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By Chad S. White

Here’s what happened after I signed up for over 100 promotional emails. There were some surprises.

The Gist

  • Forget something? Testing out 100 email signups, more than 8% of brands didn’t send a welcome email, missing a valuable opportunity to deepen the relationship with their new subscribers through promotions, education, profiling, expansion or evangelism.
  • Send a series. Nearly half of brands sent a welcome series, with subsequent emails including reminders to use discounts, explanations of brand strengths, pitches for loyalty programs, encouragements to download mobile apps or behind-the-scenes looks at their organizations.
  • Welcoming fails. Some brands missed the mark by using senseless or overly corporate sender names in their welcome emails, while others failed to seasonally optimize or personalize their messages, or had quality control problems.

I shared takeaways from having signed up for promotional emails from 100 brands in my last column, so for this one I want to share what happened next: I received a lot of welcome emails!

But that’s not to say there weren’t some surprises. There were. Here are my key takeaways and the major opportunities I see for brands when it comes to crafting better onboarding experiences.

1. Shocking Number of Brands Didn’t Send a Welcome

More than 8% of the brands didn’t send a welcome email. Instead, they just dropped me into their promotional mail stream. Not only is that slightly jarring, it passes up a big opportunity to deepen the relationship in a way that your promotional emails just can’t.

Here are the five principle messaging strategies for welcome email calls-to-action:

  1. Promotion: trying to drive a purchase through incentives or product promotions.
  2. Education: trying to deepen brand affinity and loyalty by educating the new subscriber about your brand’s history, products, services, values and social causes.
  3. Profiling: trying to to gather more information about the new subscriber so the brand can send more relevant messaging.
  4. Expansion: trying to get the new subscriber to connect with the brand through additional channels.
  5. Evangelism: trying to get the new subscriber to refer their friends or colleagues.

For most of those, messaging them immediately after signup is the ideal time to drive action and establish a healthy long-term relationship.

2. Nearly Half of Brands Sent a Welcome Series

In contrast to brands that didn’t send even one welcome email were those at the other end of the spectrum that sent a welcome series of two, three or even more emails.

What were the subsequent emails in those welcome series about? Brands included:

  • Reminders to use the discount they included in their first welcome, which was very common for retail and ecommerce brands.
  • Explanations of their brand strengths in terms of what’s unique about their products and how they do business, which was popular among direct-to-consumer brands.
  • Pitches to join their loyalty programs, which was also common for retail and ecommerce brands.
  • Encouragements to download their mobile app.
  • Behind-the-scenes looks at their organizations, which was most common among service-oriented brands.

Surprisingly, none tried to collect any preferences from me or profile me in any way using polls, surveys or quizzes. That’s a missed opportunity, as that kind of zero-party data can power personalization and segmentation during a time in the relationship when there’s little to no first-party data yet.

But the bigger opportunity here is that if you’re only sending a single welcome email, consider testing ways to expand it into a series.

3. Sender Names Could Have Been Better

For some brands, their welcome emails felt like they were sent by a different department or marketing group because of the sender names they used. For example, some brands had senselessly different sender names from the one used for their promotional emails, adding “Inc.,” “Company,” and “USA” to the end of the brand names for only their welcome emails. It made their welcome emails appear unnecessarily corporate and stiff.

That’s not to say that there aren’t opportunities to extend your sender name with purpose. Extending your sender name for your triggered emails, in particular, helps them stand out — not only from your other emails, but from all the other emails in your subscribers’ inboxes. Yet, only two of the brands I received welcome emails from extended their sender name. One used “BrandName Welcome” and the other “BrandName | Welcome.”

If you’re not currently extending your from name for your welcome emails, consider testing it and seeing how much of a lift you get. Adding an extension like “Welcome” is a sensible place to start.

Again, avoid overly corporate-sounding extensions. For example, some other welcome emails I received used sender name formats such as “BrandName Account,” “BrandName Account Services,” and even longer “BrandName Account Member Services.” Another used “BrandName E-mail Subscriptions,” with the dated hyphenation of email. While all of those are descriptive and accurate, they’re not particularly friendly sounding. They seem like they were written by lawyers, not marketers.

4. And There Were Smaller Opportunities to Improve, Too

In addition to those three big areas for improvement, brands sent welcome emails that…

  • Weren’t seasonally relevant. Only one brand seasonally optimized its welcome email, adding in imagery and content to match the season in which I signed up.
  • Rarely used emoji in their subject lines. 😢 Only 13% of brands used emoji in any of their welcome email subject lines. That seems a bit low, given their usage in promotional emails.
  • Included little personalization. Many brands required my name when I signed up, but few used it. For example, only 3% of brands used it in the subject lines of their welcome emails. First-name personalization isn’t great personalization, but if you ask for my name, use it.
  • Had quality control problems. One brand’s welcome email was sent twice, and another’s contained multiple broken images (but thankfully lots of HTML text, too). Not a good look.

Final Thoughts on Welcome Emails

Your welcome email — like all of your automations — are living campaigns. They need regular care and attention.

In fact, this goes double for your welcome emails since they are pivotal to making a good first impression and setting the tone for the emails that follow. If you haven’t reviewed your welcome emails lately, sign up for your email program with fresh eyes and see what improvements you can make or test.

By Chad S. White

Chad S. White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and Head of Research for Oracle Marketing Consulting, a global full-service digital marketing agency inside of Oracle.

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