Squander the Welcome Email Opportunity

By: Santosh, Mumbai.

The welcome email is probably the single greatest opportunity that email marketers have to engage subscribers and drive action. Welcome messages generate superior open rates and, done well, create a halo effect that boosts subscribers’ engagement with subsequent promotional and trigger emails.

After examining the welcome email practices of 112 of the largest online retailers for our newly released Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study, here are five ways to squander that welcome email opportunity:

1. You don’t send a welcome email. Given the golden opportunity that welcome emails present marketers, it’s unfortunate that so many still let the moment pass. Only 76% of the retailers in our study send out welcome emails. While that’s up from 72% in 2007 and 66% in 2006, it’s disheartening that more companies aren’t seizing this key marketing moment.

2. You take longer than 24 hours to deliver your welcome email. First impressions can be everything—and a quickly delivered welcome is a critical element of this. Twenty-three percent of retailers took more than 24 hours to deliver their welcome emails, greatly diminishing their effectiveness.

I would encourage marketers to get their welcome emails into new subscribers’ inboxes within 10 minutes. A solid majority of retailers (62%) are already doing this. If you’re in the minority and take more than 10 minutes, more than 24 hours or even more than a week to deliver your welcome, then you’re risking unsubscribes and spam complaints because of your delays.

3. Your welcome email is difficult to recognize in the inbox. Help your welcome emails stand out with strong branding in the sender name, sender address and subject line. Be sure to use the brand that the recipient is familiar with, not a parent or sister company name. Nearly 4% of retailers used no branding in their sender name, rendering it unrecognizable and putting their future deliverability at risk by courting a spam complaint.

Even if you have solid branding in both your sender name and address, your subject line should echo your branding and should make it clear that this is the welcome email you were expecting by using the word “welcome” or some form of “thanks.” More than 75% of the retailers in our study included their brand name in their welcome email’s subject line and 80% included “thanks” or “welcome.”

4. Your welcome email doesn’t set expectations for future emails. While some subscription processes are rich with detailed descriptions and sample newsletters, most are not, which heightens the need for detailed welcome emails. However, retailers did a poor job of setting content and frequency expectations. For example, only 76% explained the benefits of being a subscriber.

Regrettably, retailers have become less and less open about the frequency at which they’ll be emailing subscribers. This year only 6% said—even in somewhat vague terms—how often subscribers should expect emails. That’s down from 13% in 2007 and 17% in 2006. Considering that over-mailing is one of the top two reasons that people unsubscribe, this failure to set volume expectations is a real liability.

5. Your welcome email doesn’t have any calls-to-action. Welcome emails are not subscription confirmation emails. They are your first opportunity to engage subscribers and demonstrate the value of your emails. The clearest indication that retailers are missing the point is that only 87% included a link to their homepage. Providing that link is the most elementary avenue of engagement. Retailers missed many other opportunities to engage new subscribers with promotional, multichannel, loyalty, and viral elements as well.

If you haven’t examined your welcome email in a while, I encourage you to compare yours against the benchmarks in our study and look for ways to communicate your brand strengths and engage your subscribers.

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