The welcome program: the first step towards data-driven email marketing automation

Automation can be scary, especially for businesses that might not have the level of online sophistication as brands such as ASOS or easyJet – both of which featured highly in dotmailer’s Hitting the Mark 2017 report.

However, given the sheer quantity of data brands are leveraging, automation programs are becoming necessary to win the email marketing game. Consumers’ expectations are rising, and highly personalised, 1:1 communications are becoming the norm among brands who wish to establish and maintain a good relationship with their customers.

Fret not, however!

Automation doesn’t have to feel like jumping into the deep end — we all start learning how to swim with a little paddle. A welcome email introduces your brand to new subscribers and sets their expectations with regard to your email marketing; this is a great place to test the automation waters.

As a customer, I want a timely response to my sign-up and more information on what I’m going to receive. It’s also worth noting that – according to Big Commerce – 75% of email subscribers expect a welcome email after joining a mailing list. This positive first impression helps a customer maintain their interest and trust in your brand; both of which are crucial for your sending reputation and deliverability.

Nevertheless, according to a 2017 Econsultancy survey on UK & U.S. marketers, only 44% sent welcome emails, despite them delivering higher open, click and conversion rates than ordinary promotional emails (Big Commerce**). Brands are subsequently losing revenue by not implementing a welcome series.

Equally, a welcome program is a great opportunity for brands to drive engagement and get to know their customers. It’s like the beginning of any relationship, whether it’s a colleague, a friend, or a partner: when we meet people, we want to find out more about them so we can understand their interests and eventually nurture a mutually beneficial relationship. Enriching your customer insight during a welcome series will help you to build a data foundation to leverage, ultimately driving lifetime value.

Here’s an example of a three-part welcome program that can help you to boost your brand at the beginning of the relationship.

3-stage welcome program with a preference center

  1. Online sign-up

It’s important to keep the sign-up simple (e.g. via a pop-up) to drive organic data acquisition. Save the preference center for the welcome series, as asking for too much information at this early stage can increase the drop-off rate.

  1. WELCOME 1 – Thanks for signing up!

This email should be sent within a few minutes of the sign-up, and include brand visuals so that the subscriber recognises who it’s from and what it’s about. It’s also important to incorporate a double opt-in link so that the email account can be verified.

  1. WELCOME 2 – We’d like to get to know you 😊

In this email, it’s key to engage the subscriber and incentivise them to do something. My advice would be to invite them to complete a preference center, allowing them to dictate their own email journey. This stimulates interest, builds trust, enriches your data and ultimately helps you create a profile of your subscribers. Off the back of subscribers’ responses, you can put them into segments and opt them into different programs for targeting purposes.

  1. WELCOME 3 – Thanks for updating your preferences!

This is the reward bit. For those who haven’t update their preferences, I would send them a reminder to do so. For those who have, say ‘thank you’ and let them know what emails you’re going to send them (this can be done using dynamic content). In terms of reward, this could be anything: a complementary product, free delivery, money off their first purchase, some downloadable content etc.; it totally depends on your business and what’s important.

Remember: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

According to Digital Commerce 360, retailers that generate the most revenue from new subscribers typically send three welcome emails, incorporating a discount within the series. Although discounts are not always advisable (as they can devalue the brand), you should always offer some sort of reward off the back of the subscriber fulfilling an action.

Nowadays, a welcome program is an essential component of your email marketing strategy. If you’re not doing one, you should be! Driving brand value and customer engagement from the off will pay dividends. Remember, a first impression goes a long way!

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