a favourite. Treat them as a golden opportunity to deliver the personalised experiences your customers crave and prove that your brand understands what individual wants from the relationship.

Done correctly, the welcome series is just the start of a beautiful, highly engaged relationship, segueing into your ongoing email marketing strategy.


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