Welcome emails can achieve open rates of above 50%, so it’s vital that brands make the most of this valuable opportunity.

A good welcome email needs to set out what the consumer can expect from a brand’s messages and attempt to drive higher engagement by allowing the user to dictate the type and frequency of future emails.

It is also a great opportunity to try and capture more data about the consumer and nudge them towards a purchase.

A new UK Retail Email Benchmark Study from emailvision analysed the welcome emails from the UK’s top 100 e-tailers against key best practice criteria.

As a result it makes several recommendations that can help brands make the most of the welcome email opportunity.

1. Be specific in your welcome

To increase the relevancy of your email tailor the welcome message so that it is clear how and why you got the user’s address. 

So 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.

By mentioning the original contact point it makes the email more personal to the consumer and reduces the chances that they will see it as random spam.

2. Make welcome emails part of your online sign-up and send them to new subscribers immediately

Consumers expect to receive email confirmations almost immediately or they will begin to think that something has gone wrong.

Furthermore, if emails to new subscribers take a few hours to arrive then interest in your product will already have dropped substantially.

Data included in the report shows that a majority of the brands surveyed sent welcome emails within 15 minutes.

If you obtained the email address offline then it is important to contact the consumer within a day or two. Any longer then that and you will have missed the opportunity to engage with the customer while you are top of mind, and your brand will appear disorganised.

3. Use the subject line to give them a reason to open the email

While most welcome email subject lines still include the basic ‘Welcome to’ or ‘Thanks for signing up’ greeting, there is still scope to be creative.

And it’s important to remember that the subject line needs to give the consumer a reason to open the email.

The report highlights Dorothy Perkins and Ticketmaster as examples of brands that combine a welcome with a compelling reason to open it.

  • “Hi Mandy, welcome to dorothyperkins.com. Enjoy 10% off your first online order!”
  • “Welcome to Ticketmaster – enjoy your new membership benefits now”

In contrast, Argos’ used the subject line ‘Win £500 of Argos vouchers,’ which is a tempting offer but it doesn’t make a connection to the user’s sign-up activity so risks losing contextual relevance and reducing the open rate.

4. Think about what you want to achieve

There are a number of objectives that you might aim to achieve with your welcome email that the report sets out in full, but here a few a few key ones:

  • Offer a shopping incentive: giving you an email address is a sign that the consumer is interested in your products, so push them in the right direction by offering an incentive to make a purchase.
  • Set expectations: let the user know what to expect from your email marketing in terms of content and frequency, and also allow them to customise the information they want to receive.
  • Collect additional data: request more personal data to help improve the relevance of your email messages and improve your customer database.
  • Request that your email address be whitelisted: ask the consumer to validate that you are a safe sender to ensure that your subsequent emails reach their inbox.

Emailvision’s report found that all welcome emails included some element of ‘welcome’ or ‘thank you’ in the body copy, while a third (32%) included some kind of incentive for action.

5. Let consumers know how to whitelist your address

It’s easy to assume that consumers know how to add you to the safe sender list, but in truth it’s likely that they will need to be told how to do it.

If possible tailor the instructions to the specific ISP, so if you are sending a welcome email to a Hotmail address provide specific instructions and a call-to-action link like “how to do this in Hotmail.”

The report states that while for most e-tailers a request to whitelist the address was typically just one line in the body copy, Dorothy Perkins included a prominent yellow box to encourage users to add the brand to their address book and set out expectations for email frequency.

6. Don’t try to say too much

Due to the high open rates and the fact that you can achieve 105% higher unique clickthrough rates than other forms of email it can be tempting to try and cram too much into a welcome message.

But if there are more than two or three points in one email then it’s highly likely that most of what you are trying to say will be ignored or overlooked.

Instead it is better to send a series of emails over a one to two week period, remembering to limit the number of points in each one while still giving the consumer a reason to open them.

It’s also important to let the consumer know they can expect to receive several welcome emails so they are not overwhelmed or irritated.

7. Don’t forget about your welcome emails

It can be easy to forget about welcome emails while you’re working on your next message or campaign, so it’s important to review them on a regular basis to ensure that they remain on brand and on message.

Also, monitor key metrics such as the open rates, CTRs and conversion rates on a monthly basis to make you are achieving your goals.