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When a customer signs up to an email newsletter they probably expect to receive a message from the brand welcoming them to the mailing list.
So it’s no surprise that welcome emails can achieve open rates of above 50%, as subscribers are less likely to see them as spam.
Therefore brands need to take steps to ensure they’re making the most of this opportunity by optimising the subject line and content to maximise opens and conversions.
There are a number of different goals that marketers can set out to achieve with their welcome email, whether it be simply thanking the user, attempting to collect more personal information, or nudging them towards a purchase.
This post will look at different ways brands can optimise their welcome emails for maximum impact.
It follows on from posts looking at how 16 different fashion retailers deal with the sign up process and which ones actually sent welcome emails...
1. Make your greeting specific to the customer
By using this information to tailor the email greeting you can make the welcome email more personal to the consumer.
So for example, if you collected the email address at an event, reference the event. Or if it’s to follow up on a purchase, then make sure to mention the transaction and say you hope they like the product.
Similarly, if you’ve collected the subscribers name as part of the sign up process then why not use it in the email?
Of the 11 retailers that sent me welcome emails only Reiss, New Look and Hugo Boss included my name in the greeting, however they pretty much all referenced the fact that I’d signed up to receive their email newsletter.
2. Send welcome emails immediately
In my recent test a majority of the retailers sent out welcome emails immediately, but ASOS, Schuh, Miss Selfridge, Boohoo and Office all failed to get in touch within the first 24 hours.
After a customer has made the effort to sign up for an email newsletter it’s a good idea to send a welcome email as soon as possible to acknowledge their interest.
In fact there must have been an error in signing up with ASOS, Schuh, Miss Selfridge and Boohoo, as I still haven’t had any emails from those brands.
This is extremely sloppy on their behalf and reflects quite poorly on their brand, but worse still it means that they’ve missed the opportunity to sell me products in future.
3. Use an alluring subject line
A boring email subject line can have a disastrous impact on your open rates, so you need to make it grab the user’s attention and compel them to find out more.
To give you some inspiration, I recently blogged six case studies that reveal different insights on how to write the perfect subject line.
The retailers I looked at generally opted for the standard “Welcome to (brand name),” however some put in a bit more effort.
For example, Topshop assured me that I’m “in for some serious style” while Threadless called me “pal” and “special BFF.” This is slightly quirkier and in line with the brand image, so it makes a good change from the standard subject line.
The least attractive example is probably River Island’s rather bland “River Island – Email Sign up...”
4. Mind your manners
As well as personalising the email to the user brands should take the opportunity to say welcome and thank you to the user for signing up to email alerts.
I’m pleased to report that all the retailers said thanks or welcome, either in the subject line or the copy of the email itself.
5. Set expectations
In order to avoid coming across as a spammer, brands need to set out exactly what subscribers can expect to receive and how often.
Nearly all of the retailers just use a fairly generic spiel that tells the recipient they’ll now be kept up-to-date with the latest fashion news and exclusive offers, without any specific mention of the email frequency.
In fact only Mr Porter laid out the exact terms of service...
6. Ask the recipient to whitelist your address
All of the retailers I signed up to managed to swerve my Hotmail spam folder, however Topshop and Reiss were both flagged as up as having failed to pass Microsoft’s fraud detection checks.
To ensure that marketing emails continue to arrive in the inbox rather than the junk folder brands should ask recipients to add them to their contact list or address book.
While most of the retailers do make this request, in general it’s tucked away in a header or footer and is nearly impossible to notice.
Only Reiss and House of Fraser ask users to whitelist their emails within the body of the email, but neither explains how to actually complete this process.
A separate marketing email I received from ASOS explained three different methods of whitelisting the company's new email address. Which is helpful, as I have no idea how to work my Gmail account...
7. Collect additional information
The sign up procedures varied substantially between each retailer, with some asking to know your life story while others are content with your email address.
This means that when it comes to the welcome email it can be necessary to probe the recipient for additional personal information in order to personalise future messages.
For example, Selfridges asked me to personalise my email preferences “so we can keep you in the know about the things you love.” It then includes an excellent, bold call-to-action.
8. Consider offering a voucher
Occasionally brands will offer incentives to subscribe to an email newsletter, however that’s more of a sign up tactic rather than a feature of welcome emails.
Even so, it’s worth looking at H&M’s incentive which offers consumers 25% off one item online.
The email doesn’t draw much attention to the offer, uses a very discreet “Happy shopping” CTA and only gives you one week to redeem the code.
This is either a badly designed email or H&M is deliberately trying to encourage people to forget about the code.
9. Don’t overdo the content
Welcome emails achieve a far higher open rate than standard marketing messages, so the obvious temptation is to include a number of different promotions and calls-to-action to maximise the chances of achieving some sort of conversion.
However it’s likely that if you include too much content then readers will simply ignore it.
Most of the retailers I signed up to had opted for a very simple design, with a concise message welcoming me to the mailing list and giving a brief description of what I could expect to receive going forward.
I felt that only Topshop had gone slightly overboard, with four separate sections trying to encourage me to shop different sections of the site.
Threadless also had four different CTAs in its email, but the information was presented in a far more concise manner so it wasn’t a long, daunting email.
10. Test your emails
As with most aspects of ecommerce, it’s important to test your welcome emails and keep them updated so that you’re maximising the opportunity.
Running A/B tests will help refine the subject line and identify the most effective CTA, while content should also be reviewed and updated to ensure it fits within brand guidelines.
Also, monitor key metrics such as the open rates, CTRs and conversion rates on a monthly basis to make you are achieving your goals.
11. Go mobile
As I mentioned in my previous article, only Next’s welcome email was readable on my smartphone, and that was because it used a plain text layout.
This is despite the fact that stats show that up to 41% of email is now opened on a mobile device and that figure is growing.
However we know that businesses have been quite slow to react, as 32% of respondents in the Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Census 2013 said their strategy for optimising email for mobile is ‘non-existent.’ A further 39% described their strategy as ‘basic’.
Even so, one would expect that these retailers would have made more of an effort to cater for mobile shoppers.